What is the solution to gun violence in the United States? In the wake of Charleston, there is a renewed debate over the epidemic facing towns and cities across America. It seems like we hear of an act of violence every couple of months. It has become so common that we have become numb to it saying to ourselves, “Ok, there is another one.” In fact, the news is already moving on from it. Reading through various posts, I came across this sketch by Fuller Theological Seminary.
It sounds about right. Yet, it made me ask the question, how does the cycle stop? In thinking about it, I believe we have to ask some honest questions.
What really is the source of the problem?
Since Charleston, I have seen the various bumper stickers, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I recently saw one that stated, “Cain killed Abel with a stone. The problem is with the human heart not with guns.” Of course, I agree with this. There is something in our human heart that prompts us to hate, take up violence, and lash out at others. It is the reason a young man walks into a church and murders nine people. There is a hate in his heart. It originates from sin that drives us to destroy. The answer is submission to Christ – a life that responds with forgiveness not hatred. The out flowing of redemption was visible in the courtroom last week as family members of the victim offered forgiveness to the perpetrator.
So yes, I agree, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. However, we also live in a violence-saturated world. Games are so realistic that it is difficult to differentiate fantasy from reality. We enjoy (myself included) action packed movies. No wonder we are de-desensitized to violence. And yes, there is ready access to guns. It is not that difficult to buy one regardless of the necessary background checks. Of course, guns don’t kill people but they certainly make it easier. It is similar to porn. Lust is rampant today because it is more accessible. Did it exist before the internet? Yes. Is it worse because of the internet? Absolutely! Ease of something compounds the problem. A gun in the hand of a racist is far more dangerous than one otherwise.
Is it really a political issue?
When a violent event occurs, there are always questions about politics – we need new laws, forums on race, etc. Yet, violence is never first a political issue; it is always a moral issue. It involves human dignity. As a Christian, I believe violence is an assault on the imago deo in each of us. We are made in the image of God; therefore, we should treat every individual with respect and kindness because we each are created by God. This truth endows us with worth. Violence against another person attempts to destroy this worth in another person. A murder fueled by race is doubly egregious because it attacks an individual’s unique make-up (ethnicity) and the person’s humanity. There have been attempts to legislate morality. It can bring some benefit. However, you can’t enact enough laws to regulate the conscience. Gun violence is solved in part when there is a reaffirmation of human dignity, not simply individually but as a nation.
Is it really individual choice?
The question that arose over the past week was who purchased the gun? Was it the father or did he buy it himself? Does it matter? Yes, of course. But, it doesn’t nullify the larger context. What values are being instilled in the home? How is a person being modeled when it comes to human dignity? Were these absent from the case in Charleston? It is possible that it wasn’t lacking. No matter how well a parent does in raising their child at times negative results happen. The truth is that no act of violence happens in a vacuum. There are numerous influences that shape and prompt a person to commit such an act. Sometimes the agents are active; sometimes passive. This morning I was reading a book on spiritual mentoring. As I think of gun violence, it reminds me of the church’s responsibility to engage in deeper mentoring – parent to child, leader to congregant, church to community. There needs to be investment at a deep, personal level so that these outcroppings of the sinful heart can be dealt with before they are acted upon. In this sense, I think we all have a responsibility to resolve the issue, as a parent, as a leader, as a human.