Monday, August 6, 2012

Into the Cross Hairs

By Jeff Fulmer 
Originally posted 8/4/12 at Hometown Prophet

High profile shootings seem to occur every year or so; Gabby Giffords, Treyvon Martin, Virginia Tech, and Columbine come to mind. The latest chapter was played out in Aurora, Colorado where a disturbed young man took his automatic rifle with a 100 round drum of bullets out on as many people as he could put in his cross hairs. Of course, other countries have mass shootings too (Norway and Finland), but they typically enact tough gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Not so in the US.

The NRA and their supporters have been very effective in shouting down any movement toward common sense gun control. The United States leads the world in gun ownership and, as a result, we have twenty times more gun-related murders (10,000 annually) as other high income countries. Afraid of a backlash, preachers and politicians typically sidestep the topic completely, leaving us doomed to repeat the same cycle of violence over and over again.

While the 2nd Amendment gives every citizen the right to bear arms, it was written when homesteaders still formed posses and militias for protection, and many hunted for food. Now, virtually every community has a police force that is a 911 call away, not to mention grocery stores. We also have the most powerful military the world has ever known, so we are probably not in danger of being invaded by a foreign country any time soon.

The 2nd Amendment is also there to make a stand against our own government, should it become too oppressive. Extreme gun enthusiasts are quick to find fault in public policies or certain politicians as an excuse to feed their dark fantasies and stockpile weapons. Civilization would have to become seriously derailed for guns to play a part in a survival scenario. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who had rather prepare for the Apocalypse than work for a better world in the here and now.

I know many pro-gun proponents who are strong Christians, but it is difficult to find support for their beliefs in the Bible. Sure, there are plenty of bloody battles in the Old Testament, but that does not mean that violence was ever God’s first choice. God condemned the killing of Abel and, a couple of chapters later, we are told God decided to destroy the entire earth with a flood because, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and full of violence.” (Genesis 6:11) Even though King David was a man after God’s heart, he wasn’t allowed to build the temple because “you have been a man of war and have shed blood.” I Chronicles 28:3

Jesus presents a radically different approach to conflict resolution, whether he was blessing peacemakers, or telling his followers to turn the other cheek and love their enemies. When the authorities arrested Jesus, Peter drew a sword and cut off a soldier’s ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26: 52) Jesus challenges us to go beyond taking an eye for an eye, and examine how we view others, even those who would do us harm.

It is instinctual to want to protect our families, but we know more guns actually make society more dangerous. A study by Harvard researchers found that the states with the top 25% of household firearm ownership had a homicide rate that was 60% higher than the rest of the nation. Compared with the states in the bottom 25% of gun ownership, the top 25% had 114% greater firearm related homicides. A map of gun-related deaths in the US clearly shows that firearm deaths are significantly higher in states with fewer gun control restrictions.

Making sure our neighbors are fed, sheltered, and educated is a much better security system than preparing to do battle against them. Instead, many want to slash programs that benefit society as a whole, while refusing to compromise on reasonable gun restrictions (such as limiting high capacity clips and banning assault weapons). Some are even trying to push guns into our parks, bars, and schools. Besides the number of shootings (accidental and otherwise) that will inevitably rise, we are becoming a nation that accepts violence as a way of life. As a result, we are moving further away from the example Jesus set on the cross and closer into the cross hairs.

Image: via the Flickr photostream of rutlo

Jeff Fulmer is the author of the book "Hometown Prophet."

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