“So what is your thoughts on gun control?” was his question… but before I could respond, my friend launched into his own thoughts about how all guns need to be banned because there is no reason for them. He rambled with almost a foamed mouth from the stupidity of assault rifles, to target shooting, to hunting, to suicide, to how there is no valid reason for anyone owning a gun… he was convinced his opinion was fact. My friend really didn’t want me to respond, what my friend wanted was for me to sit there and listen to him espouse his ideas and views. I continued to sip my bourbon and nod my head. My view on the issue was unimportant at that moment. Right then my friend wanted what he considered an informed listener… he wanted affirmation. I just listened and kept my thoughts to myself. It was truly a moment when I realized the maturing process I had undergone in my life… keeping my mouth shut and my opinions to myself has never been my strong suit.
Honestly, I have no answer… at least not a fully formed or well-thought out answer. Like a lot a people, I am kind of stuck thinking about all I have heard… how we have heard people speak with the utmost conviction and knowledge.Seems there are multiple viewpoints on gun control and gun violence and everyone is rocksteady in their opinion… there is no doubt in their minds about how fucking right they are.
To many it is the prolific amount of gun ownership in America, others it is the lack of God in schools, to others it the treatment of mental illness, and to others it is about constitutionally guaranteed rights. To me… well I just don’t know.
I come from a home and upbringing that included shotguns and rifles, skeet and target shooting… and hunting. My family and guns are mixed in tradition and profession. My brother-in-law and nephew have an annual tradition of going to Arkansas every year around Thanksgiving for a father/son duck hunting trip… how do I tell them that there is no valid reason for their gun ownership? My dad raised me with guns in the house, he taught me how to use guns at an early age… I have fond memories of the two of cleaning our shotguns after a day of skeet shooting… how do I discount this sort of memory that is nothing but warm and fuzzy. It is almost as if these family traditions of recreational gun use are less about guns and more about a masculine bonding among us.
I don’t, however, hunt any longer. The last time I “hunted” was when I was visiting my family in Tennessee and sat in the woods with my preteen nephew who was deer hunting. Both of us are talkers, so more time was spent laughing and jabbering than actual hunting… I did inform him though that if he killed a deer, his ass was dragging it out of the woods and he would be the one who would get his hands bloody by field stripping it. I am a firm believer that the hunter who makes the kill is responsible for the final disposition of the prey. A few hours later a deer came into his sights… he didn’t shoot… at his age and size, I am sure that the thought of dragging the deer that outweighed him and the blood that would follow settled into his mind. Since then he has killed a deer, but at that moment the hunting and gun were secondary to the time an uncle and nephew spent in the woods. I can’t discount these moments when I think about gun ownership.
There has never been any type of assault rifle ownership in my family… except for the SKS (a Russian carbine) that I once owned. See, I have… at times… been a gun owner. How do I reconcile my own gun ownership and the horrific crimes that others have committed with guns… hypocrisy is strong and deep in the world of gun ownership and gun violence.
I have been astounded, however, by the amount of good Christian thought on how the recent gun crimes are because of the lack of “God” in our schools. There is almost a blind belief that because we, as a society, have exercised God from our schools that violence has taken its place. For those, I have to ask… when did we have God in our schools… and is this mythical time some pleasant era of peace and love… and harmony within society? Was it when our schools were segregated… when minorities were kept separate but “equal?” Was it when I was in school… because we did have a moment of silence and prayer every morning… and yet we still had violence… and like most schools (statistically) that violence was nothing more than your typical physical confrontation that was settled with insults and fists… yet it was still violent. There was also drugs, alcohol, and sex in my school… lots of it… yet there was prayer and church groups… we had high school athletes who called themselves Christian and prayed before sporting events… sporting events that included Christian athletes that were using drugs and having sex… I’m sorry but the argument that God has been banned from our schools is the reason for recent gun violence is about as valid as saying that the end of using rotary telephones is the reason for gun violence in our school. There are no facts that support this cause and effect relationship.
However… if the lack of God in our schools did result in a lone gunman entering Sandy Hook Elementary school and killing innocent children… well keep your jealous and wrathful god to yourself because I have no need or desire to worship any deity that is so angry and vengeful that it would punish a bunch of little kids for my sinful ways. I believe this is more of a human desire to attribute human characteristics to a supposed god. It is human to lash out on the innocent when feeling spite and anger than anything godlike… omnipotent gods don’t give a shit whether we invite them in or not… they are omnipotent… and punishing innocents just seems lazy.
I get the myth of Amurika, God, and Guns… I do. I get the 2nd Amendment and the fear of a standing army and a government that attempts to use martial law to reestablish control of a rebellious colony… I’ve read history… I understand how nation-states exert its monopoly on violence to maintain control and I also understand how civilians turn to violence to claim independence. The ideal of our independence then led to a period where settlers marched forth from the Eastern Seaboard and infested the interior of North America. The myth of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone are strong… and we like to throw a Bible in the left hand while the right is holding a Kentucky rifle aloft. Feeding one’s family… and then defending it provided a need for the gun. This long tradition of self-reliance has perpetrated the notion of the independent American myth… yet we are a society of institutions and groups. We do join organizations, we do believe in community… the same people who will talk about the free and solitary character of the American spirit are also the ones who will tell you about the time that there was no need for federal government assistance… because “communities took care of their own.” On one hand we want to believe that we are independent people with the ability to survive on our own hard work, and yet, on the other we want to talk about the interlocking of our communities and family. I get that we have developed… or at least some of us, have developed this idea of a Christian god waving the American flag with one hand and holding a .223 Bushmaster assault rifle in the other… but this is fiction.
I had no answer for my friend… my view on gun control and gun violence is all wrapped up in visceral emotions… my heart and head don’t compete because both of them are torn. I deplore gun violence… yet I know no violent gun owners… and I know a lot of them because they are family. I deplore the excuse of God’s wrath… yet I know a lot of Christians because they are family. I deplore the horrible state of how our society treats the mentally ill… because that too is in my family. I had no answer for my friend… but he really didn’t want my opinion or any answer. Like a lot of us he just wanted to express his hurting heart of the recent events in Newtown, Connecticut. The only answer I can think of… and the one I have to work on myself… is the idea of disconnecting our ideals and myths of gun ownership, Christianity, and Amurika… the road ahead, as we deal with it as a society, is going to be long and laborious… I hurt because I have no answer yet I yearn to provide one.