This was going to focus on the topic of prudent gun control, but my thoughts on firearms are really much more about the spirit of fear, and about how pervasive fear is in this once-courageous, erstwhile Christian land of ours. It says in 1st John 4:18 that “perfect love” drives out “fear”–but just in case you better get in line down at Cabela’s or your favorite gun shop and buy yourself a Bushmaster 223.
It’s sad, but not surprising–the deluge of media print and video posturing following the tragedy of the latest school massacre in Connecticut two fridays ago. The news-as-entertainment paradigm shift of the past couple decades guarantees that. The real time news coverage of every gruesome detail is why I’ve pretty much given up watching television. The children hadn’t even been buried yet and both sides were screaming their heads off about the Second Amendment. I’m amazed at how many Christians seem to view the U.S. Constitution as a holy document, and hang on the meaning of every word like a convocation of Old Testament Scribes. I’m also amazed at how many Christians are armed to the teeth and buy into the thought that our government has some kind of hidden agenda to strip them of their rights as gun owners, and who are also quite comfortable equating Obama, and every other liberal politician advocating gun control with Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro and every dictator who ever sought to take away firearms from their individual citizens. Folks, that’s just plain nuts–that is a type of societal paranoia. That is the spirit of fear run amok.
The mental disease of paranoia is based in fear. Have you ever seen the national banner of paranoia? I’ll bet you have. Its black and white and features the black outline of a man’s head in a white circle against a background with a guard-tower and it says something about remembering POWs and MIAs. Back about 20 years ago there was this myth that several thousand Americans captured during the Viet Nam War were being held in secret prison camps in Laos and North Viet Nam. After the Vietnamese started forgiving us and then opening up their country a bit to tourism the POW issue was thoroughly investigated and found to hold not an ounce of truth. Yet this flag persists. I recently saw it flying just below the American flag in front of a U.S. Post Office. I felt personally insulted to see this moronic rag on the same flagpole with Old Glory. I would recommend firing the postmaster of this post office on the grounds of either being of low intelligence or a paranoid personality disorder. However, he’s probably neither–likely just an average joe who’s bought into some myth propagated by the father of lies.
Our societal paranoia both fascinates me and saddens me, and I can’t as yet articulate clearly why a significant number in our country lean that way. Perhaps it gives form and expression to the unconscious fear and rage that lies deep within many of us. It is what helped spawn the John Birch Society back in the 60s and more recently in the 90s the militia movement. And, whatever its etiology, it’s what lies behind the appeal of a film like “Red Dawn.” I didn’t see the original 1984 version, nor will I see this incarnation, but I’ve seen the previews a few times and know the film’s basic scenario. Back in the 80s it was the dastardly Soviets and their Cuban surrogates that invaded some community out west. A bunch of teens take to the hills and fight them off. Yay. In 2012, the invaders are oriental looking and so I gather they are North Koreans.
Here’s a few statistics to ponder in any debate on gun control: Number of deaths by firearms in Great Britain in 2011: 58. Number of homicides by firearms in the U.S. in 2010: 8,875. Our population is about five times that of the UK but even taking that into account it’s still a startling ratio.
In the U.S. in 2007, there were over 29,000 gun related deaths–over 17,000 suicides and more than 12,000 homicides and accidental shootings
Also, in the U.S., for every 100 people there are 90 firearms in circulation. There is a gun out there for nearly every man. woman and child in this country. Given that, I do not think we need to worry about our government trying to disarm us.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 killed roughly 3,000 people; however, in the years since 2001 nearly 140,000 Americans have died in gun related violence. Can you imagine our response had 9/11 resulted in 140,000 dead Americans? We would have reduced to cinders half the cities in the Middle East. Instead, a mere 3,000 casualties spawned a whole new industry (security) and resulted in a greatly expanded federal bureaucracy and concomitant government intrusion into our private lives. But in the meantime what few laws there were on the books about assault rifles have been vitiated by the NRAs relentless campaign to intimidate legislators.
The attacks of 9/11/01 seem to have left a deep impact on our national psyche. Suddenly, soccer mom morphed into security mom. Everybody became hypervigilant and instead of folks parting with “take care” it became “stay safe.” The spirit of fear ran wild after 9/11. As well as being a springboard for a whole new federal bureaucracy, it became an excuse for Bush to launch an attack against Iraq which had absolutely nothing to do with Al Qaida and 9/11. Sandy Hook seems to have been another tipping point. In the week since the Sandy Hook massacre there’s been a run on “bullet-proof” backpacks, assault rifles are selling out, and I gather that the NRA is calling for armed guards in every school. This has all the elements of a great SNL satire and would be humorous if it weren’t so terribly sad.
Many years ago the Orlando Sentinel columnist Charley Reese wrote a semi-tongue-in-cheek piece about gun control in which he suggested that everyone 18 and over be required by law to carry a gun. His reasoning was that if everybody knew that everybody else was armed we’d have a much more polite and less violent society–folks would treat each other with more respect and criminals would think twice before they acted out. Well, who knows if he was serious or not, but it was thought provoking–the idea of pretty much every adult being armed. I guess this would be the NRA’s vision of Heaven, but I think reason (and the Holy Spirit) tells us this would be a vison of Hell.
I am a gun owner and when I was a teen I was the member of a shooting club and I belonged to the NRA. My father and uncles were all gun owners and gun collectors. One uncle had a gun dealers license. I am not against firearms or in favor of any bizarrely restrictive laws about gun ownership. However, I do think we need some sensible guidelines. For one, making it considerably more difficult for the suicidal, homicidal or mentally ill to purchase a gun. Perhaps, a much longer cooling off period (30-days or more), and vetting the candidates more closely. I know there are laws to keep those with a history of violence or mental illness from purchasing guns but they don’t seem to work. (2) mandating trigger locks for all guns in homes where there are minors. (3) banning the sale of new assault rifles and banning banana clips and high-capacity magazines for those already in circulation. I think just a few sensible measures would greatly reduce firearm deaths, and nobody’s right to bear arms under the Second Amendment would be infringed upon. But sadly, that isn’t going to happen. The massive struggle to pass Obama-care will pale in comparison to the fight the NRA and those in bondage to the spirit of fear will put up.
It amazes me that we require licenses to drive, and yet in most areas of this country pretty much anybody can own and shoot a gun. Obviously, operating a motor vehicle is deemed a responsible and potentially dangerous task that improperly or recklessly done can endanger more people than just the driver. Licensing drivers, and physicians, and not allowing minors to drink alcohol or purchase cigarets are what I’d call rational, sensible guidelines. However, those opposing reasonable measures to reduce the number of deaths by firearms in this country have, in my opinion, become part of our epidemic of societal paranoia–they’ve given in to the spirit of fear–and the spirit of fear is propagated by. . . “pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name.” The voice in our thoughts that tells us to purchase an assault rifle is not likely the Jesus living in us, it’s more likely to be the accuser, the one who’s been a liar and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7