In a press conference earlier this morning, President Obama announced that “If there’s even one thing that we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we have an obligation to try. And I’m going to do my part.”
I agree. Wholeheartedly. We should all do our part to reduce violence in this country and to save lives.
Yet the real question – the real dilemma – is how. How do we reduce violence in America and the murderous use of guns? How do we save the lives of our children and innocent moviegoers? While we’re at it, how can we just … abolish crime altogether?
I want to wade in to this conversation on “gun control,” and I use the term “wade in” because emotions don’t tend to stay calm for long when the conversation rolls around to “guns” and “gun rights.” Rhetoric quickly escalates and we find ourselves engaged in a shouting match, hurling insults and obscenities at each other with no guard on our language. It’s ironic how violent we become with our words in an attempt to end the physical violence around us. We forget that “out of the heart the mouth speaks,” as well as the adage “actions speak louder than words.” If we allow our hearts to be calloused to others, leading to unkind and hateful speech, should we really be surprised that there are those among us who allow their hearts to actually influence their actions? Indeed, a hateful heart will commit hateful deeds.
With that in mind, I’d like to “wade in” in an attempt to dial back our temperatures and allow for tender hearts and open minds. Yes – we all should care about the safety of our kids and their schools, as well as the safety of the general public. But we need to be focused on dealing with the root causes of these murders and crimes and not focus on the highly-politicized side shows.
We need to realize that the people trying to deal with the real issue care about the quality of life of the shooters, their mental state, the community around them, what influenced them, etc. The people trying to get rid of our guns have always been trying to get rid of our guns and will always continue to try to get rid of our guns. Those who are truly seeking to prevent further tragedies like those in Aurora, CO, and Newtown, CT, are focusing on the shooters and the culture they were a part of, not the tools that they used to commit those crimes. We all know that spoons don’t make us fat, hammers don’t build houses, and guns don’t kill people. A gun is just like a spoon and a hammer in that it is a tool. Those who wield tools are responsible for what they do with them.
Be that as it may, I accept a government’s willingness to take a stance on the issue of “gun violence.” Governments step in where voids are created, and because we as a people are unwilling to talk about the issues and root causes of “gun violence” or violence of any kind, we shouldn’t be surprised that our federal government has stepped in with a desire to do something concrete – like require gun registration, background checks, and magazine restrictions. Let me repeat – we shouldn’t be surprised.
Of course, there is the conservative, libertarian crowd that has rightly risen up in protest to the Obama administration, pointing out that the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution provides us the right to own and use weapons:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
And they’re correct – the Constitution does give us this right. As citizens of a free country, we have the right to keep and bear arms in order to continue to preserve our free state. Having weapons allows citizens the freedom and liberty of fighting back if (as occurred in the rebellion of the American colonies) the state or military goes too far.
But conservatives and libertarians also are missing the point. More important than the misinterpretation of the Constitution is the complete and utter denial of what is happening in American culture. What are we teaching our kids that leads them to a worldview that allows such perverse actions? What are we allowing them to spend their time doing where their minds are more bent on tearing down than building up? And what if we’re really seeking to keep our schools safe, why are we announcing to all the bad people out there (because we’ll never be able to get rid of all of them) that the schools are “GUN-FREE ZONES”? Don’t we remember how to be logical? Don’t we know that that’s like issuing an invitation to anyone whose heart is murderous or mind unstable that they can inflict the most amount of damage… here… in our school?
If we want to be serious, like President Obama, about doing our part to reduce violence and save lives, we need to get serious about the culture we’re creating for our kids. What kind of music should they listen to? What kind of movies should they watch? What kind of games should they play? What kind of books should they read?
What lessons are we teaching them? Because, no matter how involved we as parents are in their lives, we are teaching them something. We’re teaching them to build others up or to tear others down. We’re either teaching them moral values, or gross immoralities. Are we teaching them to love one another? Are we teaching them the Gospel? Do we take them to Church?
These are the questions we need to be asking. These are the issues that we should be discussing. No, I don’t want the federal government to take away my guns. Yes, I believe in the right to bear arms. But more than that, I believe that the culture we help form through the instruction and training of our children is the culture which can either keep them on the path of morality, or let them slide down the slippery slope of hatred and immorality that always ends in death. Death of their souls, death of their relationships, and sometimes, like in Aurora and Newtown, in the deaths of unsuspecting, innocent lives.
Until we recognize that the “gun violence” debate is ultimately a consequence of a violently immoral culture that denies the existence of a moral, living God, we will find that bad men will continue to do bad things without fear of consequences. It’s time to reaffirm our faith in a God who loves righteousness and hates evil. Only in a God-based, moral society will good people have the ability to stop evil people from doing bad things. The Gospel conquers all things – hearts, minds, and bodies. And the Gospel gives true liberty, ending all violence.