After nearly every highly publicized mass shooting a national debate has ensued about whether there is need for stiffer gun legislation. The discussion is needed; but, gun control should be thought of as only one aspect of a national campaign focused on promoting peace and reducing all violence.
Neither gun control legislation nor arming more citizens will curb the violence that permeates society. People who have the means and opportunity to acquire weapons will continue to possess, sell, and use them, even if they have to do so illegally. Additionally, if every gun manufacturer in the United States was shut down and stiffer gun laws were adopted making it difficult for average Americans to get guns, criminals and mentally ill people could still have access to firearms and other weapons that they would us against others. [i] A cursory study of the number of senseless deaths that occurred during the settling of the American West, where nearly every male owned a gun, proves that arming more citizens is not the answer to reducing violence.
Guns do not cause violence, people do. It is the lack of respect for life, objectification of others, glorified violence, divisive and hateful political rhetoric, absolution from personal accountability, and absence of a sense of community that contribute to the thinking that intentional acts of violence are acceptable. Moreover, if guns are not available those bent on hurting others will use weapons such as knives and bombs to perpetrate their crimes.
For example, on April 19, 1995, disgruntled Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols reportedly killed 168 people by bombing the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Similarly, on April 15, 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlane Tsarnaev killed three people and injured more than 260 by setting off two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
The actions of McVeigh and Nichols and the Tsarnaev brothers, coupled with the recent highly publicized mass shootings, illustrate the fact that the nation needs to find ways to rekindle shared personal and cultural values that emphasize: the value of all people, the importance of unity, and that make it socially unacceptable to unjustly cause harm to others.
[i] I am not opposed to gun control, I just think it must be part of a comprehensive strategy for reducing violence. I do not support the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) interpretation of the Second Amendment.