We have witnessed yet another active shooter event, this time at Seattle Pacific. Citizens are understandably shocked, horrified, saddened, and angry about this the latest incident involving a mentally disturbed young man with easy access to lethal weapons. However, we should not be surprised. Currently there are over 320 million guns in the United States and there is no end in sight. To quote a former police chief, “We are awash in an ocean of guns.
One obvious question worth asking is why would a civilized industrial nation that prides itself on both democratic principles and reasoned government allow all reason and sanity to be hijacked by the NRA and a gun lobby cartel whose sole objective and reason for existence is to introduce an ever greater number of increasingly lethal weapons into the domestic population? The answer I believe can be found in our ever growing culture of fear. The NRA and the gun cartel in the United States use as their bedrock and foundation a culture of fear that permeates virtually every aspect of American life. And this is a culture that these forces carefully cultivate, nurture, and ultimately rely on. And the social costs we the people incur from our culture of fear are immense and incalculable — both in terms of human suffering and impact on the greater society on a whole.
We live in a culture where reasoned people talk openly about arming school teachers. We discuss arming people now in church. Twenty-two states have passed laws that allow employees to bring their guns to work. It will become normative to have metal detectors in virtually every academic setting, from preschool to college. And with each new mass shooting there will be an ever greater array of responses that chip away and make a mockery of any pretense of civilized life, domestic tranquilly, and the common good. The NRA and the gun lobby will exploit each new tragedy and continue to hone the culture of fear, telling us that the only way to remain safe is to continue our domestic arms race which is like nothing the world has ever seen.
There is possibly a light at the end of this tunnel — or in this case, gun barrel. One way to kindle this light is to have or introduce reasoned conversations and debate about guns in our culture. It does not take huge vision to imagine a world in which citizens would enjoy the right to arm themselves while at the same time having structures and safeguards in place that would prevent or at least make it far more difficult for an unstable individual to access weapons of ever-increasing lethality. And at the same time we the people need to take a sobering look at the mental health crisis in this country and the true costs of the systematic shredding of virtually all public safety nets and supports for this ever growing population. By starting these conversations we may be able to neutralize what has become a perfect storm of violence in a country that once prided itself on being the land of the free and home of the brave. The other option, of arming an ever-greater number of Americans with an ever-greater array of firepower, is nothing but a prescription for endless and unimaginable tragedy. I think we have had enough of this.