Originally published in the Summer 2018 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 57. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2018 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post (pending). For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

We’re all deeply saddened by news of what seems like an endless series of school shootings. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Since the infamous Sandy Hook massacre in September 2012, there have been some 1,500 mass shootings in this country. How can so many tragic events keep happening? What’s the answer? 

Some of our FB friends are posting very emotional statements demanding more laws controlling the ownership of guns. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but owns 50% of the world’s privately owned guns. That works out to about one gun per person, although only one in four actually owns a gun, with most of those owning one or two. A mere 3 percent of the population owns half of all the privately owned guns. But how many of these ever misuse them? 

We agree that guns don’t kill people, people kill people; and also that there are way too many guns out there. Not because guns can jump up and shoot people, but because if you have a gun and also have a problem, it’s very tempting to use that gun to solve your problem. That’s one reason why the majority of gun-related deaths in this country are actually suicides. 

But the real problem goes much deeper than guns. The vast majority of people who own guns, for hunting, sport or personal protection, have no desire to use them against another human being. 

The real problem is with society as a whole. It’s not just guns – this country has a love affair with violence in general. As Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) once put it, it’s as American as cherry pie. We grow up playing with toy guns. We watch super-violent TV shows and super-violent movies. We play super-violent video games. Our favorite national sport consists of grown men bashing each other up and down a field. 

And deeper, our country was born in hideous violence – massacring indigenous people, enslaving millions of Africans, waging wars nonstop from our founding right up to today. We glorify the military and the wars it fights. We teach our young, by example, that the best way to defend yourself from any threat is to eliminate that threat. It’s not just Trump. Every president, whether Democrat or Republican, has done the same thing. 

The real problem with gun violence in this country is that we have a very, very sick society. It’s deeply racist, deeply militaristic and deeply violent. This is what we have to fight against. We need to constantly project the vision of another way of living. 

We are for the right to own guns and for sensible gun laws. But no gun laws can protect us from violent people who want to hurt other people. And there are times when owning and knowing how to safely use a gun may save your life. Not always, but sometimes, and people should have the right to be prepared for those situations. 

If you don’t want to own a gun, don’t. If you want to protect us all from gun violence, then change society. Guns don’t kill people – sick, violent people who grow up in a deeply unhealthy society that glorifies violence and promotes violence as a reasonable solution to almost every problem kill people.  

And, thanks to our history and our continuing militarism, we seem to have more of those kinds of people than any society on earth.

Categories: Editorials

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