It is estimated that there are about three hundred million guns in the United States. How in the world do we keep track of three hundred million of anything? I use to own guns. I liked the workmanship, the detail and precision. I enjoyed going out to Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert to shoot at targets. I never once killed anything, nor did I ever see my guns as a solution to any of my problems. There are millions of people just like me. I have never understood hunting except when absolutely necessary for survival. When I lived in West Virginia a school bus or two per year always seem to be the accidental targets during hunting season. With gun violence on the rise in the 1960’s and 70’s I got rid of my guns; yes as a statement but mostly because I didn’t need something lethal to have fun. There were other avenues. Now, I shoot photographs.
Banning guns won’t work. Prohibition didn’t work in the 20’s. The war on drugs hasn’t worked either. Seems to me we have to go back to the source of the problem; individual choices to shoot or not to shoot. We are enamored of easy answers to difficult problems. Bang, bang, problem solved. Well, no, it isn’t. The problem has just gotten a lot worse.
So many the shooters have been shown to be mentally challenged. Okay, lets round them all up and put them far away. That won’t work either nor is it justified or fair. We need to remember that mentally challenged people are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence. We are constantly trying to erase the symptom but not treating the disease. We don’t have an epidemic of guns, we have an epidemic of people who use a gun to solve some problem in their lives; low self esteem, I don’t have a girl friend, no one likes me, loners, isolators, folks who are really, really sad, no job, no friends, nowhere to vent my anger or frustration. The list can go on and on. In a sense we are all mentally challenged, at times needing help with one issue or another and we find ways to connect, or reconnect when life gets really difficult.
We find help in families, good friends, church communities, social clubs and needed psychiatric counselors and groups like 12-Step programs so we can learn to live on life’s terms. In a very real sense we all, every single one of us, needs to be prat of the solution rather than continuing the problem.
Clearly we need universal and comprehensive background checks. More than that, we need universal health care, especially psychiatric health care for the homeless , bullied teenagers, those feeling rejected and abandoned, and all unable to pay for such care. We need safe places where people can gather and share their angers and frustrations and discover real alternatives to what they are experiencing. We need to create communities, neighborhoods, cities and a nation where being kind and caring is the prime directive. We need friendly streets and safe sidewalks.
Whatever the motive the gunman in Roseburg, one thing is clear. He had a major disconnect with himself and others. The question is how do we keep people connected with reality, with one another. How do we provide safe places to share our brokenness and we are all broken. Most of us feel what it is like not to be able to share a particular secret in our lives; how isolated and alone it makes us feel. Many of us have also felt the incredible feeling of relief when we are able to share something we thought impossible to share - the freedom and lightness. All of us, can do this, be this for one another. Showing loving kindness is not rocket science, but as close as our ability to smile, to offer acceptance rather than rejection, love rather than hate. We need to disarm not the finger from the gun, but disarm the idea in some people’s minds that a gun is the only solution.