Should fear drive gun policy?
The world has too many guns and not enough wisdom. Within days of another gun-based tragedy, a loud, deep debate in media outlets and on the floor of Congress included arguments for limitations on gun availability. Gun control advocates suggest that legislation limiting the numbers of guns or accessories would be effective in stopping violence. A week after the tragedy, opponents proposed armed guards in schools.
But the events in Newtown, Connecticut, do not point to a poverty of law. They point to a poverty of the spirit.
When individuals take safety into their owns hands, the community is less safe.
This poverty of spirit shows itself as fear. This fear is so great that two local fathers failed to keep loaded weapons away from small children; one child is dead and another injured in the same month. A man living alone in rural Minnesota felt so threatened by the world that he fatally shot two teenagers seeking some thrill or another. A grandfather awoke in the night, no longer trusting his community, and shot his granddaughter at the door.
The NRA is wrong. When individuals take safety into their owns hands, the community is less safe.
These recent events happened with legal weapons owned by people who had every right to own them. But their spirit was struck by the poverty that is fear and wisdom failed them.
These deaths of young people were not accidents; they were failures of the community to integrate each citizen and make them feel safe.
Caring in community
Wisdom and understanding are the duty of every individual, but safety is the responsibility of the community. The lack of mental health resources limit a community’s ability to protect citizens. Depression is life threatening — first to the individual but also to the community.
The Tucson shooting and Minneapolis workplace event illuminate the shortage of intervention services. The usual health care insurance plan limits the number and length of treatments. The privacy law interpretation makes intervention by families of adult children almost impossible. Unless you have the money of a celebrity, access to residential behavioral treatment is limited.
This poverty of spirit shows itself as fear.
President Obama is correct; love is the answer. If we love each other without conditions, our safety will increase. It is our first commandment. Love as if your life depended upon it.
It is clear that if we, as individuals, take our safety into our own hands, even to the point of owning weapons of self defense, we can not guarantee the safety of our community or even our own children. It will be easier to write new laws, but what we need is new attitudes of faith and justice and inclusion — the fruits of the love we are commanded to practice.
Larry Kiewel is a member of St. John Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. He was a member of the Minneapolis Area Synod Council from 1990 to 1996.