Guns don’t kill people, except when they do

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

So says a bumper sticker I have seen from my youth.

Another mass killing in a theater. This on the heels of a mass killing in Chattanooga. That one itself on the heels of a mass killing in Charleston.

The Washington Post posits there have been 204 mass shootings in 204 days of 2015. WAPO uses a crowd sourced site and a looser definition than the FBI: four or more people shot, not murdered, in the same event.

Two-hundred and four separate incidents of four or more people being shot in the U.S. in 2015. Seems like a lot. Seems like a game show.

Every mass shooting brings the inevitable–and worn–arguments: we have too many guns in our country vs if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. Perhaps Bobby Jindal is right and mass killings are not the time to talk about gun violence. I don’t agree. If mass shootings happen at the rate of one a day it seems like the window for discussion is nailed shut.

Maybe the discussion can be scheduled between shootings. Hurriedly. Committee hearings between reloads.

Political debates persist and grow heated. Anti-gun advocates insist on stricter laws. Pro-gun advocates fear almost any new restriction. Hitler gun-control memes make the rounds without reference to modern countries with stricter gun control than the United States. Some of them have even managed not to be subdued by an enemy. All have lower per capita gun-homicide rates than the U.S., though the U.S. gun-homicide rate declined by almost half between 1993 and 2010.

The problem for me as a 2nd Amendment supporter is the sometimes callous manner in which pro-gun advocates advance their cause. What often follows immediately on the heels of a mass shooting? Increased defense of gun ownership. What often follows while dead kids faces are solemnly shown on the news? Loud and repeated insistence of coming gun confiscation. Do we so fear the BATF is about to knock on the door with a Pistol Collection Can that we cannot stop to mourn murdered people, or allow others to do so?

Do we elevate the right to bear arms above the lives those arms are borne to protect?

Following the Charleston murders NRA board member Charles Cotton said the deaths might have been avoided if some of the nine victims had been armed. Perhaps he’s forgotten the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to bear arms. It is not a requirement to do so. It does not warrant gun ownership from Pampers to Depends.

Second Amendment supporters should stop acting as if people armed with spoons, knives or a rock could kill as many people as a person with a gun or guns. There is a reason Dylann Roof did not go to church with a spork. There is a reason we do not send soldiers into war with slingshots. Groups of people don’t die in movie theaters after being beaten with Corningware.

Guns make it easy to kill from a distance. They do not require physical contact. Guns make it harder for the victim(s) to evade, especially in an enclosed space. They strike fear. If a lunatic pulls out a knife in a theater his chances of killing 15 people before being subdued are less than if he wields a .45 or 9mm. (Yes, some mass killings have been committed with blades, and even cars. They are fewer and farther between than shootings.)

Are there those who want to see the gun count down to zero? Yes. Are there are organizations who argue for tighter gun laws? Yes. Are there Americans who think an disarmed populace is the better America? Yes.

But, as Joel Rainey who’s also a 2nd Amendment proponent told me:

I do think there is a legitimate threat of the 2nd amendment being purposefully undermined, which of course is the other side of the gun argument.


But when a shooting happens. Christians on BOTH sides need to mourn with those who mourn. We just don’t seem to be able to do that. And I think the reason points to a larger issue. We talk AT and PAST one another just like the world does. We’ve allowed CNN and FOX talking heads to teach us principles of dialogue, and that is what prevents us from enacting anything like a “common sense measure.”

Second amendment supporters, myself included, need to consider if weak arguments (like the bumper sticker above) undermine strong ones (like the existence of the 2nd Amendment, and court decisions). We might also consider how a lack of empathy looks to people who do not share our specific enthusiasm for firearms. Afraid of gun confiscation? Treating gun related deaths and the multi-faceted issues of violence as unimportant does not help. Neither does mocking the dead.

Featured image credit.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • I think the “lack of empathy” problem is why We do so poorly engaging on every hot-button issue whether guns, abortion, racial reconciliation, LGBT rights, immigration, you name it. The word “conservative” has in many spheres become a euphuism for “we don’t care about people.”

  • Beth DeVore

    Someone who knows more about such things than I do explained about the shooting just north in Aurora, saying a gun wouldn’t have done anything. It was dark, there were a lot of people running about, and the shooter was heavily armored. What was needed was a high powered flashlight to blind the shooter. I don’t know what the consensus was at my aunt’s women’s Bible study and gun club.