Let’s Get Rid of the Guns!

What was the hardest final exam you ever took?  Mine was at Yale in Social Ethics.  The professor gave us the single question a month before it was due: “What is a good society?”  That question has haunted me ever since and I have spent a lifetime searching for answers.

The good society seeks the common good and in the words of the Declaration of Independence, stands for “liberty and justice for all.”  I note that too often we focus on liberty and forget justice for all.  I conclude that the good society respects the dignity of every person, and lifts people up rather than tears them down.  The good society is non-violent and peaceful.

The oil in the engine of that peaceful community is personal peacemaking mixed with government programs that promote peace with justice.  The good citizen roots out violence and affirms peaceful wellbeing.

What is the role of policing in the good society?  Police should be one among several categories of public service professionals with the mission of addressing personal and societal problems peacefully.  In the good society there is no place for violence toward another human being.  All policing should be non-violent.

Much of the service performed by police departments could be done better by other professionals.  As examples, a family dispute is best solved by persons trained in conflict resolution.  Public drunkenness is an alcohol problem best confronted by addiction specialists.  Violent crimes are greatly reduced when people have resources for dealing with their inner demons.  When public officials provide funds for good education that leaves no student behind, and creates good jobs that use that education constructively, most of the crime fades away. As persons gain a sense of belonging, being valued, and having basic needs met, they become contributing members of the good society.

This brings us to the question of firearms in policing.  To promote a successful peaceful society, police should never carry firearms in their daily work.  In this era, saturated with firearms, perhaps the Chief could be authorized to issue firearms on rare occasions and instruct officers to use their guns only to save lives, and then report the outcomes to Oversite Boards.

I do recognize the difficult position in which police are placed daily.  With 40% of citizens owning guns, police officers assume the persons they seek to arrest are carrying firearms. and may shoot them unless they shoot first.

This raises the question of the so-called Second Amendment Rights of private citizens to own and use firearms.  In the non-violent “good” society to which we aspire, no such right exists.  Historically, this amendment was placed in our Constitution to establish militias for the new nation in the era before we had an army.  George Washington and his fellow planters in Virginia included the second amendment because they needed militias to combat pirates who systematically stole from planters along the seaboard and to quell slave uprisings.  Guns gave a minority of whites the ability to control a majority of Blacks.  Guns are still meant to control Blacks on a systematic basis.  It is long past time to repeal the Second Amendment.

What about private citizens owning firearms?  To me, one firearm in private hands is one too many.  A gun is a lethal weapon meant to kill.  It is dangerous to own and fatal to use.  Children regularly kill each other and slay adults during innocent play.  Adults within families kill each other in the passion of the moment when there is a dispute.  And I, for one, can think of nothing worse than taking the life of another person, even someone who is robbing or molesting me.  Guns are created to give persons power over others and to kill.

I am not even comfortable with the thought of using guns for hunting animals.  It is a totally one-sided contest between the person and the unfortunate animal and is hardly a sport.  I prefer to respect the animals and admire their amazing intuition, strength, and courage.  I recognize that my destiny is intertwined with that of creatures great and small.

I am aware we are a gun-crazed society like no other on earth.  There is no consensus on how to reduce gun violence, but what we do have are facts–statistics: 

  • 40,000 Americans kill each other annually by guns as homicides, plus 20,000 suicides each year, and more than 60,000 are seriously wounded by gunshot.
  • There are 400,000,000 guns in our homes and on our streets.
  • 44% of our households own at least one gun.  Most are white and male.
  • 45% of gun owners have a lethal weapon loaded and ready to use.

In my judgment, firearms find no place in that good society.  They express cruelty and a reach for power.  Indeed, there is no place in our lives for violence.  In my good society, parents teach their children to hate guns, loathe violence, reject bullying, and love neighbor as self.  Let’s get rid of the guns!

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