January 18 2013
We Can’t Legislate Away Evil
I grew up with guns in the house. My dad was a collector of antique firearms. He occasionally brought home a new rifle or handgun and some of them were quite powerful. Whether a lady’s 19th Century derringer or a high powered semiautomatic rifle, the guns were always locked in the gun safe.
Dad taught me to shoot and I remember him saying that you never point a gun at a person unless you intend to shoot them in self-defense. His words took root so deeply in my mind that I can’t stand to play video games where humans are the targets. Baleful zombies or fire breathing dragons, sure, but not people. Literally, I cannot fire a fake gun at a fake person without feeling a little sick to my stomach. Dad’s words and the moral framework bestowed by my parents prevent me from even wanting to hurt another person. The sanctity of human life is as real to me as my own heartbeat.
Like me, Adam Lanza, grew up with guns in the home. His parents, however, neglected to instill in him a reverence for human life. Refusing to face Lanza’s deteriorating mental state, his mother didn’t even bother to lock up the firearms. In his hands, my century old .22 Winchester rifle would be a lethal weapon. In my hands, Lanza’s high powered rifle might as well be a potted plant. Morality, not weaponry, determines lethality.
It is for this simple reason that the President’s new plan to stop gun violence will do little good. An evil man will still be able to steal lawfully purchased guns from his clueless mother while I will have to get a background check for the .22 rifle I inherited for target practice. How is making it more difficult for a law abiding person to receive or purchase a firearm from a relative or a friend going to prevent an lawless person from stealing a gun and committing a crime? If someone is willing to kill, why would they bother with a background check?
As a woman, I take very seriously the issue of self-defense. I remember the helplessness and dread I felt when robbed by two men a few years ago. They didn’t need a weapon. Their size and number were sufficient to keep me from fighting back. There was no one else in sight and I count myself lucky that I was not raped or beaten. Poorer and mentally traumatized, it took me months to get my confidence back. A gun would have brought some balance to the situation. The robbers would likely have run away.
If implemented, the Obama gun control plan will impact me, the victim who intends to arm herself, not the lawless man who can rely on his physical strength to assault a woman. While firearms have been around for some 700 years, bad men have been robbing, attacking, and killing other people since humans first walked upright.
Guns are not the problem. The human propensity for evil is the problem and sometimes guns are the solution in that they can stop bad men from accomplishing their vicious aims. In the words of my friend Sarah, “In a society which values freedom more than control, evil will occur. In a society which values control more than freedom, evil will remain, and good will have its hands tied.”