I feel strongly that all those with a public voice must participate in the dialogue on gun violence. As a social psychologist who has worked with at-risk youth and participated in similar dialogues at the state level, I feel compelled to add my voice to the discussion. I have three articles prepared on this subject. This first addresses the gun/human relationship.
I am all for allowing people the freedom to have those things that are important to them so I am not particularly anti-gun. However, I am going to have to ask my dear friends to stop posting the heartfelt letters from veterans, celebrities or some ignorant preacher that vilify any restrictions on gun ownership or the purchase of ammunition.
You know the letters I am talking about. They are usually well written and describe eloquently how this person was afraid all the time until they got their gun. The letters may go on to talk about rights and how plausible it is that guns will be needed against some nefarious gangster or the US Government. I also understand we are about to celebrate gun appreciation day. I do have a few things to say on the topic.
First, about those letters, I am a social psychologist. I’ve worked with at-risk populations for over forty years. Part of my job has been psychological assessment. Folks, the people who write those passionate letters about their guns are not healthy people and probably should not have unlimited access to weapons. It is neither normal nor healthy to be afraid all the time. If you are afraid to leave your home unarmed, you need to change your habits and seek help. Fear is the one emotion that will destroy your body. The adrenalin reaction you receive from strapping on your gun to leave the house may feel good, but it will destroy the heart. Get help before your fears kill you.
Think about the whole gun issue from this perspective. Substitute the word sewing machine for gun. Would you think I was silly for wanting a sewing machine appreciation day? Actually this sounds kind of fun, we could have a big sewing expo with ideas for quilting, crafts, and fashion design. I’d love it, but you know, I don’t think sewing machines, despite the fact that they help create good things, are worthy of a day to honor them.
What if I were to write an impassioned letter talking about how bored I get without my sewing machine? I could talk about how panicked I was just before Christmas when my old machine blew its mother-board. What about my search for a machine to borrow because Christmas wasn’t going to be so merry without a sewing machine in the house? Oh! I could talk about my fear of torn hems. I need a sewing machine to defend me from torn hems. I could get on a paranoid rant about government control of bobbins. I’d sound like a bit of a fruitcake if I talked this way. My diagnosis would be somewhere in the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder spectrum. There are drugs for that.
My sewing machine is a useful item. I do use it regularly for little mending projects and the occasional quilting project. I have always loved my machines, but they are not necessary for my mental health. We have a serious problem in our country when a significant portion of the population declares a physical item necessary for mental health.
Since I call myself someone who believes in the teachings of Jesus, I need to address the “Christian” aspects of gun ownership. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus advocate arming ourselves. Remember he was preaching to people living in an occupied country. The Romans did not worship the God of Abraham yet Jesus taught his followers to get along with the occupiers. He did on occasion advocate peaceful resistance to burdensome demands. He repeatedly advised his followers not to worry. “Fear not” is commonly used through the Bible. “Trust in the Lord” is another common command. Christianity is not a religion of fear, but of trusting. As for the desperate trust in a physical object to allay fear, that is idolatry and strictly forbidden.
I don’t believe that gun control is the sole answer to our current problems with violence in this country. I do believe addressing the mental health issues behind the idea that guns are a solution is necessary. I would also remove guns from the hands of those so unstable that they need a gun to feel safe. I think we need more social services. Poverty is linked closely to violence. We need to address issues of poverty. We need to look at our entertainment industry and at least discuss the role that violence-and-fear-mongering-as-entertainment play in the degradation of society. A dialogue that focuses exclusively on guns is too narrow. On the other hand, we also need to address the issue of easy access to weapons for a population with some serious paranoia issues.