"Guns don't kill people..." and other cliches we have to stop saying about guns
1) "My right to bear arms is in the Constitution."
It's time for us to acknowledge that the Constitution is not infallible. If it were infallible, it wouldn't have had to be amended so many times. It was written by men, not saints. Though we call them the Founding Fathers and "Christians" (because as deists they acknowledged the existence of a divine being), in fact they committed adultery, fathered children out of wedlock and kept slaves. If you think the Constitution is inspired, you'd have to say the same thing about a document written by Bill Clinton, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and John Edwards.
I'm not advocating for anarchy. Of course changes to the Constitution take careful deliberation and thoughtful discussion -- but there is a precedent for amending parts of the document. And maybe we need to start talking about amending the gun part.
2) "I should have the right to go hunting if I want to."
When we frame the debate about gun control around good-hearted men who want to go hunting for the weekend, we create a straw man that doesn't accurately reflect what's at stake when we're talking about guns in our current society. First, we're not talking about hunting rifles; we're talking about semiautomatic pistols and machine guns. Plus, it's not grandpas that are storming into shopping malls and schools and killing people; it's angry teenagers and young adults. How do we keep guns out of their hands?
3) "Everyone can own a gun if they want to."
Research shows that the safest societies are those in which everyone owns a gun or no one does. If you believe in the sanctity of human life, AND you believe in the availability of guns, then the only responsible thing to do is advocate MORE access to guns. But I don't see anyone campaigning to put a gun in the hands of every man, woman and child. Why not?
4) "Guns don't kill people; people kill people."
Seriously, stop saying that. Of course it's a person pulling the trigger. No one's saying guns magically end up in shopping malls and start firing off rounds. But the mechanism people use to kill other people matters.
It's like saying we shouldn't tighten regulations on drunk drivers because "cars don't kill people; people kill people." Okay, yes, someone's driving that car. But the alcohol in them becomes a mechanism for them to be dangerous to themselves and others.
Gun violence is unlike other means of homicide because it creates distance between the predator and the prey, which means the prey doesn't have a chance to get away. To kill someone by other violent means, you have to be within arm's reach, which means that the person can at least try to run away, and you can only kill one person at a time. (Unless your hands are massive -- then maybe you can strangle or stab two people at once.)
5) "Gun possession is a God-given right."
This smacks of Manifest Destiny, which had tragic consequences. When we evoke God's blessing to justify what we want to do, we are walking on shaky ground. We used the same logic to give blankets ridden with lethal pathogens to Native Americans, enslaved Africans, and slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in foreign conflicts.
God didn't say other people should die so we can do what we want to do, and have what we want to have. Specifically, he didn't say that everyone gets the right to own a killing machine. What he said was that he wants his followers to be the gentle, peaceful, cheek-turning, enemy-loving sort.
6) "The only two people who ever died for me were Jesus Christ and the American soldier."
That's just not true. Thousands of innocent people (most of them kids) are dying in schools, WalMarts and shopping malls because of your "freedom." Try explaining to a grieving parent why their college kid being gunned down at college last week is less important than your theoretical right to own a gun.
I vote that we stop saying these cliches and start having an honest dialogue about what's really going on. When we dismantle the straw men of our flimsy logic and pathetic excuses, we get to the questions that really matter, like
-- How do followers of Jesus promote peace in our violent society? (After all, Jesus was radically peaceful. When the soldiers came to get him in Gethsemane, he didn't tell his followers to stock up on ammo; he told them to put their swords away.)
--What personal rights can I lay down to promote someone else's right to life?
--If (God-forbid) one of those angry boys goes to my kid's school, what kind of access to guns do I want him to have?
--Why are young people (specifically white males) so angry, and how do we get to them before they harm themselves and others?