Even the word brings feelings of power, fear, intimidation and fascination. Without question, guns are the great equalizers. Regardless of personal strength, speed, or agility, a person holding a gun commands (demands) respect; a respect backed up by indisputable power.
This power comes from the earned respect of metal and plastic or wood that has been perfectly designed to kill, wound and injure. The power given to an individual whose hand is on a trigger is virtually unlimited. Life and death are at the mercy of a few ounces of pressure. Even children who have experienced a lifetime of feeling weak easily discover the strength that pointing a gun brings.
Bullies who have pushed them around, popular kids who have shunned them, teachers who have ignored them, and parents who have ridiculed them suddenly become respectful and subservient.
Is it any wonder that such power is so enticing, so tempting, so luring? This power mixed with years of pain and frustration can turn deadly, especially in the United States where loaded guns are readily accessible to our children. We lead the world when it comes to children killing other children with guns.
Currently, 85 percent of all childhood deaths by firearms occur in the United States. The overall firearm-related death rate among American children less than 15 years of age is yearly 12 times higher than that of children from the other top 25 industrialized nations.
Even faced with these realities, many families continue to believe that if a child is taught how to use a gun and to respect it, then a child will not harm himself or others. This is probably a reasonable belief if (and only if) the child is emotionally stable, shows no signs of curiosity and is not subject to impulsive acts. Our statistics tend to indicate such children are rare, if they exist at all.
Of course, it’s not just children who are irresponsible with guns. Living in a nation that possesses enough firepower to destroy the world several times over, many individuals appear to believe that their homes need to be stocked with enough firepower to match whatever potential threat might come along.
Anger and fear become a way of life that needs only the appropriate situation to emerge for violence to explode. These explosions have become so common in our larger cities that foreign countries now routinely warn travelers to beware of violence in America. Understandably, America is no longer viewed as safe. We are frightened and we are armed.
Regardless of what programs may be developed to address the problem of violence in America, I’m guessing there will always be bullies and thugs who are quite willing and happy to deprive us of our lives and livelihoods, given half a chance.
Perhaps the only safeguard from such individuals is to protect ourselves. Why allow someone with an underdeveloped (if any) conscience deprive us of our own life, the lives of those we love, or our belongings? There seems to be no advantage in doing so, either for ourselves or for them.
However, most perpetrators of violence are neither bullies nor thugs. Rather, most perpetrators of violence tend to be confused, frustrated, hurting individuals who can be reached. How we reach such individuals is important.
We tend to want to use power and intimidation, but power and intimidation only serve to push these individuals closer to the edge of a cliff, bringing disastrous consequences for all of us.
Instead, we need to do a much better job of addressing the confusion, frustration, and pain such individuals are feeling. We need to show that there are other pathways for managing our anger and hurt, always being mindful that there are usually peaceful solutions to our relationship problems.
There is much at stake here. Our failures become the failures of our children, which then will become the failures of their children.
Without question, guns make a statement.
The question becomes, “Are guns the statement we want to make?”