As a nonviolent activist and pacifist, I am opposed to the resolution of conflict, both interpersonal and international included, by bullets. As Martin Luther King, Jr., has stated, we have allowed our technology to outdistance our theology. The increased access to weapons of deadly force in this country has got to be curtailed, or we will continue to see situations like Aurora, Colorado, repeated. Citizens are given the license to build genuine arsenals of destruction in their residences without any red flags raised.
I will never forget the nightmares I had after the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy. Even though I understood the propaganda that there was a lone gunman in Lee Harvey Oswald and that Jack Ruby, who murdered Oswald while he was being transported under custody, was a failed pimp and businessman of sorts, I nevertheless was a nervous wreck for several months and dreaded the number of possibilities of crackpot killers on the rampage—which seemed to be fulfilled with the deaths of Dr. King and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy four years later in 1968.
I am a civil libertarian at heart—having intermittently belonged to the American Civil Liberties Union over my adult lifetime. Hence, I am a supporter of the Second Amendment of the Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I have read Stephen Holbrook’s seminal work on this amendment, and I value his use of some of the founders to support his perspective defending the individual right to gun ownership. I simply feel that he and many others have misinterpreted the intent.
One of the major concerns back then was the fear of tyranny as well as the fear of anarchy. Having a gun would help to fight against predilections towards tyranny and against anarchical disrespect for and seizure of (private) property. Some folks at the constitutional convention believed that such defense against tyrannous and anarchical carpetbaggers, if you will, was a no-brainer and did not require an amendment. For example, the state where I grew up, Connecticut, was opposed to the second amendment proposal as it was to any inclination towards a bill of rights, for they were all self-evidentiary.
The members of the Black Panther Party wanted to see a better America: their food and education programs were innovative and oftentimes successful. But they also believed their rights were being violated and that the use of guns in self-defense was not only justifiable, but also necessary. They considered racial discrimination and oppression criminal and fundamentally denied them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Racism was a form of tyranny in their eyes, and the Second Amendment authorized them to take upon themselves the establishment of justice through a well-regulated militia. The U.S. government under Pres. Richard M. Nixon, with the willing cooperation of J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, cracked down on this organization in offensive ways—even though its members were intelligent and had a strong case that expertly utilized the tenets of the U.S. Constitution.
The above notwithstanding, I think the resort to gun violence is abominable between and among human beings and appeals to our lower nature. I am aware that a nonviolent world is a pipe dream as long as blood courses through our veins; however, it is an ideal to be sought that can never be reached, but which can certainly be approached. It’s like a Niebuhrian “impossible possibility.” And speaking of Reinhold Niebuhr, I am acutely cognizant of his perspective of how challenging it is to be a moral person in an immoral society, especially within and among groups of people. The magnitude of evil in the world significantly disables us from cohering means and ends; that is to say, some of our goals of peace have to be attained through means of violence. Jesus once told his disciples in the face of violence against him to put them away, “for those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword” (Mattthew 26:52). That violence begets violence is a hackneyed phrase, but is a good caveat in the midst of a rather teleologically minded populace.
Some have claimed that now is not the time to discuss gun laws or regulations, in the wake of such a tragedy. I disagree. I believe it is always time to talk about gun possession that goes contrary to the constitutional amendment and that make easier the destruction of human life. The ownership of automatic assault weaponry augments the possibilities of accidents, contract killings, and crackpot rampages. It is because of these possibilities that calls for more gun control are perfectly understandable. America is a violent nation in multifarious ways. The regulation of an aspect of brute force is truly welcome.