1MM4NV

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Elvert Barnes

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Elvert Barnes

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings nearly two months ago, we are still in shock and looking for answers.  Who is at fault?  Parents?  The mental health system?  Weak gun control laws?  What can we do to prevent something like this from happening again?

Naturally, the issues of gun control and gun violence is front and center in the conversation.  The organization One Million Moms for Gun Control has gained huge popularity, and based on the numbers turning out at rallies and marches across the country, their message has struck a chord.  I’ve been watching the news of their influence and growth with great interest.  What can I say?

I’m a sucker for stories about moms on a mission making waves.

I can’t say that I am in favor of gun ownership.  I can’t fathom any legitimate reasons for a civilian to possess an assault rifle.  I would not knowingly allow my children to play in a home where there are guns.  I just don’t get the fun in shooting another living thing.  I don’t like it when Harry pretends to use a gun (though the fact that he continues to do so despite the decidedly anti-firearm culture in our home is a topic for another post, or maybe a book….)

I understand the immense appeal of the idea that passing laws regulating gun ownership would make our children safer.

 I wish it were so easy, except guns aren’t the problem and stricter gun control laws aren’t the solution.  As they say, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Admittedly, a gun makes the difference between killing one or two people and killing 28, but people have been committing murder since time immemorial with fists, rocks, knives, fire, water, and all sorts of other implements.

Improving the mental health system in our country gets much closer to the heart of the issue.    Certainly, efforts to keep guns away from clearly unstable people couldn’t hurt.  However, the vast majority of gun crimes are not committed by people who would be identified as mentally ill, never mind the hundreds of accidental gun deaths that occur in the US each year.

Where does that leave us?  Do we just sit back and wait for another Sandy Hook, Jonesboro, Virginia Tech or Columbine?

Obviously not.  But the question begs to be asked:

What is up with Americans and their guns?

Our per capita gun ownership almost double that of the next country.  Americans own almost six times as many guns as Indians (second on the list of total civilian gun ownership), despite the fact that the Indian population is nearly four times that of the US.  A look at the twenty-five nations with the highest gun violence rates shows the United States right up there with South Africa, El Salvador and Albania.

In a 2005 Gallup Poll, 67% of gun owners cited self-defense as their motivation.  Granted, people gave multiple reasons and there was some overlap.  But seriously – 35 million Americans trust their neighbors that little?  Is it just me, or is that outrageous?

Why are we so afraid of each other?

Focusing on gun control is like giving someone with a broken leg an Advil.  It might help a bit, but it doesn’t even begin to address the real problem, and it creates yet another division between right and left, red and blue.  So I propose a new mother’s movement:  ONE MILLION MOMS FOR NON-VIOLENCE.  Instead of lobbying our representatives for new legislation, we go into our homes, our schools, and our communities and treat each other with love and respect.

Instead of fear and fighting, we can choose trust and love.  

We can all commit to finding solutions to our problems that may not be ideal, but that respect everyone’s needs.  This will not be easy.  We do not live in a culture of cooperation.  Maybe it’s the spirit of rugged American individualism, but most of us operate from a worldview of scarcity and competition.  But we need to recognize that this is a choice we make, and we can make another choice.

Who is with me?