Recently I received a message from a dear friend, about the shooting in Charlestown, SC. She wrote about and illuminated the racist behavior that both explicitly and unconsciously permeates our modern society. Included were statistics about guns and the violence manifested from the use and ownership of guns. Of course I was troubled by the events in Charlestown. However, upon receipt of and being deeply moved by her message, I paused and wondered more passionately and intentionally.
What is true for me? What do I believe, now? Racism is abominable. How am I a racist? How are we racist? Guns are tangible man-made creations. How do guns impact life... mine, others, and all? Is there something generative I can do right now? Yes. This article is my intention to a generative response.
Coming from a hunting and fishing family, I am very familiar with the equipment used to stalk prey. Fishing poles, gigs and nets claim the lives of fish and guns claim the lives of fowl. Though I fished regularly with my family and comfortably handle a fishing rod, my experience with guns is limited; the boys were the hunters of the family. Hunting ducks, dove, and any edible wildlife with guns (rifles to be more exact) was reserved for weekend men's-sport. While we always consumed the bounty of each trip, sport and camaraderie seemed to be the primary purpose of hunting.
There was a time I would have defended the use of guns for hunting food. It's a sport and the game provides a life sustaining meal. Now, I do not. Even my father, the consummate hunter and fisherman does not condone the use of guns. At a recent family gathering an animated conversation about domestic animals caught my father's attention. He loves animals and always has. During the lively banter, he turned solemn with a quiet forlorn look and said he would never shoot a duck again, not as a statement of nostalgia, but as humbled shame. These are important realizations for a lifelong 87-year old sportsman.
My father always respected his tools and equipment, and taught these values. He consistently implored, "These guns are not toys." They were weapons to be respected and cared for with humility. My brothers, and many of their friends, were the beneficiaries of life lessons and instruction about the proper use and care of guns. Always point the head of a rifle up. Never leave a gun loaded. Store rifles in soft cloth cases and a dry space. Never use a gun while intoxicated. (Alcohol was a staple in the evening for their weekend excursions.)
These teachings were followed by direct experience and practice. On the hunting trips, a repeat of the lessons was given, over and over again. Then, over a season or two or more, the lessons became embodied. My brothers matured in their understanding and practice of gun handling through duck hunting. Not all, actually I would venture to say most, young people do not receive lengthy lessons in the proper use of a gun.
Now, I question, is there a proper use of a gun? Does the limited benefit (is this really a benefit) of a gun outweigh the violence and suffering caused from guns? The answer is simple. No.
At the ripe age of eight, I was taken dove hunting with my dad for the first time. Whether I asked to go or whether there was no one else to watch me this particular day is in question; what I do recall is an eye-opening adventure. We walked through mud, swampy shore, and briar-patch like obstacles to reach the small metal duck boat to take us on the water. Arriving to the boat exhausted I was ready to leave for home. But, it was my turn for a few lessons. Though I felt special being with my father, I recall very little about the day's score. I remember the heft of the rifle and the sharp powerful kick from the butt that left a deep purple bruise on my right shoulder. When I aimed for the shiny floating can, I hit the duck decoy. Sharp-shooter I was not.
Perhaps all I needed was a few years to mature my sight. By age 11 on an outing with my oldest brother, I shot a bird, perched in a tree. For practice, he told me to shoot the duck sitting on the branch. I did. My brother was shocked. I was elated that I hit the duck and was ready to gather it in my bag. He stopped me and said, "We shoot and then we pick up the ducks after we are finished." Our hunting continued, stalking the sky, walking the grounds, and wandering in and hiding in secluded brush to scope the next feathered victims. Later in the day, my brother's friends asked how we did. He responded, "We did ok. We made quota for the day. And, Gayle shot a bluebird." When I heard these words, I collapsed in tears. I asked him why he told me to shoot the duck in the tree. Without missing a beat he said that he had no idea I would get close, much less hit the bird. It was for practice. I never shot another rifle, much less a bird, again.
Guns are lethal.
There is no consistent positive outcome from gun ownership.
The result of guns is death, control, fear, violence and destruction.
Are you for life? (I am not referring to pro-life or pro-choice.)
I am asking are you for life-giving existence?
Are you generative in your thoughts, words and actions?
Do you generate peace and well-being in your activities and presence?
Going from guns, to generating peace, may seem like a stretch - but that's what I am talking about. The cost to life, happiness, peace, and well-being, from guns, is real and tangible.
Here's the money weave. Individually, guns and ammunition cost money that could otherwise be used for a more life-giving and meaningful purpose. Collectively, guns cost us money in the legal system, court system, in health care and in rehabilitation costs. Guns cost our society and our culture. We are robbed of our humanity. We are robbed of our respect for life. We are robbed of our freedom.
Please do not retort with your rights to own a weapon. These answers hold your fears that are masked with the desire or value to own a gun rather than your individual rights. It is not about you. It is about us. Please do not respond that the process in our system is careful about who purchases a gun. It is flawed and it repeatedly fails.
I'm for Love. I'm for sunshine. I'm for peace, equality and humanity. In this, there is no room for racism. There is no room for guns.
Generating peace, love and sunshine,