We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Friday, October 4, 2013

Gun Control & Intimate Violence

When I was in high school in the early 1960s, a student shot and killed his best friends while hunting.  His friend, as I remember it, made a disparaging remark about his girl friend, and the hard words between them ended with a senseless death. A recent news posting entitled, "Do lax gun laws escalate domestic violence?" suggests that one of the greatest dangers widespread, all but uncontrolled gun ownership poses has nothing to do with crime or mental illness (See also the NY Times editorial, "Dangerous Gun Myths").  It has to do, rather, with intimate relationships within families and among friends.  Citing various reports and studies, the posting notes, for example, that "domestic assaults were as much as 12 times more likely to end in death if a gun was involved." One investigation into cases where a family membered murdered members of the family and then committed suicide found that in 92% of these cases a gun was involved.  In all, far, far more Americans die in incidents of domestic violence where guns are involved than on foreign battlefields.  The posting also makes the point that many more individuals die in cases of domestic gun violence who were nothing more than by-standers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is clear that we have lost the capacity as a nation to look on all of this dispassionately and make rational decisions about smart ways to limit access to firearms sufficiently to reduce all of this death while still allowing hunters and other sports folks the opportunity of gun ownership.  We have, for a time at least, fallen into the grip of fear and ideology, which have morphed into a deep-seated anger.  It is ironic.  The very very emotions of fear and anger that makes guns so dangerous are also the things that are preventing us from taking sensible steps to protect ourselves from the violence.