Why the Gun Control Debate Doesn’t Matter.

Via Stephanie Vessely
on Apr 7, 2013
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Power of Persuasion

We have never really been safe. And we never will be.

Last week a task force funded by the NRA outlined recommendations for improving school safety. The package is being called the National School Shield Program, and is led by Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican representative for the NRA.

The program outlines eight recommendations, including “encouraging states to make school safety part of their educational requirements,” and utilizing an “online self-assessment tool that schools can use to evaluate … their safety policies.”

The most controversial recommendation is “advising schools to train teachers and other school personnel to carry guns to protect their students.”

This is where I got lost: I can’t find any logic in an argument that says having more guns in schools is the solution to guns in schools.

We have been talking and arguing about the Second Amendment for a while, and about who is allowed to bear what and how many and what kind.

But I’m not sure any of it matters. No matter what laws we pass about which weapons people can or can’t have, if someone is intent on killing, they will find a way.

Which makes me wonder–are we having the right conversation?

Shouldn’t we be talking about how we got to this place, and how we’re going to get out of it, rather than trying to pass laws that make us feel like we are doing something about the tragedies among us?

Gun control or no gun control isn’t the solution. It’s just a band-aid to cover the real problem—as a nation, we are out of balance and focused on the wrong things.

We live in a country where Honey Boo Boo is more important than the war going on. We consume at the cost of our own planet, at a rate that will not sustain us.

We are slaves to money and things.

Many of our possessions require another person to suffer so we may have them. We have endless choices when it comes to food, clothes and cars—we believe that having more is good and that bigger is better.

All of this materialism has led us to neglect our souls. And now, we are soul sick.

We are so messed up that we are killing each other.

The NRA’s solution is the easy way out—arm everybody and hope for the best.

But all that means is that we don’t have to do the work. It means we don’t have to look at our pain, our disillusionment, our fear; we don’t have to look at what’s causing us to shoot and kill each other.

On Friday night I saw author Caroline Myss speak. At the end of the evening she addressed the current state of the country.

It is “American against American,” she said, “so much so that we are collecting guns to fire against each other.” She added, “How can we even consider such thing?”

She has a point. Seriously, step back and think about what we are doing. Our country is so polarized that we are arming ourselves against each other. How ridiculous is that?

We are supposed to be on the same side.

I’ve thought this for a long time, and Friday night Myss confirmed my thoughts: We are behaving this way because we are scared.

We are living in scary times; we never know when the next tragedy is going to hit, or who is going to be taken next. Maybe next time it will be us. We are struggling to pay our bills and feed our families. Everything is really hard.

And what we thought we were sure about has become an uncertainty. We used to be a safe nation, but as recent events show, we actually aren’t safe here at all.

But we have never really been safe. And we never will be.

In When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chodron talks about how many of our problems come from our constant search for security.

“To think that we can finally get it all together is unrealistic. To seek for some lasting security is futile … Believing in a solid, separate self, continuing to seek pleasure and avoid pain, thinking that someone ‘out there’ is to blame for our pain—one has to get totally fed up with these ways of thinking … Suffering begins to dissolve when we can question the belief or the hope that there’s anywhere to hide.”

So if there’s no where to hide, and we really don’t have control of any of it, what do we do?

Myss said Friday that we pray. “Every day pour grace into the world,” she said.

That makes more sense to me than loading up our schools with guns.

We can also stop running from our fear, and get comfortable with uncertainty. We can, as Chodron says, “acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do.”

How do we do that? We do it with mindfulness.

We sit with our fears and take a good look at them without trying to get them to go away. We don’t reach for the vodka, cookies or credit card. And we definitely don’t buy more guns to keep the crazies at bay.

When we don’t seek momentary relief by doing whatever it is that makes us feel safe, we don’t attach to our fears. We become comfortable with not knowing, and we become more open. And this, according to Chodron, leads to less aggression in the universe:

“It starts with being willing to feel what we are going through. It starts with being willing to have a compassionate relationship with the parts of ourselves that we feel are not worthy of existing on the planet. If we are willing through meditation to be mindful not only of what feels comfortable, but also of what pain feels like, if we even aspire to stay awake and open to what we’re feeling, to recognize and acknowledge it as best we can in each moment, then something begins to change…

“If we begin to get in touch with whatever we feel with some kind of kindness, our protective shells will melt, and we’ll find that more areas of our lives are workable. As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others—what and whom we can work with, and how—becomes wider.”

This isn’t easy work to do. Sometimes, it’s really hard and feels pretty awful. But I think if we all did it, we would change our course.

“Gun control” isn’t something we can ever have anyway. All we really have control over is ourselves, and how we react to things, though we may think otherwise at times.

We won’t ever solve the problem of gun violence by arming everyone or by being on constant alert. We won’t solve it until we put in the time, and do the work.

Rather than covering our wounds by creating laws, maybe we can take a look at what has caused them. Instead of talking about who to arm, maybe we can begin to find ways to be kinder to each other.

We can stop gun violence by stopping the need for it.




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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Stephanie Vessely

Stephanie Vessely lives in Denver, Colorado and is somewhere in the middle of a lifelong love affair with words. She feels a little out of place a lot of the time and thinks writing about herself in third person is awkward. She is regularly saved by yoga and is searching for Truth. These are a few places she’s found it: the swaying of tree branches, the ocean, the laughter of her niece and nephew and her own heart, when she can be still enough to hear it. She’s an aspiring vegan who loves travel, hates small talk and hopes to help save the animals. Someday, she’ll learn how to tap dance. In the meantime, she keeps scribbled secret notebooks and knows everything is as it should be, even if she has a hard time remembering it. Follow her on Facebook or visit her website.


6 Responses to “Why the Gun Control Debate Doesn’t Matter.”

  1. Mike says:

    No kidding? In the meantime, I want background checks and a ban on military style assault rifles while we meditate and figure this all out.

  2. Lindsey says:

    People are actually very rarely intent on killing yet innocent people keep dying. Gun laws actually do save lives in a very tangible clearly defined way…. maybe we can have other conversations too. There very well may be more valuable issues to focus on but fighting for gun laws is extraordinarily sensible and those issues probably don't have to do with our relationship with fear or any internal or intersubjective realities.

  3. Cody says:

    Gun laws do not save lives, in fact hundreds of thousands to even millions of crimes are stopped each year by armed civilians, our country has seen a steady decrease of about 15% per year nationwide as right to carry laws have expanded in every state in the country. The only city that bucks that trend is Chicago, which has the strictest gun control in the country, their murder rate has gone up 35%. England which has an all out gun ban has a significantly higher rate of crime per capita than the US, many more women raped and other violent crimes. The reason is simple, criminals don't follow laws and they will always find a way to get their hands on weapons, we already have well over 300 million guns in this country, no one will get rid of them all and even if they tried they'd just get them from other states or other countries. You can just look at illegal drugs in this country. Despite billions of dollars spent on the "war on drugs" in this country, drug use is on the rise, continues to be year after year. So if passing laws or even out right bans haven't worked for drugs why would anyone think they would work for guns. In fact many of those that carry guns are drug dealers, gangs, mafia…. they aren't going to give up their guns, they are criminals, they aren't concerned with breaking the law.

    Murder is illegal, so is rape, theft…..but they all still happen and not because people have guns as proven by England's gun laws.

    This country won't ever get rid of guns, playing games with semantics around which ones are banned or not or which size magazine, is all nonsense and boardering on crazy. You can kill 10 people with a ten round magazine, but not 20? Or you can kill people with hand guns, but not rifles (and all rifles operate the same way, one pull of the trigger equals one round fired). Only 2% of crimes are committed using rifles, passing laws to stop 2% of anything is silly and even criminals can figure out how to switch to a different gun if someone you got every one out of circulation.

    There is no argument around prohibition of guns or anything else that anyone can't easily and quickly disprove.

    The only solution as this excellent article suggests is to change as a society. Otherwise there will always be people dying, we have 50 million Americans now not getting enough to eat, millions dying due lack of health care and that list also goes on and on. If we focused even 1% of the energy being spent on gun debates on these issues we could say millions more lives. If it's about saving lives and not politics or being right or whatever else the gun debate is than that is what we would all be doing.

    Great article!!!

  4. Stacy J. says:

    There is a wealth of information indicating that gun laws do not save lives. Please do some research. Learn about countries that have more gun laws versus less.

  5. Mark Ledbetter says:

    I'm very interested in the Great American Culture War, of which the gun debate is a part.

    Up above, Paul posted an interesting site with statistics and logic that prove gun laws help. Cody uses statistics and logic to prove they don't. Who's right? Are both sides just selecting convenient stats? Of course they are!

    In any case, there's a point almost always overlooked in the gun debate and the stats it produces.

    Paul's interactive map shows gun violence higher in the South and the places Southerners moved to, ie, areas dominated by people historian David Hackett Fischer calls '"Borderers." Those are the people from the border areas of Britain who escaped Puritan oppression to settle the South and Appalachia. The map shows gun violence lowest in the Northeast (and those areas settled by Northeasterners). I.e., the areas settled by Puritans who escaped to Boston and environs to in fear of Royalist oppression.

    With that in mind, here's the secret key that nobody talks about. Borderers are simply, in accordance with their cultural norms, more violent than Puritans, at least on a personal (as opposed to governmental) level. Our modern neo-borderers are more violent than our modern neo-puritans (a group that most Ele readers unknowingly belong to).

    The point? Paul's map may very well reflect not gun laws but culture. Violent people are more violent, whether they have guns or not. Or maybe the map partially does reflect the effect of gun laws and partially cultural norms. Who's to say? But it also ignores Cody's stats.

    For a bit on southern cultural violence, check out a book called "My Tears Spoiled My Aim" by a sociologist from U of N.C. What a fantastic title! You don't even need the book, actually. The title says it all. Southerners are not only more violent and in love with guns ("My Aim") but more emotional and less logical ("My Tears"). And it's their emotions which spoil their aim in debates with neo-puritans. Teachy-preachy neo-puritans and their modern day descendants love logic and debate and are usually pretty good at it. When they win, a common occurrence, they ridicule the South, an attitude which just keeps the Great Culture War going.

    Anyway, nice job Steph. I think your ideas point towards a solution whereas most of the rhetoric out there points only towards continued conflict.