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Posts Tagged ‘law’

Author’s Note: I wrote this piece originally on July 21st, 2012 in response to the Aurora, Colorado shooting at the screening on The Dark Knight Rises. It has since been updated to reflect the horrific actions in Newtown, Connecticut.

I feel an innate responsibility to comment on the shooting yesterday. Some people are going to say that now is not the time to talk about gun control. But when would be a good time? People are shot and killed every day in this country. To say that “now is not the time” is just as “political” as to begin talking about gun control–only, as Ezra Klein put it in his blog yesterday, it is to argue for the politics of the status quo. So let’s start talking. As this year (2012) comes to a close, it marks the worst year in mass shootings in modern United States history.

There were actually two horrific acts of violence at two different schools on December 14th, 2012. In one, a crazed gunman in Connecticut opened fire at an elementary school, killing twenty children and six adults before turning the weapon on himself. In the other, a man wielding a knife in a school in China stabbed 22 children.

People who defend unfettered gun rights in this country will talk about how violent people will use violence, regardless of the weapon. They will talk of how a man with no access to guns will still find weapons–in the case of the Chinese man, a knife–to commit their sick acts of violence.

To put it bluntly, this is sheer idiocy. The death toll in the Connecticut shooting? Twenty-eight. The death toll in the Chinese knifing? Between zero and three, as reports are conflicting. People who say that guns don’t kill people need to pull their heads out of the sand. People kill people when they use guns. People mostly injure people when they use alternative weapons. There is data to back this up, too: According to a study that was featured in the Journal of the American College of Surgery on “penetrating cardiac injuries,” someone who is shot in the heart has a 16% chance of surviving. If someone is stabbed in the heart, they have a 70% chance of living. If every person who used a gun to kill someone traded their weapon for a knife, the survival rates would quadruple immediately. As a side note: knives, ironically, are regulated. Switchblades remain illegal, while extended clips, armor piercing rounds, and semi-automatic and automatic firearms all remain legal.

Now on to the Aurora shooting, which had fewer deaths but far more injuries than the Newtown massacre. With over 70 people shot and twelve dead in the community of Aurora, Colorado, it marks one of the more violent attacks by a lone shooter in recent memory. Among the casualties: a pregnant mother and a six-month old child.

The gunman reportedly used extended clips—more bullets, more death, before he had to reload. Among the weapons he used: an assault style rifle with high-capacity magazines.

Imagine being in the theater, wondering when the shooting was going to stop, wondering when he’d run out of ammunition, only to hear him continue to pepper the crowd with death and pain.

The fact that he used the guns is due to some problem within his twisted mind. The fact that he bought the guns legally? Well that’s due to a different problem entirely—one that’s ours—and it’s one that needs to be reexamined before something like this can happen again.

According to a United Nations Report in the early 2000s, gun related deaths are EIGHT times higher in the United States than in countries that are economically and politically similar.

I understand the arguments that are bubbling up within some of you: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s the age-old argument from the NRA and gun-toters everywhere. In some ways, I agree with the argument. There needs to be stricter background checks, monitors, and safeguards to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of the wrong person. But in a lot of ways, the argument is a load of crap. Here’s why:

The gunman easily passed any background test to get his weapons. His only run-in with the law was a speeding ticket. He had no criminal history and was a very smart med studenImaget. The gunman in Norway from Norway a while back, who murdered 77 people and injured another 319? He passed every background check and obtained his weapons legally even though he had been planning the attack for nearly a decade. Lesson? Background checks are hardly enough.

The second reason it’s a load of crap: Guns DO kill people. I agree that people kill people. It happens every day in this country. But people with guns kill others way more efficiently than people with other handheld weapons. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that guns can be used from great distances and that no one can stab or otherwise physically harm as quickly as certain legal semi-automatic weapons.

To turn defend semi-automatic weapons, extended clips, and even handguns using the Second Amendment is absurd. It was written by a group of people who used muskets and muzzle-loaders. The same people who wrote that into our constitution had no knowledge of the level of devastation that could be caused in a crowd by a single person and a single weapon. They did, however, create a system by which we could change the Constitution as times changed—they had the foresight to acknowledge that problems would arise that they had no ability to account for—and they saw that the Constitution was not timeless. Nor is it Gospel.

And if this is about “freedom,” please tell me how someone’s freedom to own a weapon is more important than the freedom of a six-month-old to not get shot. Please explain to the loved ones of the dead in this most recent tragedy how their fallen family members’ freedom to live is not worth more than a freedom to purchase a semi-automatic weapon.

Some argue that people who are hell-bent on creating disaster will do so anyway—ban guns and they will still find ways to get them.

But, the UK did just that—as a nation, they have some of the most restrictive gun policies on the planet. They have even banned handguns entirely. In the United States in 2009, the United Nations statistics record 3 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. The figure for the United Kingdom was 0.07—about 40 times lower.

I know that there are other factors to gun violence. I understand that murders would still occur, that people would still somehow get their hands on guns, and that people would still die. But it is entirely unacceptable that the United States would have a gun death rate as high as it is. In every major UN study since the 80s, The United States has had the highest amount of gun-related injuries than any industrialized nation. This will never be okay.

David Hemenway is the Health Policy Director at the Harvard School of Public Health and has studied violence prevention for over forty years. He writes that every nation that has stricter gun laws than the United States ultimately has lower homicide rates and lower gun deaths overall. In fact, “as a benchmark, in 2003, the United States homicide rate was seven times higher than that of these countries, largely because our firearm homicide rate was 20 times higher.”

He writes of a beautiful example in Australia: “Following the 1996 Port Arthur, Tasmania, massacre of 35 people, Australia acted quickly to effectively ban assault weapons. A mandatory buyback obtained more than 650,000 of these guns from existing owners. Australia also tightened requirements for licensing, registration, and safe gun storage of firearms. The result? In the 18 years before the intervention, Australia had 13 mass shootings. In the dozen years since, there has not been a single one. The laws also helped reduce firearm suicide and non-mass shooting firearm homicide.” (emphasis mine)

David Hemenway wrote about this in an Op-Ed piece for the Arizona Daily Star in 2011 following the shopping center shooting that killed six people and injured former U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.

And here we are, a year and a half later, with more mass shootings. How many times will we, as a nation, need to learn these lessons?

Enacting stricter laws would undoubtedly lower the death rates dramatically, just as it has in every other country that has stricter gun laws than the US. But even if we lowered the statistics a tiny bit, wouldn’t it be worth it to save a few lives?

Isn’t it worth it to even save one life? If you answer with a “no,” try explaining your reasoning to the crying parents and families of the victims of gun violence.

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Like most people, I drive several miles over the speed limit. I typically don’t view this as dangerous. In fact, either do local police, based on the fact that I’ve never been pulled over for speeding. My motivation for driving over the speed limit has nothing to do with disrespect for authority or romantic notions of “sticking it to the man.” I do it simply because I can—I do not have anyone reprimanding me.

It’s funny how our rules and laws work. If I can bend or even break them without getting caught, then it’s almost not even considered reprehensible. It is simply beating the system.

For some reason, we have so romanticized the ideas of beating the system that our ideas of God have been overrun—we imagine Him as someone who is bound by laws he created or laws that are beyond his control. Because of this, the death and resurrection of Jesus are seen as God “beating the system” or “breaking the rules.” We look at Jesus death and bloodshed as the necessary and sufficient way for our lives to be restored—we see his death as the replacement for our (eventual) deaths from the infection of sin. We say things like “we are covered by the blood of Jesus” or “we have been healed because of the blood of the lamb.” But what if this linguistic imagery is incomplete?

jesusblood1Is God really simply bound by some bloodthirsty, petty law that requires death for all who “fall short?” Wouldn’t that make God a secondary character in this story? And, perhaps even scarier, wouldn’t that mean that the Law is the main character?

If, in fact, all God needed was Jesus to shed his blood, to die, then why did God protect the infant Jesus from Herod’s demand that all young boys be killed? Would that not have sufficed?

Maybe the life, the example, and the healing of Jesus were just as important as the death.

For a further look at this, check out this video: http://www.godscharacter.com/mediagallery/media.php?f=0&sort=0&s=20090306184151808

Or look at this blog: http://www.godscharacter.com/

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Wrestle

It has been a while.

Maybe I have lacked motivation. Maybe I haven’t had anything compelling to write about. Maybe I have simply coasted on fumes for the past couple of months, preventing my mind and my heart from true observation. Maybe I have been acting in some production and I feel that life will get back to normal as soon as the scene is over.

I feel like all of those explanations for the persistent and present spiritual dryness that I have been experiencing are not explanations at all. They are symptoms of an underlying issue that might be too difficult if I acknowledge it. Well, too difficult if I try to tackle it alone.

Several weeks ago, I went on a trip to Portland that was dedicated to ministering to the homeless. Many categorizations and assertions of what homeless people should look like (or act like, or smell like, or talk like) were quickly denounced. My ignorance concerning the people I met was astonishing. In light of the recession our country is currently battling, it should come as no surprise that many of the people that we met were from other “categories” before they became homeless: military; sane; rich; middle class; beautiful.

These are all words that could have, at one point, described some of the people that I met that were currently living on the streets. And yet, I discovered, as different as all of their stories were, I began to understand that they were, as cliché as it sounds, very similar to me.

And I began to think about one simple truth. Jesus would have gone through his torture, death, and resurrection even if humanity had consisted of any one of these people instead of the billions that have, and will, inhabit this planet. If the entirety of humankind was narrowed down to one of these individuals, God would have been just as desperate to create a way for a relationship to occur between Him and that person.

Which brings me to my struggle. How could the Creator of everything be so desperate to commune with me? Or any one of us? My analytical mind wants to push this notion aside—categorize it as “nonsense.” It doesn’t fit the bill! And my heart wants to push it aside because I can’t relate— I certainly don’t care about people this much. I don’t love people (or myself) the way God says He does!

It’s not that my heart and head aren’t in agreement, as many Christians like to say. It’s that they are in agreement—God doesn’t make sense on any level.

So why the hell do I believe?

Because the more I observe this world, I begin to understand that power fails. All things of this world fail at some point. Truth fails. (What is truth?) Money fails. (Just check the world stock markets.) Laws fail. (Although O.J. Simpson is finally going to jail.) Love fails. (Unless…unless true, perfect love exists beyond human perception. To the infinite power. In a way that cannot be fully perceived, but can be experienced in ways that can’t be described.)

The irony is that love clearly exists—because it does what no other power on earth can do. It changes hearts for the better.

Truth does not change hearts. Just ask people who seek truth, like many philosophers. True truth-seeking only leads to more questions.

Money does not change hearts. Just ask people who have made millions (or more.) According to most studies, the rich are among the unhappiest people on earth.

Laws do not change hearts. Otherwise crime would be solved, and not perpetuated, by legislation.

The power of love, manifested in selflessness and service, provides the only heart-element on earth. And it had to come from somewhere, for such power must have an origin.

The God of Love, who seeks after me desperately. The God of Love, who desires relationship more than strict obedience. The God of Love, who killed a part of himself so that I would be able to commune with Him. The God of Love, who knows that changing actions has little to do with changing hearts.

My struggle, of course, is that sometimes the power of this world seems more appealing. But He hasn’t let up—He’s still seeking me as if I was the only person on earth. He is, after all, the God of Love.

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