What can we say about the killings in the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and the slaughter in the Aurora movie theater and the string of a dozen similar massacres over the past ten years that hasn’t been said several times? I tend to focus on the guns. If these men had not owned these weapons, for which they had no real need other than to reinforce the illusion of authority and dominance they give their crazy owners, they could not have killed all these innocent people. All legal private guns should be stored at the local policed station, and the owners should have to check them out when needed to shoot a bear or a deer in the front yard and then returned.
I am no stranger to guns. Growing up we had my father’s U.S. Army .45, a sacred relic of World War I where he had used this weapon to single-handedly wipe out a German machine gun nest and win the Distinguished Service Cross. At summer camp we learned to fire .22s just as we learned to swim, row, fence, play tennis and ride horses over jumps. In the antiaircraft artillery I learned to fire the M1, the 50 cal. machine gun and 40 mm canon. But, when invited to join a jackal hunt in Tunisia in my college years, I declined my host’s rifle and the opportunity to shoot a jackal.
But today I am appalled by the American gun culture, by that moment in movie history in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” where we see the bullets go in the front and out the black of their victims in a gush of bloody gore. By today’s movie ads for the “Bourne Legacy,” in which Bourne sticks a gun in our faces, and “Total Recall,” in which the male lead totes one pistol and the female hauls a sub-machine gun with one hand and a pistol with the other. By the assumption of cowardly leaders that one dare not question the notion that the gun is as much a part of the human body as one’s sexual organs. And it’s up to the freedom of the individual to do what he wants with either one.
In a recent article in The New York Daily News, “Son of Sam,” who murdered six women 35 years ago, has become a born-again Christian and pleads with us to “take the glory out of guns.” Columnist Mike Lupica talks with a policeman, Sgt. Kevin Brennan, who took a bullet in the head a year ago and is still recovering. The mayor, police chief, and Sgt. Brennan have done their best in this “year of the gun” to disarm thugs, but the guns keep pouring into town. Read Lupica's column here.
New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer reminds us of the suggestion by the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that it is too late to get rid of the city’s gun supply; it should tax bullets ten thousand percent. A pack of 20 would cost $1500. (Chris Rock jokingly suggested "bullet control," making a bullet cost $5,000.) Then Dwyer points out that the City of New York recently sold 28,000 rounds of spent shell casings to an ammunition dealer in Georgia where they will be reloaded as bullets. The mayor got snappy when questioned.
What would happen if every priest and bishop were to take to the pulpit, newspapers and TV and radio stations week after week and proclaim that gun control is just as much a life issue as protecting the unborn, as contraception, same-sex-marriage and other issues that have preoccupied their attention in recent years? Then call for the banning of assault rifles and the nationwide educational campaign condemning the social sin in which the arms manufacturers, members of the American Rifle Association, and pusillanimous politicians are complicit.
Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.