Intelligence begin to rule
Whenever you sit with others
Using this sane idea:
Leave all your cocked guns in a field
far from us
One of those damn things
– Hafiz, as rendered by Daniel Ladinsky
As this month’s issue of Parvati Magazine goes live, people all over the world are shocked and grieving in the wake of a tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 28 people dead, including 20 children. Amid the grief, some people have reacted with anger and/or defensiveness, claiming that now is not the time to talk about gun control, or alternately that now is absolutely the time to talk about gun control.
We will say this: the notion “guns don’t kill people – people kill people” is not really telling the whole truth. One person twitching his finger at you doesn’t kill you. Add a gun to that scenario, and you could be dead.
The primary purpose of a gun is to kill, and to do so more rapidly and at a safer distance than the weapons that came before it. The majority of bullets are created to pierce flesh. Hunters, farmers, military and police have a legitimate use for such things to kill their food, defend their herd, or protect their citizens. But we find the idea mindboggling that the power to take a life so quickly and violently should readily belong to any member of the populace outside of these purposes. The American ideal of the “right to bear arms” was created for a very different age – one, it may be noted in passing, that also considered slavery to be perfectly acceptable. This is an age of assault rifles and machine guns. This is an age where people who’ve never seen a deer in a forest or tended a flock of sheep seek to own a gun in order to feel more safe or more powerful. This is an age in which we have confused safety and personal power with having more and bigger guns than the other guy.
Amazingly, some people contend that the Sandy Hook tragedy (or, in the past, other tragedies such as Columbine or Virginia Tech – vigil shown in photo is following the Virginia Tech shootings) could have been averted if the teachers themselves had been armed. There is a very real difference between what we think we can do in controlled scenarios and what we are capable of doing in chaotic, life-threatening situations. And ultimately, equipping anyone who wants it with the power to quickly and easily take a life does not make the world a safer place. This speaks to a profound collective illness that tries to solve the problem of violence with more violence, escalating and escalating the idea of “us versus them”.
That said, guns are not the root of the issue, but a symptom. What is needed even more than gun control is self-control. Feelings of anger, hatred and revenge clouding the minds of humanity are as dangerous as any weapon mankind has created. To give oneself indiscriminately to thoughts of violence, “us versus them”, or vengefulness is to dim one’s own light and darken the clouds hanging over us all at a time when light is much needed.
We may attach to the idea of someone who carries out mass shootings as evil or mentally ill and draw a dividing line between them and ourselves. But we are not separate from them, and we too carry the potential of hatred and violence. We are all interconnected. As we hate, we fuel hatred in all things. As we seek revenge, we fuel vengefulness in all things. As we shoot a bullet at another person, we ourselves are hit. In this way, suffering is only perpetuated. What is needed at this time is to end the cycle.