A favorite saying of the gun rights absolutists is “an armed society is a polite society.” However, the essence of democracy is not politesse—it is argument and debate over core issues. The way to create a more perfect union is not by sitting politely and waiting for one to come by. The only way to perfect our democracy, to try to perfect our democracy, is by the time honored tradition of debate and dissent. None of this is polite. It is confrontational, loud, at times chaotic. It is engaged, at its best, it is educational—ideological opponents engaged in verbal and rhetorical give and take about the public good.
On the other hand, Wayne La Pierre and his NRA minions want everybody to be armed. In that way you will express your opinion only to the extent that you have more weapons. Once you are outgunned you will politely retreat to your corner. This is not democracy.
One of his absurd ideas (already law in places like Oregon) is to allow students on campuses to carry concealed weapons. If you are an undergrad, or an underpaid discussion leader, you would now have to make sure that your points were backed up by the firepower in the group rather than logical argument. For those who would say this is paranoia, read today’s newspaper in which two separate campus shootings—one at Northern Arizona University and one at Texas Southern University (the Texas Southern University shooting is the third in the last two months)—are reported. In at least one, the police reported that the shooting resulted from a dispute between students. The shooter in last week’s rampage in Oregon, (already old news since it happened 10 days ago) apparently had a charged exchange with his teacher, Lawrence Levine, days before he returned to that classroom to kill him and eight other students. Charged disagreements are part of life. Arming the participants in those disagreements is a strategy to enrich the gun manufacturers and add to the body count.
There are many theories as to why, as the President said last week, the prevalence of mass shootings are an uniquely American problem. However, GOP candidate Ben Carson pointed to one main reason. Among other stupid, inflammatory things, this week Carson said:
I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.
Here it is at its simplest and worst: the absolute right to bear arms is more important than human life. In Jewish terms there is only one way to understand this: for some in this country (and Ben Carson is, unfortunately, not alone in this sentiment) the right to own and carry arms of lesser or greater destructive ability is idolatrous. It exceeds in importance the value of human life—humans who are created in the image of God.
Here at its starkest is the conflict of values that is at the center of this debate. There are those (gun rights absolutists) who value the ability to take life over the value of life; and there are those who value life. There are those who value the threat of violence and death over debate and discussion, and there are those who value democracy. It is important that we restate our commitment to democracy, to life, by restricting access to weapons of death, by regulating the industry that profits from them, and defeating the organization that shills for them.
Some things we can do:
From Moms Demand Action
Pingback: Ben Carson, the Shoah, Guns, and Nonviolent Resistance · Jewschool