By now everyone knows about the tragedy at Virginia Technical University in Blacksburg, Va., where, on Monday, a student shot 32 people before killing himself. I have not immediately blogged on this because I wanted to digest it.
Although the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />United States seems wedded to a gun culture, I keep hoping that we will wake up to the need for strict gun control before more tragedies like this happen. The pro-gun folk like to quote the saying, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” While true, it fails to mention how much EASIER guns make it to kill people.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
If the depressed student had been armed with a knife, he might have succeeded in killing one person before he was stopped. He certainly couldn’t have killed 32 in one morning. Had he been armed with bow and arrow, he might have killed more than with just a knife, but still considerably fewer than with a gun.
In 1984, I was mugged and stabbed, nearly to death. Had the mugger used a gun, I almost surely would have died (especially considering how long it took the ambulance to find me). I would have missed the last 23 years of life, a marriage of 17 years, and two daughters.
It’s time that the U.S. makes it harder to kill people by making it harder to get and use guns. How many more Columbine High Schools, how many more Virginia Techs will it take before we stop valuing gun ownership more than we value human life in this nation?
Eleven years ago, a similar event happened in Australia, and the result was landmark gun restrictions (resulting in turn in decreased violent crime and gun deaths).
In 1996, after a gunman killed 16 children in the U.K., the result was an almost total ban on handguns. But no one believes this will be the result in the U.S.
A total ban would take a constitutional amendment, but even reasonable gun control laws clearly within the Constitution won’t be touched, because Democrats fear this would lose them upcoming elections.
Any leadership on this will have to come from faith groups–but our churches are just as filled with pro-gun nuts as society at large. It is SO frustrating.
Michael Westmoreland-White is a theologian and peace educator and activist in Louisville, Ky. This column appeared originally on his blog.