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Gun Control and Human Responsibility

Recently the issue of gun control has regularly been in the media. Obama is in his second term, so he doesn’t have to consider his image for reelection. That makes it time to step on toes while pushing the liberal agenda. So, the gloves have come off.

I consider myself to uphold a rather liberal agenda myself. However, my own brand of liberalism flows from my personal brand of anarchy. Accordingly, people are meant to be free. Indeed, all people really want is to be free. And we should work toward maximizing the freedom of all people.

Yet, this freedom is not unlimited. People can only be so free before they start to encroach upon the freedom of others. This is where the difficulty in society arises. People want to be free, but the quest for freedom becomes a competition. Competition can easily become destructive. The threat of destruction leads to defensiveness and aggression. Thus, the cycle of social violence between individuals and tribes.

The key to ending this cycle, or at least lessening its influence, is found in a sense of human responsibility. Freedom is life. To accept responsibility for the lives of others is to accept responsibility for their freedom to be and to become. It means honoring, respecting, and upholding boundaries of others against intrusion. If people were to accept a simple sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of their fellow human beings, the cycle would end.

Instilling a sense of responsibility is not easy; it takes a long time and a lot of energy. Moreover, part of the mantra for this sense of human responsibility is “with great power comes great responsibility.” So the degree of responsibility one has is proportionate to the amount of influence one has, whether it is economic, political, or social. Generally speaking, protecting the boundaries of the weak is not necessarily what the strong want to do. So promoting a sense of human responsibility is usually bypassed by the powers that be in favor of the quick fix: control through force.

From my anarchist perspective, the exercise of power to dominate in order to bring the peace is the essence of the Pax Romana that the gospels wrote against. The earliest followers of Jesus rejected peace through force, replacing it with peace through other-centered, justice-oriented, self-giving love (or Pax Christi). The basis for respecting other human beings is nothing less than that kind of love.

Legislating gun control (peace through force) only gives the facade of opposing the cycle of violence, while on a deeper level encourages and extends it. The shootings are not the cause of the problem; they are the symptom. We need to be addressing deeper social issues.

  • When economic structures oppress, people go hungry. They go without healthcare. They live in squalid conditions.
  • When political structures oppress, people are denied opportunities for expression and exploration. They are forced into vulnerable, if not dangerous, positions. They become doormats for the powerful.
  • When social or religious structures oppress, people live in eternal fear. That which was meant to be holy becomes demonic, as the nurturing becomes destructive.

I do not know what studies have been done into the matter. This means more research for me. Still, I want to identify what I think are intimately related to gun violence and need to be addressed.

  1. Mental health care: I know people who struggle with mental issues, and I’ve heard their stories about how hard it is to get quality help within the current system. When people with emotional issues explode, they really explode. We need to revamp the system in a way that makes it more accessible and improves the quality within it. Improve care for the emotional side of human beings, and they will be less likely to lash out violently.
  2. Encouraging responsible business practice: We’ve heard that the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. What often isn’t recognized is that the rich get richer not just at the economic expense of the poor, but also at their physical and emotional expense. Employers seem to be expecting more and more while compensating less and less. Human resources seem to be treated like renewable resources; burn up the ones you have because there will always be new ones. I believe that if all businesses were to take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of all their employees (and by that I mean truly feel responsible, not just do it on paper), then the frustration levels of society would drop (not to mention the mental health issues previously addressed). Lower frustrations, lower the chance of those with access with guns being willing to shoot others.
  3. Restrict access to guns only if there is a proven reason to do so: When I’m speaking against gun control, I’m speaking against legislating a restriction on people for no good reason. If, however, someone has proven that they cannot function responsibly with a gun, this is a different scenario. In a case like that (such as a history of violence), it is probably best not to allow access to guns. Therefore, I support background checks. Remember, my vision of anarchy is about respecting boundaries and freedom for all. Those who are unable to respect the boundaries of others need to be prevented from encroaching upon others’ freedom. Note that this is specifically targeting abusive behavior and removing access to tools that can further abusive effects.

Those are my top three right now. Whether they are the actual top three that need to be addressed, I don’t know. Someone who is more involved in political change would have to do the research to discern them. But until we do, will will be poorly poised to address the underlying issues that lead to gun violence.

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