Backing Out Of Hell - John Samuel Tieman

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Axar.az presents an article "Backing Out Of Hell " by John Samuel Tieman.

There's a blurry photo going around. It's taken from a video. It's impossible to identify anyone. One person in the foreground, probably male, is just walking down the street. The photo is unremarkable except for this. He's carrying a rifle. My guess is that he has something akin to an AR-15. But that also is just a guess. Here's what's not a guess. That's downtown St. Louis. That's my home. In my state, Missouri, what he is doing is perfectly legal. Indeed, until he shoots someone, he has committed no crime.

America averages at least one, often more, mass shootings every day. Every day. It's worth noting that, while there is no exact definition of “mass shooting”, the killing in one incident of three or more people is the general standard. The school shooting near my home, in which only two people were murdered, doesn't count as a mass shooting. As I write, there was a mass shooting just outside of Dallas. Eight people died, including two children. This wasn't the worst shooting this year. By the time you read this, there will be several more.

As remarkable as it seems, my state has almost no gun control. I once looked up online a summary of my state's gun regulations. I read it all before I finished my cup of coffee. As near as I can tell, I can buy, openly carry or conceal everything up to, but not including, a light anti-tank weapon. I am amazed at how little my government cares about weapons in private hands. I'll bet my state has more regulations about billboards than bullets.

So people die. There is a tragic sameness to it all. There's a mass shooting. Then there's an outrage. Citizens call for gun control. The National Rifle Association blocks consideration of all measures. Legislators give in. Then there's a mass shooting. We've reached a point in this country where gun laws aren't simply lax. This isn't just bad policy. It's madness. Madness.

I google “Azerbaijan mass shooting”. I read about a school shooting in 2009. I look up “Japan mass shooting”. Nothing comes up. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a gun that the shooter had to make himself. Of course, some countries have gun problems. Parts of Mexico are practically war zones. Then there's Canada. Since 1902, there have been 29 mass shootings in all of Canada. In 2023, the US had its 29th mass shooting on January 16th.

Current gun policies aren't simply wrong. It's worse than wrong. It's madness. This is a problem that admits a wide range of solutions. A set of gun regulations for St. Louis will differ from those for rural Wyoming. But nobody needs a weapon of war in downtown St. Louis or rural Wyoming. As for the Second Amendment, can we just admit that the amendment was written before there were fridge magnets of Gustav Klimt and Frida Kahlo? During our Revolutionary War, about 31,000 soldiers died. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2021, the most recent year with complete data, 48,830 Americans died from guns. When folks wrote the Second Amendment, the original intent was not madness.

A Jesuit I'm fond of, Edward Dowling, once said, “If I ever find myself in Heaven, it will be from backing away from Hell.” How do we back out of gun hell? Can we just start with the simple premise that an assault rifle shouldn't be carried down Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis on a Friday night? But there is more than simply this. We must change our laws, yes, but we must also change the darkness in our souls. Why are we so afraid? How can we address our fears, and address those fears both psychically and spiritually? We are a violent people. Just look at our movies and TV shows. It's as if there's only one way to conclude a disagreement, and that is with violence. We need to embrace a lifestyle that cherishes nonviolence. And I don't mean being passive. Diplomacy, as just one example, is far from passive. But, in the end, I don't know what to do. I'm not that wise. Maybe we need a new religion. Maybe we need some sort of weekly memorial day, not one dedicated to the people who already died from gun violence, but one dedicated to the people who will die in next week's shooting. I don't know. I only know this. If we ever find peace, it will come from backing out of the madness.

2023.05.22 / 10:04
John Samuel Tieman
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