Guns and Roses
“Violence in government as in other
relations is a confession of failure.”
-Charles E. Merriam
One of my favorite moments happens every morning. I get the paper and sit down at the dining room table to read. Phyllis makes breakfast and brews coffee (French press; freshly ground; dark roast). My favorite pages are the commentary section and anything that deals with sports. I rarely read the third page, where yesterday’s violent crimes are briefly described. Today there was extra space within the crime news devoted to one story. A man who was delivering pizzas was robbed at gunpoint by two men not far from where I live. The victim managed to run from the criminal, then drew a gun and shot at the two men. One of them died from his wounds.
I wondered why I had found this story compelling enough to warrant my reading all of it. There are so many violent incidents that happen every day! Why was this one different?
I found myself speculating about the consequences of this death. The man who was assaulted will never be the same. As common as murder and violence is in certain neighborhoods, the overwhelming majority of the population will never be able to say that they have killed a man. What will this do to you? Think of all the veterans who come back from war traumatized. How can you ever move on?
I thought about the politics of gun violence. Almost every day someone writes to the Post-Dispatch complaining about how the newspaper goes about reporting violent news. Today one gentleman was angry because the paper never releases the ethnicity of perpetrators or victims of crime. The reader said that everyone knew that most of the crime was committed by African Americans. Why not say so? Why does the Post, he said, try to slant the blame away from people who deserved it?
Then I thought about gun control. Many people who feel that the criminal should have never been able to easily acquire a weapon. Many others who will no doubt point to this incident as definitive proof that every living soul should always carry a loaded gun with them. I don’t doubt that the initial reaction of many readers was one of delight. Criminals deserve to be punished, they would say.
All of these emotions arise from the death of a human being. My mind wandered further. What made this man think that robbing a pizza delivery guy was a good idea? How many dollars did he expect to net from this venture? Not that the idea of stealing is made less unpleasant if the amounts to be acquired are huge. But still… What was going through his mind?
How did he train to perform this heinous act? Who taught him what to do? Is petty thievery a viable career path? How can you possibly survive by getting a few dollars at a time from innocent people, considering the ever-present risk that one day you may get blown away by someone who can handle a weapon?
Given all of these negatives, why do we keep reading the same story day after day? When will they ever learn? When will we?
We can arm all of our population to the teeth. We can shoot at people that we THINK may be getting ready to threaten us. We can build walls, beautiful walls, big walls, the best… And it will do no good. The river of blood will not cease to flow.
There is a way out. It’s clear that education and jobs prevent crime. No; not eliminate it. Read the Bible; it has a sickening story of fratricide early on. But we should be able to commit to educating all of our children. We should be able to provide training and decent opportunities for everyone to make enough money to survive. I figure that we spend as much money on police forces and prisons as we would if we decide, for real, that no child will ever be left behind.
Please don’t hit me with the standard line that this is a cultural issue. It’s only cultural for you if inner city inhabitants are to blame; when the same thing happens in the suburbs then we call it a crime of passion, or a mental illness, or the result of an evil mind. You are postulating that these criminals are raised and trained to be as they are. When the overwhelming evidence is that in any place that the effort has been made, good results have followed.
For decades we have allowed this daily trickle (or onslaught) of violence to continue.
Enough is enough. Let it end now.