Gunsight

Handguns are made of steel, aluminum alloy, plastic and brass. But one material in every gun sneaks in practically unnoticed: glass. I mean that metaphorically of course. Guns are not only firearms but lenses through which we see the world and, as with any lens, changes what we see and don't see, and gives us a description of the world that is particularized--we could say editorialized--by the nature of the lens itself. Though we like to believe that what we see is true and objective, lenses always open new vistas and close others. Nothing is neutral.

Facts and figures are malleable. Democrats and Republicans often use the same data and draw opposite conclusions. The lens, rather than being a clear substance through which the world passes through unaltered, it is actually an interpreter, selecting from the totality a particular view--often one we hold prior to seeking evidence to back our position, though we conveniently forget that this is so. Yet lenses, actual and metaphorical, can change the world. Here is an example: When Galileo used an actual lens to view the planet Jupiter, he saw small lights circling around it which he understood were moons. This observation had rebounding effects upon the Earth-centric model of the universe and removing humankind from the center of it all was the start of a revolution not only in the physical sciences but in re-patterning the relationship between humans and God.

Guns are quiet manipulators of what we see and believe as well. One thing their hidden prismatic activity does is accentuate the division of the world into victims and victimizers. This lens also accentuates a sense of innate fear of others as opposed to an innate sense of safety. The safety is seems to bring is based only on a physical device and not on something inside. I have yet to read statistics that tell me exactly how many mass shootings have been stopped by citizens having guns strapped to their hips. But it seems that people feel safer having guns on their person, whatever the facts actually are. Having an assault weapon under your bed in a suburban neighborhood in which there have never been home invasions somehow calms a frightened soul but does nothing to find the cause of that emotion.

The world is a nuanced place, except where the law of the gun proliferates. Power does indeed come from the barrel of a gun in Sudan and ISIL infected areas of the world and yes, we need to arm against aggression. But the fear of micro-aggression, personal slights, the need to "stand your ground" has warped a sense of the nuances of reality and made everything simply black or white. The woman who shot her twenty-seven-year old daughter when she heard what she thought was an intruder was seeing the world in black and white terms. Just so the man who shot his fourteen year-old when he heard an unexpected noise in the basement. George Guzman was controlled by this lens--believed this lens--when he shot the boy in the hoody for being, well, a boy in a hoody.

I'm not, as a matter of fact, against all guns. What I am against however, is ignorance. What we see as we sight along a gun barrel is always the enemy. Sometimes it is an enemy and most often it is not. But the gun changes the vision of the person holding it and supports a fictionalized version of the world.

I grieve daily for the children of Sandy Hook and the people of San Bernardino. But I grieve as much for the entrancing, seducing view of the world that says we can be safer with guns strapped to our belts and in easy reach of our pocketbooks. The world is inherently unsafe. It only gets safer when we see it clearly. Guns, and the lenses they are, are not the right prescription for eyes that need to see straight and see clearly so that the real dangers of our world can be confronted by many means and not just one.