I had occasion to meet Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Arun Gandhi immediately after 9/11. At the time, I was tagging along with a TV production crew and he agreed to do an interview prior to his speech at Vanderbilt University. He said he had been receiving a lot of phone calls from political leaders pressuring him that this was "no time to be talking about non-violence." My cackle was involuntary (and audible, to be sure). Our eyes met for a brief moment in common recognition that this was exactly the time to be talking about non-violence.
And yet, here we are, eleven years later, a gunman having opened fire today on the streets of New York City, not long after a movie theater massacre in Colorado, the one in Tucson that killed six and left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life, the one at Virginia Tech, and do I really need to go on?
So me, I'm thinking that we need to talk about this, because it is not a fluke. It is an epidemic that is symptomatic of a larger societal ill - the one where we say anything goes, it's every man for himself, and I have 2nd Amendment rights, gosh darn it!
While we are in the full throws of campaign season, no one is talking about guns on either side, and that impacts all of us. Yes, it's a tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. What about the guns, though?
For all you 2nd Amendment enthusiasts out there, here is how that amendment actually reads:
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
To put it in the correct context, we were a brand new nation, fearful of a surprise and hostile takeover by an invading army. It was intended for national security and not the rights of the individual to go a-killing willy-nilly. Furthermore, the weapons we are talking about at the time were not Uzi's or Glocks or automatics. So I say if you want to own a musket now, have at it, my friend. I won't try and stop you.
Today we are talking about individuals owning weapons with a killing capacity greater than could possibly have been imagined in the wildest dreams of our forefathers. And our country alone, though we make up for only about five percent of the world's population, we possess one-third to one-half of the world's guns. And if you'd like to know how that translates for our sweet, innocent future of the country -- our nation's children, according to the CDC, more children die each year from gunshot wounds than from all childhood diseases combined.
So as we become more desensitized daily, due to the sheer volume of horrific acts being perpetrated against our own citizens, I ask you, what is the tipping point? When do we acknowledge that it is a greater threat to our national security for every person to be armed than not to be armed? When do we resurrect the idea of the "common good," or at least acknowledge that we have an obligation to one another that supersedes our individual fears about self-protection and preservation?
I have a simple theory -- the absence of guns creates the absence of gunshot victims. We don't need them. If one of our basic, inalienable rights is the right to walk down the street without getting shot to death, accidentally or otherwise, then I say we should remove the killing tools. Radical thinking, I know. Any maybe I'm one gun legislation away from singing "Kumbaya" around a campfire, but even a former Vice President accidentally shot somebody, so where does it end?
At the very least, we should limit the types of weapons that are legal. And I do mean very least. And what about making it mandatory to pass a test like we are required to in order to drive a car? Is parallel parking really more important than how to safely use and secure an instrument of death?
This is indeed the time to talk about guns, about gun violence and necessary legislation to try to thwart it. We have a shared obligation and responsibility for those who have fallen because we have fallen short in saying "enough is enough."
This is another sad day for our country, but we needn't pass up the opportunity it affords us for it to be a teachable moment in our history -- the moment when we actually choose unity over vitriolic separation and non-violence over the false sense of empowerment that gun ownership provides. I know, I know -- Kumbaya. But I'm a dreamer.