News of the February 14 mass shooting at a Florida high school that claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff has people all over asking questions once again. In a debate where the same arguments are exchanged consistently, it seems a spiritual numbness prevails that leads to more confusion and frustration than solutions.
Here, I look at some statistics and posit there’s a profound cultural difference between the USA and most other nations, not only in the developed world but most other countries, when it comes to gun ownership.
Neither side of the debate in the USA has convinced the other. Supporters of tighter gun control scream something must be done and restrictions should be placed on gun ownership and background checks should be more rigorous. Supporters of existing gun laws tell us stricter laws are not the answer and that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
We are told, for example, that Chicago, with strict gun laws, has a very high murder rate and high crime rate. Some would suggest stricter laws would prevent people from killing people.
Most folks living outside the U.S. are perplexed that gun laws are as loose as they are and ask why Americans don’t do the obvious. Some go as far as avoiding travel to the U.S., fearing gun violence!
But there is one puzzle that repeatedly stumps supporters and non-supporters alike. Why does the U.S. have an enormously higher rate of mass shootings than anywhere else? And why do most developed countries such as in Europe, Japan and Canada have such low homicide rates — especially those involving guns?
(click chart to enlarge; source of graphic: New York Times)
There exists a long litany of arguments for and against tighter gun laws and both sides in the USA cite the Second Amendment. Most folks outside the U.S. cannot easily understand what’s at the root of the gun issue and what the American worldview is when it comes to gun ownership and their use.
I have tried to understand the gun issue as I often travel to the USA. I live in Montreal, Canada, and like most Canadians, reside a short 45 minute drive from the U.S. border. But when it comes to views on gun control we could be living oceans apart.
Greater Montreal is a predominantly French-speaking yet multilingual city with a multiracial and multi-ethnic population of close to four million people who live in the greater urban area. Like most large North American cities, Montreal has social problems and organized crime has a strong presence with involvement in the illicit drug trade. Crime is an ever-present issue, but there is little chance you will get shot if you steal or are the victim of a break and enter. Neither Montreal nor Toronto, a much larger city, have the level of gun violence found just a few miles down the road in the U.S. For example, in 2017, Montreal had 22 murders and not all involved firearms. Firearms are often smuggled into Canada from the USA.
(click chart to enlarge; source of graphic: New York Times)
Hardly anyone in Canada would consider liberalizing the current strict gun laws as a solution to crime. And Canadians have a high level of gun ownership since it is a nation of hunters and many people engage in activities in the great outdoors. Canadians own 31 guns per 100 residents compared to the U.S., where the number is 89 per 100 residents. The U.S. is number one in the world in terms of gun ownership.
Canada shares a lot in common with the United States — not limited to a strong trade relationship, but shared history and culture. Both are predominantly countries influenced by the British and have encountered similar challenges with the terrain, the development of their countries and more. But Canada did not take part in the American Revolution. Indeed some Canadians (both English and French speakers) trace their roots to those who remained loyal to the British Crown.
There are many statistical studies that show the differences between gun violence in the USA and the rest of the world as shown in a November 2017 New York Times article that references a study by Adam Lankford. Some key points from it are:
- Americans make up 4.4% of the global population but own 42% of the world’s guns
- 31% of mass shootings from 1966 to 2012 were in the USA
- Only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with populations more than ten million
- A country’s rate of gun ownership correlates to odds it would experience a mass shooting
- Mental health stats don’t correlate because the U.S. does not have higher mental health problems. Also the U.S. and other countries spend the same or more on mental health care
- Playing more or less video games does not appear to have an impact on mass shootings since Americans don’t play more or less video games than other countries
- Racial diversity or other diversity metrics has little association with gun murder rates
In 2009, a study found the gun homicide rate in the U.S. was 33 per million (Canada has 5 per million and the UK has 0.7 per million).
A New Yorker is just as likely to get robbed as someone living in London. But the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to get killed in the process. Data repeatedly tells us that American crime is more lethal.
Switzerland is often used as an example of high gun ownership as it has the second-highest gun ownership rates in the developed world. However, the rate of mass shootings when comparing the U.S. to Switzerland is 133 to 1. Mass shootings are rare. Swiss laws are stricter and there is a different view of gun ownership. Apart from the heavily regulated Swiss militia, guns are government-issued and ammunition is tightly controlled and gun laws for the general population are highly restrictive.
Quoting statistics is simply not the only explanation to why the U.S. is an anomaly among the developed countries of the world. And few Americans are convinced by statistics, especially the gun lobby. For example, in 2013, there were over 30,000 gun-related deaths in the USA. There were only 13 in Japan. American gun ownership is 150 times higher than Japan.
The U.S. is clearly an anomaly when compared to the rest of the world (see these five global charts compiled by CNN).
Gun ownership levels do not explain what makes the USA different. All the statistics in the world will not convince some Americans there is a need for gun control. Interestingly, it is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue — or simply supporters of the NRA vs. those demanding stricter gun control. Most Americans seem to support what they refer to as their “constitutional” right to bear arms. And to many Americans, the Constitution is equivalent to the holy scriptures of some religions — texts that are virtually engraved in stone.
The United States is one of only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with an assumption that people have an inherent right to own guns. For Americans, it is a matter of freedom, of a “right” to defend themselves, a “right” to be independent that goes back to the founding of the country and the revolution of 1776.
Without an understanding of this fundamental view, it is difficult for citizens of other countries to grasp what is at the root of the resistance of Americans to regulating guns.
It would seem easy to point out the difference in laws between the U.S. and Canada, for example, and explain why the level of gun violence is so high in the USA in comparison.
Canada is a country of law and order where its motto is “Peace, Order and Good Government” and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is considered a symbol of the country. In short, Canada with a very diverse population has a high regard for the rule of law.
Here are some comparisons with Canada when it comes to gun purchases:
Guns per person:
- Canada reports 30.8 firearms per 100 people. The country ranks 13th worldwide for firearms per capita. The U.S. has 88.8 per 100 people and ranks number 1.
Waiting period to purchase a gun:
- Canada requires a 60-day waiting period.
- There is no federally mandated waiting period in the U.S. as residents can obtain a gun after a background check.
Largest mass shootings:
- Canada’s largest mass shooting was in 1989 when 25-year-old Marc Lepine killed 14 people at a Montreal university. In the U.S., the largest mass shooting was in Las Vegas in October 2017 when 58 people were killed.
License and registration requirements:
- To own a gun in Canada, residents must take a safety course and pass both a written and a practical exam. The license expires in five years. Residents have to register restricted firearms, such as handguns and automatic weapons, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Firearms Program.
- In the U.S., license and registration laws vary from state to state, often with no such requirements. There is no mandatory course or exam.
- Canada requires a background check that focuses on mental health and addiction. Agents are required to inform an applicant’s spouse or family before granting a license.
- The U.S. requires a federal background check for all those buying guns from licensed dealers but does not require one in private transactions such as at gun shows.
People kill people – better laws are needed
Agreed! Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. But because human beings are not living in harmony with God and the natural laws of the universe, good and enforceable laws are needed to restrict bad behavior. Therefore, sound gun laws would likely go a long way to lower the homicide rates in the USA. The cultural differences may be vast, but in the end, measures must be taken when a citizenry is denied its right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because someone else values his or her right to bear arms more than someone else’s right to live. And law-abiding gun owners, who are troubled by mass shootings and illicit gun use, should not have an issue accepting good and enforceable laws that uphold the right to life.
Because human beings don’t naturally abide by the highest moral and ethical codes, laws and regulations are needed. If humanity could simply follow the dictates of their hearts it would be ideal. Reality has it that most human beings are not in total sync with the Divine or with Godly rules and ideals.
Therefore, effective laws that can be enforced are needed. Again, guns don’t kill people — people do. It is precisely because people kill people that stricter rules and regulations concerning gun ownership are needed.♦
Information for this article, in addition to indicated hyperlinked sources, is based on data collected by the Small Arms Study, The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, and the Canadian Firearms Program.
Rev. Franco Famularo (UTS Class of 1994) lives in Montreal, Canada, and serves as FFWPU National Leader of Canada. He is also Chair of the Board of Trustees of Unification Theological Seminary.
Thank you for the wealth of information about cultural differences and statistics that has informed us.
As a teacher who has taught in American public schools, I can inform you about what I learned that is specific and crucial to the Florida school shooting event. Even since 1996 and the Columbine shooting, many public schools still have almost no adequate security systems set up. From the specifics of the recent Florida event, the key issues are:
1) Lack of enforcement of existing laws by the FBI, failing innumerable times to deal with threats along with the failures of the County Sheriff, the County police and school security liberal and/or incompetent approaches. In 2013, the Board of Education, along with the County Sheriff, had revoked a Zero Tolerance approach. This brought in the liberalization and lack of realistic approach to mental illness and violent behavioral predictors. These liberal approaches do not work. I can verify this from working in a number of public schools.
In 2014 I taught in a public high school which had a very lax and liberal system. Many times there was not even a security guard at the door and anyone could walk into the school without being monitored or even noticed. When a mentally ill student was allowed to “hang-out” in the cafeteria for three periods everyday, the guidance system allowed him to see a guidance counselor once a week (and he also wore a dress to school.) When very few students wanted to befriend him, and his only friend had just graduated, he began to pace back and forth and then pound on the walls. When I reported this to the lead teacher, I was told that this was a guidance problem and he would see the guidance counselor later in the day. “No,” I replied. “This is also a security problem, because his behavior indicates that he is becoming distraught and may snap.” I had to notify the security guard because no one else would.
As early as 1983, my first teaching job was in a NYC public school that was located in a gang-infested area. There was a security guard on every floor and an armed policeman at the front door of the school for most of the day. No school shootings happened inside the school. Teachers were told to go only in a group to the subway, rather than alone, due to the need for support in this kind of neighborhood. On the first day of my teaching, an unruly student ran up to the blackboard and drew an obscene picture. I notified the security guard who promptly took him out. He never returned to my classroom. This school had a zero tolerance policy and an armed policeman guarding the door in addition to closely watched halls by security guards.
Another crucial key point from these American experiences (of which I have others to share), Gun-Free zones are the most vulnerable to school shootings and it is in gun protected schools that security and safety are assured. I applaud the schools that are initiating concealed carry and tighter security measures all around.
[As Unificationists, we know that the root problem is in the family. A loving family, good marriages and parenting skills and educating children to have good character, discipline and responsibility is essential. Parents who discipline, but without strong loving parenting, will often get rebellion. Parents who give love, but permissive love, without discipline will often get irresponsible children. Both result in similar syndromes of irresponsibility. A balance of love and discipline is essential to good parenting.]
Thank you, Donna, for sharing some real life experiences which go a long way to shed light on what teachers face in the U.S. Most folks outside the U.S. have little or no idea since their culture and views on the use of firearms are vastly different.
Just another justification for forcibly disarming people by government, using fake statistics, lies, deceptions, and untruths.
For example, stating there were 30,000 “gun-related deaths” in the USA compared to 13 in Japan is a deception. Two-thirds of those deaths are suicides. Suicide is a personal choice not a criminal assault by another. This deception ignores the fact that Japan has a higher suicide rate than the USA, and they simply use different tools for the job. The USA’s suicide rate in 2015 was 12.6/100,000 people. Japan’s was 15.4/100k in 2015 (Korea’s was 24.1). So a country touted as the most peaceful and gun-crime free has a suicide rate not too far above gun-crazy America. How about that.
Furthermore, of the roughly 8,400 gun murders annually in the USA, about 90% or more are criminal-on-criminal killings, not criminal-on-lawful-citizen, driven by the violent drug, sex, and other gangs that dominate the liberal-progressive-heavily-gun-controlled big cities like Chicago and elsewhere where gun murder is vastly higher than other states with little gun control. Remove those violent gang statistics and the USA actually ranks in the lower 10 countries worldwide for gun crime. Mass shootings are so statistically rare in the USA they kill from less than a hundred to a couple hundred per year, depending — in a nation of 330 million people. Long guns themselves, from which the vilified AR-15 comes, kill about 325 people per year all total (rifles, “assault” rifles, shotguns). The rest are killed by handguns, mostly illegally possessed by criminals. Read Dr. John Lott’s research if you actually want to learn something real about gun crime in the USA.
The natural right to armed self-defense is inviolable. That people still advocate that only government should have the power of lethal force–after the hundreds of millions murdered by governments in the last 200 years alone–is a testament to the magical thinking of the human species. Gun crime in irrelevant to gun ownership because abuse of rights has nothing to do with possession of rights. Unless you’re a tyrant who wants a docile, helpless population.
I personally couldn’t care any less than I do what the world does about gun ownership. So far, the United States has been the only country in human history to advocate the full and complete emancipation of people from government control. Some people believe in utopias where no single person is killed by a gun, yet they happily accept the 6 times more people murdered in America by fists and feet than long guns (including “assault” rifles), and the 5 times more people murdered by knives, as if dying by a gun is somehow inherently worse than dying from a knife or simply being beaten to death.
I accept gun crime as part of the human experience, as I accept knife crime, fists/feet crime, car deaths, drownings, motorcycle deaths, parachuting deaths, deaths by various forms of misadventure, death by doctors thru malpractice (which is several hundred thousand per year alone), and so forth. It’s hypocritical that busy-body do-gooders only want to rid the world of guns in the hands of citizens, place them only in the hands of government which is proved for 10,000 years that they murder their citizens regularly, routinely, with impunity, and for any reason whatsoever but especially for thinking different or disagreeing with those in power. To imagine that the people running governments today have somehow, magically, risen above that human nature is to engage in the greatest self-deception possible.
The USA has 70,000 gun control laws on its books right now. How many is enough? 100,000? One million, maybe? Or is it just one: the total elimination of firearms in the hands of the public? Because if you’re trying to absolutely end gun crime, that’s the only viable means to do so. Which means you’re really just lying and deceiving us that we simply need “effective laws that can be enforced” but don’t come right out and say that that means total gun confiscation and the empowerment of government with the sole right to use lethal force. But, statistically, that’s not a viable means to lower or eliminate violent crime, it just removes gun crime from the mix with the added benefit of rendering all citizens victims and making a violent criminals job safer.
It’s not anybody’s place to create or enforce laws on others to make society safer. It’s your job to make your own life safer. Do that however you choose without at the same time coopting government and its lethal armed force to make others live according to your preferences. Because ultimately, all these gun-control do-gooders rely 100% on the power of the gun to enforce their idea of the better society. What hypocrites.
[Advisory: This comment has been edited to meet AU Blog commenting standards. Please see guidelines at bottom left of this page regarding ad hominem attacks on authors and commenters]
I think effective background checks could make a difference.
Thanks for your comments. The point is that most of the world does not grasp the profound philosophical differences that lead Americans to respond the way you do. As the world’s superpower, the U.S. has a leading role. The point of the article is that all the stats in the world won’t make a difference in swaying those who hold deeply-held convictions on gun control. But the situation is not perfect from any perspective and the U.S. can still learn a thing or two on how to better manage a reality that causes much tension and confusion. We don’t live in an idyllic world full of morally upright people who behave according to Godly principles.
Human beings were created to be objects of God’s love -— hence, to partake in God’s power, which is limitless. Turning to God’s truthfulness and loving care as a heavenly parent is the solution for all crime and evil, and humanity’s only hope for a bright future.
Thank you, Paulo. There is certainly much work to do to ensure that what you suggest above becomes a reality.
Improving regulations and laws dealing with background checks using six sigma could make a difference. I worked for a number of years using this in distribution and manufacturing. If we applied six sigma tools to improve all the processes that deal with background checks, we could keep guns out of bad people’s hands. This would not preclude other options to protect places like schools, etc., with armed personnel. It would not deal with existing guns and any law abiding citizen. It would regulate actions that we, as a society deem detrimental, while not those that do not.
A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of all opportunities to produce some feature of a part (or step in any process) are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defective features per million opportunities). Motorola set a goal of “six sigma” for all of its manufacturing operations, and this goal became a by-word for the management and engineering practices used to achieve it. Motorola and Intel used these tools to make microchips cheaper, better and faster.
If you are a convicted felon, you forfeit many of your constitutional rights, including gun ownership. The same could include PFA’s while they are in place, possibly mental illness and many others, for periods of time. In Texas, the military did not upload data about that shooter and there were multiple failures recently in Florida. Reducing criminals access to firearms could reduce the daily gun violence related to the drug trade. There are thousands of deaths to innocent bystanders in urban areas we all should be concerned about.
Nothing will eliminate all gun or other violence. The same is true for vehicular deaths, but as a society, we still regulate who drives and what they are required to do to maintain that status. The NRA in the past supported this, but since around 2000 backed away. I am not sure why exactly. I welcome other’s thoughts.
Agreed, Rob. Your detailed response provides some excellent guidelines Better background checks would certainly be a good place to start.
One surprising development has been in the financial and business community. BlackRock, the largest equity management company in the world, is moving to divest from the gun industry. I heard the CIO of CALPERS, the pension investment arm in California, stated flatly he does not see the industry as a growth one. As boomers pass away and the younger generation votes more and is elected, they do not see gun sales growing and voting trends changing dramatically. The power of the NRA they see as eroding and similar lobbying groups supporting gun regulation as growing and being more powerful than the NRA.
And 20 major firms to date have ended their partnerships with the NRA. Culturally, one difference between the U.S. and other countries on this issue is the importance of money and the NRA in this issue. The financial and business community see things changing. Stay tuned.
I appreciate the reflections of Franco Famularo, his cogent use of statistics, the tone of his article, and his desire to see things objectively. We cannot deny that there are major differences between the cultures of the USA and Canada. Both are multicultural societies, have a history of pioneering, and dealing with indigeneous populations.
Both nations are famous for their high standard of living, their degree of freedom, and they are models which many people envy. If we were to broaden the comparisons, one could add the case of Australia, another nation with similar background (recent history, Anglo-saxon traditions, pionneering, aboriginals). Australia has adopted some kind of “Californian culture,” whereas much of Canada remains closer to the Old England tradition.
There is a sharp distinction, however, between the American Dream, the Canadian Dream, and the Australian Dream. Canada and Australia rank among the most pacifist nations of the world, whether we like it or not, accept it or not. We may like or dislike their “pacifism,” but they are recognized as such.
No one denies, on the other hand, that America is unchallenged in maintaining much of the security of our planet. It is not always a “dirty job,” but it is far more dangerous. So many American lives are exposed courageously every day.
It seems that the grandeur of the American dream lies in its messianic dimension: the city on a hill, the manifest destiny, “from rags to riches,” and so on. America has become the most powerful, and in a sense most admired nation of the world — because of God’s Blessing + American virtues.
The land of opporunity has tried to become the leading nation and has sometimes been forced to be the policeman of the world. From a providentlal point of view, God has raised the USA to be the elder brother nation. And it seems that for a while, America has to remain a country which is respected and feared more than it is loved and cherished. This is because we live in a dangerous world. If America appeared to be weak and too cool, the world would become less safe. We are so fortunate that, most of the time, the USA leads by example, by its brillilant institutions, its universities, its governance. Americans have established their authority by being generous and we have to admit that they have refrained from tyranny. That is why, even though I feel so sad when I see slaughters and mass-murders in America, I try not to judge. I pray and I ask God, “why is the city on a hill again wounded?” And each time, I feel the pain of God, His deep sorrow
Being an elder brother nation, the USA is placed on the front line of the Providence. It is a nation that can never be in the midway position. That is why America is often a nation of sharp divides, of A versus B. When you are American, you have to make clear choices: you are either here or there. Most nations have a more “confused” culture. This makes the history of America very tragic in a sense: the Civil War, the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. America has always been at war with itself, unsatisfied to be good. It has tried to be very good, and when you separate from Satan, there is always backfire. Abel is often the one who has to carry the worst scandals. The American scandal is often as great as the American dream and the popular culture in America never tries to hide the scandal. It is like in the Bible: the Bible makes no mystery of Abel’s sins and shortcomings. That is where the Bible is great. It is honest.
So many American heroes were killed, sometimes at a young age. It is so sorrowful and tragic, and I feel that God is so sad about this. Americans shed blood, but also shed tears in prayer, they are a God-fearing nation. I think that no American accepts cynically the violence at home. However, it is not easy to change, to find alternatives. All other nations have to accept that. We cannot easily bring our viewpoints. There is for the moment only one elder brother nation. Its task is really difficult. We should be respectful, loving and concerned. I am sure that in the 21st century, there will be less violence in the USA, through the spread of Unificationist ideals, either through us or through people who understand and practice Unificationism better than us. Unificationism is the light and the salt of modern America, the conclusion of its messinanic mission.
If Blessed families fulfill their providential role, the sacrifice of blood will be less necessary. The American dream will be fulfilled by soldiers heavily equipped in weapons of mass construction.
Thanks again to Franco Famularo. I really appreciated your article.
As noted by John Carlton (WSJ), the number of guns in America increased almost 50% between 1993 and 2013, yet during the same period, gun homicides decreased by nearly 50%. Kentucky governor Matt Bevin pointed to the fact that in the 1950s there were far, far fewer gun laws on the books, yet the kinds of mass shootings we are now seeing with disturbing frequency were almost non-existent.
At root this is a cultural/spiritual matter rather than a legal/law enforcement matter.
Each speaks on only one aspect of the American problem, and everyone thinks that the root of these mass killings is primarily cultural, yet most of these violent acts have their roots in the American desire to pursue their way of life, which emphasizes individual responsibility and gives each person full responsibility in society. This is very good for almost everyone, but unfortunately some categories of individuals do not fit into this framework and it is a significant portion of society, those who are affected by a psychic problem. In general, this concerns about 5% of society (in the countries of Western culture). I confess not to have worried for these others.
In the USA it is a major problem because in general these types of people are almost not supported by the state, as is the case, with more or less happiness, in other nations. This is the reason for these killings.
Interesting points, David. Could you clarify how homicides with firearms decreased 50% between 1993 and 2013? I am aware that crime has been declining in many jurisdictions, but an analysis of the data would be helpful. There appears to have been a seismic shift in shared or common values within the U.S. (and other countries) during the past 50 plus years. The moral and spiritual dimension is generally underestimated in studies about crime and violence.
Connecticut may not be a perfect case study, but Franco’s article stimulated me to read up on this issue. Here is an interesting quote about laws passed there after the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings after five years.
“In 2013, Connecticut lawmakers made sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws. For starters, they broadened the scope of what the state classifies as assault weapons, banning more than 150 gun models. The legislation also banned the sale of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. A permit is now required to buy any type of gun or ammunition. The state also has a registry of deadly weapon offenders and a universal background check system.”
Homicides per year went down from 92 to 53 in 2016. And yet gun sales went up: 135,000 sold in 2016, up from 127,000 the year before, the highest number in five years, and 30,000 new permits were issued in 2016. They seem to have a very good background check system, which apparently is not the case on the national level. When I purchased a .22 last fall to handle groundhogs on my property, the background check took 10 minutes. It was not that different than what my wife and all teachers have to do every five years to teach or work in a public school. School bus drivers, janitors, anyone that works with children, must pass these tests to work. There are no exceptions.
All these new regulations probably would not have stopped the shooting at that school, yet they do seem to have made a difference.
Most gun owners like myself see them as tools. In the past, I owned a .270 to hunt antelope, a 30-30 to hunt deer and a .357 pistol to sleep with when I hiked and camped in grizzly country. I wish I still had those. Currently, I own my new .22 and a 30-06 for deer. If I felt the need for protection, I would buy a pump shotgun.
I would say, Franco, citing the history of nations has more to do with understanding high homicide rates than most anything else. Mass shootings shock people, they are horrific, but does it really matter if people die, not en mass, but in single events? The highest homicide rates exist predominately in Central and South America.
Brazil has 21 of the most violent cities in the world. Gun ownership in Brazil is 8 per 100. I think the correct figure for guns in the U.S. today is about 100 per 100 people, not 30, but whatever. Homicide rates in Brazil are about 8 times what they are in the U.S., with less than 2/3 of the population. In Central America, the situation is much the same, with Honduras and Mexico leading the way. Bottom line: People die in Brazil and Central America violently, and many times more than they do in the U.S., but not in shocking mass shootings.
Rather than quote the “guns don’t kill people” stuff, I think we could all agree the problem involves more than guns and statistics. Examining the history of nations would prove to be a better indicator of causes. As to solving the problem, it will require “new age” character education and practice. On that we can all agree.
As Unificationists, we should make comparative studies about the culture of violence and culture of peace worldwide. The desire of God is to bring an end to homicide, which, in the Principle is strongly related to the Cain-Abel problem.
We have to teach that violence and murder are not in the human original nature but are connected to man’s fallen nature. According to John 8:40-44, homicide is a distinct feature of Satan, and it is strongly connected to his also being the father of lies.
We should be able to show that true love and true peace go hand in hand, and encourage case studies about that. Let us also remember that, according to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., non-violence starts with satyagraha, i.e. holding to the truth. As Gandhi said, “Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence (M.K. Gandhi, Satyagraha in South Africa, pp. 109–10).
We observe that North America is, generally speaking, a safer place for human beings than Central and South America. And there are providential reasons for that. There is an obvious contrast between a predominantly Protestant sphere and a predominantly Catholic sphere. There is also better governance and greater prosperity in the Northern part than in the Southern part. God has been able to spread a culture of peace in the last days in North America.
In Europe, generally speaking, you observe the same phenomenon. The northern part of Europe is characterized by more safety, better governance, greater prosperity. We might object that faith in God is very weak in Europe, especially the Northern part. It is true, but if we agree that the human conscience is God’s embassy within us, we may arrive at some hypothesis: Protestant ethics, over the centuries, have been able to transform human beings, making them closer to the restoration of the Three Blessings. In a way, the Principle says it rather clearly and stresses the strong points of the Abel-type democracy that was born in England and perfected in the USA. Wherever the Abel-type culture has spread, it has produced greater safety, and sometimes more concord and harmony. The point is, how can Abel embrace Cain, so that Cain is willing to learn, without losing face?
Now, I personally believe that the USA is statistically more plagued with violence than Canada. And ideally, God may want to teach something, when people are ready and willing to hear, and if they are convinced that it will bring them closer to God. I understand that this is very sensitive, and as a Frenchman, I cannot give any advice, whatsoever. I come from a country where the culture of violence, confrontation, bullying and cheating is still quite strong. France still has a fascination for violence.
In Latin America, Costa Rica offers a very sharp contrast with all its neighbors. Costa Rica was the first state in the world to absolish permanently its armed forces. It has no army at all and has kept only police forces. It is also the most stable country of Central America and is more prosperous than most of its neighbors. The culture of peace is really developed in Costa Rica, and the UN has its University of Peace in the capital, San José. I believe that God has raised and educated this country.
I believe these facts are interesting for us to study. We are a movement of universal peace, we believe that peace is another name of God. Before we arrive at a universal, lasting peace, we have to go step by step to gradually curb violence. Curbing violence will make us stronger, and closer to God. It is not only a cultural problem, but in essence a theological problem, which concerns man’s relaionship to God. The USA, one of the most religious countries in the world, has to reflect honestly on its role as an Abel nation. I am the first to recognize that it is not an easy task.
Thank you for looking at this problem from a different angle – as a cultural issue. You are correct, the issue of guns and gun ownership in the U.S. cannot be explained by statistics alone. It is so contentious that discussing it tends to widen the divide rather than the opposite. It just seems impossible to bring up even mild reform without someone exploding (as happened to me yesterday), “Are you trying to take my freedom away?” So long as guns are seen as a symbol for certain values, the conversation will become instantly radicalized.
Many people have told me having guns is their God-given right. It’s a quasi-religious view here in America, the logical extension of which is seen in today’s Sanctuary Church stance. Why, when someone offers the idea that some gun regulations make sense, they are branded anti-God, or Marxists? The reason is because gun ownership has a symbolic meaning, tied to the values of the millions of Americans who own guns.
There is no easy answer to this divide, but a good beginning would be to divorce talk of guns from any reference to God and values. Guns are a weapon, and have their righteous and legal place for self-defense (as guaranteed in the Constitution) in the hands of private citizens. But they are just that: a weapon. If that is ever possible, conversations will be reduced to the efficacy of managing gun ownership to avoid the most injury and harm. It is not about values, it is about public safety.
As a mother and teacher, I understand your concern. However, it is about values and freedom also. When government regimes took away guns, there was no protection against tyranny, and then the slaughter of millions of people (the Nazis asked for gun registrations, addresses, then went to the homes and confiscated all guns). When citizens do not have the freedom of responsible ownership, there is no protection. Once guns are taken away, you cannot get them back. Read the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution, that were written to protect Americans from government tendencies to gain too much control which often leads to abuses of power. Please re-read this important American document.
As a teacher in the public schools and universities, I know that it is imperative that campus security be tightened. This is the first solution and I support concealed carry as well as an armed policeman or trained security at our schools. This ensures safety as well as insisting that the FBI, the county police and the school security do their jobs well. No more excuses or incompetence.
People with criminal records and serious mental illness, as well as being banned from schools for violent behavior and family domestic violence records, should be banned from having guns. Zero tolerance policy should be reinstated in these schools. Liberal policies and politically correct agendas to not report problems are wrong. Also, parents should not be lenient and allow their own sons to have access to guns if they are unstable as this shooter was. Parents need to wake up and parent their offspring better, as we know.
Thank you, Celia, for your thoughtful comment.
Having a rational discussion and debate about this matter is important. The current situation is clearly not ideal and requires improvement. Claiming that human laws developed in the 18th century are 100% divine and need no upgrade is simply not good enough. Unification teaching explains that the Bible is not the truth itself, but a textbook teaching the truth. We also learn that God spoke to humanity in different ways according to their level of maturity. In like manner, the U.S. Constitution is not a perfect document and has required amendments. Consider how the framers and founders viewed black people in the 17th and 18th century. Fortunately, although it took too long, the Constitution was eventually amended and black folk now are considered equal citizens with a right to vote. Likewise, the Second Amendment right to bear arms is imperfect and the law and constitution require changes and modifications that reflect current human maturity.
The root cause of gun violence is evil human nature – that cannot be solved in the near future. Therefore, the solution is the next best thing — laws that leave no loopholes. The passage of these laws must start at the root — elimination of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment has outlived its usefulness; the government is not afraid of bullets (from the citizenry) but ballots. Once the right to own guns is eliminated, there can be a regulated manner to rent out guns for those who may need them for the hunting season (with conditions such as background checks, mental health certificate, credible witnesses, etc.). Some criminals may still have guns, but with no gun sales, they will be gradually identified and dealt with.
Celia and others:
Franco’s reasoning looking backward is not relevant to the issue of looking forward. Limitations in voter rights for blacks or women in the Constitution and whether the Bible is a textbook for teaching the truth are obfuscating the issue. However, the framers did know about the issue of power, as America was formed after the Revolution against tyranny and the King of England. They did look forward to a time such as today when there is a rise of government overreach and abuse of power as well as totalitarian dictatorships in the world.
The important questions to answer are: What would you do if a shooter walked into your church? How would your church deal with this situation? What if a shooter came to the backyard of your home? Your child’s school? Meadow Pollack was killed in the Parkland, Florida shooting. Her father, Andrew Pollack, is speaking up everyday, going to legislators and the capitol. He says the issue is making the schools safe by adding armed police or guards, as we have in other institutions. Also, measures to ensure enforcement of reporting behavioral and mental health issues, dealing with mental health problems more appropriately and proactively, not allowing criminal or mentally unstable persons to buy guns, and perhaps not allowing 18 yr. olds to buy certain guns. These are measures to deal with prevention and safety; but not changing the overall timeless wisdom of the Second Amendment.
The state of Florida is dealing with some changes, but not changing the major premises of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is our American protection of a government that says….”We the people…and by the people…have inalienable rights by our creator God…to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….the rights to freedom of religion, press, assembly, …and the right to bear arms.” There is no freedom when arms are taken away from responsible citizens. The not so hidden agenda of many gun control liberals is to get rid of guns entirely and the Second Amendment. These are advocates who want big government to control everything and who are not concerned with the deeper issues of freedom. Perhaps if they lived in Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, just to name a few….they would think otherwise.
Glad we are discussing the issue rationally since there is a great need to not denigrate differing views as being liberal or communist. There are other liberal democracies (and I use the word liberal in the classical sense and not the label that has been politicized), that take a different approach.
Stating that gun control is associated with big government types who wish to turn the US into Cuba or North Korea is not a valid argument. Canada, Australia, the UK, and a good number of other countries that have societies that are also free, generous and prosperous and enjoy a high quality of living are not Cuba or North Korea. The issue here is a moral, spiritual and cultural one.
The Second Amendment emerged in the 18th century when the revolutionaries were fighting the British — probably the most gentlemen-like tyrants you will find. I have my doubts that American militias will take on the American or any other government for that matter in the 21st century. Improving the armament of folks in schools will likely not solve the problem. But better and enforceable laws have a chance since the American people have evolved. And I am quite sure the younger generation of Americans see the situation very differently than the baby boomers and older folks.
I am suggesting better and enforceable laws since we are not dealing with mature people. Neither the shooters nor the victims are mature. Simple things like better background checks, longer waiting periods (e.g., 60 days), written and practical exams, checks for mental stability, requiring references from family members, etc., would go a long way to improve the current situation. It seems easier to acquire a gun than a driver’s license or passport in the USA. Times have changed and improving gun laws will not infringe on your rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For the sake of public safety, I don’t think it helps at all to set up an either-or conception that pits the Second Amendment freedom to bear arms against the opposite — taking away all guns. A stringent regime of background checks to keep guns out of the hands of felons, the mentally ill, terrorists, and people with a known tendency to violence can be done responsibly within the scope of the Second Amendment.
We don’t need to raise the boogeyman of Nazi Germany which confiscated all guns as a reason not to enforce responsible background checks. After all, freedom comes with responsibility, and these need to be in balance. Drunk drivers kill more people than guns, yet those deaths are reduced by laws that take away drivers licenses from those who habitually drive under the influence. Should the freedom to own a gun not also require that the gun owner exercise responsibility to use it properly, or if not, to lose that freedom?
We accept that the freedom to drive a car requires responsibility in driving it. Yet why when it comes to gun rights do some people frame the issue as either total freedom vs. total denial of freedom? Is it due to mistrust of government, or more specifically mistrust of the so-called liberals who propose any sort of restrictions? Why have we as Americans allowed such mistrust and polarization to poison public discourse, so that we can no longer sit down and reason together as reasonable people, conservatives and liberals, who all love America?
I think that in addition to the heart deficit in the sphere of marriage and family and morality that David Eaton and others have so eloquently argued for, we Americans also have a heart deficit in our political culture where we no longer trust each other across partisan lines, where each side views the other of being captive to real or imagined ideologies, not as real human beings with hearts of concern for others and who want to do the best for their society.
If conservatives could put aside their mistrust of liberals as people who want to ban guns — which is by and large not true, and if liberals could stop demonizing the NRA as accomplices to murder, when in fact that organization has for generations stood for gun safety, we might be able to sit down together at the same table and work out an agreement that protects public safety by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals while simultaneously protecting the right of good people to bear arms.
This, as I see it, is an opportunity to apply True Parents’ teaching of headwing. As Father practiced it, he worked with people of all political persuasions, all races and all cultures, and sought to bring them together under the love of God. I believe we should uphold this teaching, and apply it to healing America’s fractured political culture. Perhaps the deaths in Parkland, Florida can be a moment of such coming together regarding the issue of guns. I pray it may be so.
No one commenting here seems to be characterizing this kind of all or nothing split. Recommendations have been made for improved gun safety, school safety, vigilant law enforcement, mental health reform, etc. Sometimes a lot of verbiage obfuscates the key points.
And, headwing means a God-centered head connecting two wings. It does not mean godless unity, allowing all crazy viewpoints and/or a “headless-wing.” I am seeing a “headless wing” promotion of godlessness in America in the guise of multi-culturalism. Like the Israelites, we have to be cautious about allowing the Canaanite culture around us to confuse our moral thrust of God-centered providential American leadership which protects the foundation of our American heritage that makes America great….such as religious values, free enterprise and freedom from abuses of power and tyranny.
Finally, our founder personally supported President Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican President.
As I noted in my AU Blog essay this week, the cultural issue vis-a-vis marriage and morality is a salient matter in all this. With his kind permission, I’m going to share an insightful observation by Christopher McKeon. As he states:
“The real problem with loose sex is, it’s mainly that obligation, duty, loyalty, binding ties and such are eroded and dissolved as unobligated sex and rotating relationships get more normalised in a society. The lack of these important social ties make it difficult and ultimately impossible for a society to value itself and thus meet existential challenges, or challenges that, unmet, morph into existential challenges. When you study Rome you see that Romans throughout the empire lost faith in the value of their society and culture and any will to defend it. Although the majority of Roman citizens were in fact socially conservative and not into the free sex of the upper classes, they were affected by the corruption of the upper classes that spread into all facets of institutional life.
The underlying mentality driving these sorts of things resides in “Me-ism.” When I become more important in my mind that any duty, loyalty, obligation or binding tie to varying aspects of society—family, community, state, culture, etc—I lose the motivation to place any value in those things, and concomitantly the *people* associated with those things. I look for what benefits me most. If that means abandoning my culture, nation, oaths or whatever for an invader, a competing ideology or whatever, that’s what I do. Ultimately, the inherently selfish nature of human beings lets us gravitate toward ideologies that give our selfishness justification, honour and opportunity. From that, we engage in activities commensurate with our particular selfishness, whether it’s promiscuity, manipulative relationships, betrayal of oaths or trusted offices, espionage for foreign powers, the guy who unlocks the secret back door to the castle to admit the enemy in the dead of night, that sort of thing.
Liberal-progressivism is just such an ideology that promotes self over others and betrayal over loyalty, free-whatever over obligation, abandonment of family over binding ties, free sex over committed partner sex, and so forth. In every human field of life, liberal-progressivism advocates the dissolution of anything that binds for anything “obligationless.” Free sex is just one symptom of this.”
Christopher’s observation about the pernicious effects of far-left progressivism is one that others have cited as a “root causes” for the cultural dissolution that’s upon us. (Kay Hymowitz, Paul Kengor, Roger Scruton, Michael Walsh, Melanie Phillips, e.g.) There are “Abel-type” commentators who are aligned with concept of “Godism.” These voices need to be heard. Read their books!
At UTS alum Dr. Lloyd Eby’s suggestion, I’ve been reading Alasdair MacIntyre’s book, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (1985). It’s rather heavy reading but MacIntyre brilliantly deconstructs the idea of “emotive rationale.” (a/k/a emotivism, of which “me-ism” is a progeny.)
As MacIntyre notes, contemporary society is now wrestling with the concept of “emotivism:” a condition whereby feeling and/or emotion trumps reason or rationale at every turn. This has become especially problematic in the realm of axiology—values and morals. Accordingly, one’s feelings become sacrosanct, as if one’s personal feelings about a given issue is, in fact, truth and all that is necessary to make moral judgments. In this context, if one feels that his/her values are true (and thus, good), many objectionable behaviors could be considered unobjectionable—even noble. (A whiff of Ayn Rand).
This leads to a scenario where simply considering something “good” is enough to provide a basis for a moral judgment and ends up “disguising the expression of preference” by an interpretation of one’s own feelings, as if that’s enough to confer an objectivity on a particular behavior that it does not possess. This mindset is everywhere and it results in a complete disavowal of objective and reasoned criterion that has traditionally been the way to determine appropriate thought, emotion and behavior.
I think the right would be happy to concede to reasonable regulations of guns if it believed that the left would stop with reasonable laws and not go further. But they have no reason to believe this.
There is no honest person in America who believes the left would stop at “good enough” on guns because the left has never shown it will stop at good enough, on any issue. Gun owners correctly expect that the ultimate goal is a gutting of the right to bear arms.
And so more guns are bought.