Gun Violence: What is The True Problem?

Considering the news and world happenings lately, San Bernardino, CA being the most recent, gun violence has been on my mind, as I’m sure it has been on yours. It’s hard to sit here and write about wine when there are tears over the senseless deaths of so many. So instead I raise my glass in solemn salute to the lives lost while I share my heart’s thoughts.

I’m an artist with over 25 years experience. Last year, I created a found objects art piece. When beginning the found object project, I was not sure how to go about relating the found objects or how to assemble them together to create a cohesive piece. Considering most of my found objects are related to guns, hunting and fishing, I began thinking of the relationship they had to my life. I have a multitude of memories of hunting and fishing trips; learning to skin a deer (gross) and gut a fish, dead plucked wild turkeys resting in the sink waiting for my mother to cut them up to freeze for later or cook them immediately; trying not to get literally hooked by a flying fishing hook while my brother and his friend attempted to fly fish from a boat; eating deer meat frequently for dinner provided from my father’s hunting trips and the only way we could afford meat as a family; my father trading deer meat for other perishables to feed our family, and so much more. Hunting and guns were a way of life and survival for my family. Without them, my parents would have struggled even more in trying to feed and provide for their children.

As we scoured my father’s basement for found objects, he occasionally commented that he hoped I was not creating a piece that supported banning guns and limiting the rights to own guns, and so on. I assured him that was not the case, but I could not help thinking of the frequent news stories about gun violence. The images of Sandy Hook, West Virginia University, military bases, and so many more kept colliding with my positive memories of hunting and survival. I wondered how to reconcile the two seemingly disparate positions on guns. My writings during the creation of this art piece occasionally reflected this conundrum. At other times, it focused on domestic abuse, my frustrations with the materials, sacred hunting, and hunting for survival, the spiritual essence of the relationship between man and his environment, and morality.

The more I worked on the project, the more I was drawn to the issue of gun violence and morality, asking myself, “What is the true problem?” Are guns really the issue? Or is it something more, something else? I really connected with Russell Madden’s written piece, “If Guns Could Kill” (1999).  Madden wrote a 1600 word essay examining the catchphrase “guns kill.” Per Madden, to state that “guns kill” is to remove individual people entirely from the realm of morality. Promoting guns as the cause of violence effectively eliminates people from the causal loop. It transforms people from moral beings responsible for their freely chosen actions into irrelevant carriers of the supposed true enemy, the inanimate gun.

I agree with Madden to a point, and I do not fully accept the NRA’s claim that “guns are not the problem,” but I do agree that guns are not the main problem. It is not the guns that are killing people, but people killing people. Guns just happen to be their method of choice. Ask yourself…what is the root of the problem? When a waiter is pissed at a low tip, takes out a gun and shoots the customer? Or a waitress who received a complaint about bad service shoots the customer? What about a 9-year-old boy who was targeted and shot dead by gang members, a 6-year-old boy who was killed by police in Louisiana, a 5-year-old Ohio boy who was struck by street gunfire that tore through his home, a 9-year-old boy who shot himself in Detroit, and 2-year-old boy who was fatally shot in the face while he played with his twin brother in Georgia? How about when a husband and wife argue, and one shoots the other because they disagree? Or a guy shoots another guy for road rage?

There’s something more here than just people having access to guns. It’s as though our fabric of morality is falling apart. Since when is the solution to any problem means killing or injuring another person? Why do people feel that this an acceptable option? How has the value of human life become so insignificant?

It will always be a struggle between gun rights and gun violence, but I think it’s time we look at deeper issues of morality and a culture of violence. There is something happening across our nation that scares the piss out of me. When a child feels the only answer to his problem is to plot to kill his fellow students, or an adult shoots another person or invades an organization and kills others because they disagree or don’t believe in their mission (Planned Parenthood), there’s something much deeper and fundamentally wrong.

I’m not sure what the answer is….it’s something I’ve pondered for some time. I see and hear both sides of the issue…but the silent voices of the dead are speaking louder now. Something has to be done.

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