I had a crazy fantasy thought the other night, in the wake of the latest mass shooting incident in Highland Park. What if instead of trying to pass more gun safety legislation, we just banned men from purchasing or possessing guns?
I know there are all kinds of constitutional issues that make this utterly unworkable. But statistics suggest that if we could do this, mass shootings and gun violence would drop dramatically. Over 90 percent of mass shootings are committed by men, most with legally obtained weapons. Over 80 percent of all gun violence is committed by men. Men also make up 86 percent of all firearm deaths. Men own three times as many firearms as women. And 52 women a month die from gun violence at the hands of a male domestic partner. (Source: Men Against Gun Violence)
A question I wrestle with as another man against gun violence is why gender is such a major factor in gun violence. In all the back and forth about gun violence, I hear very little discussion about why men are so drawn to gun ownership and far more prone to resort to gun violence, including mass shootings. [It does need to be acknowledged that there are many responsible gun owners but I also think even responsible, law-abiding gun owners need to examine the psychology of their gun ownership and what kind of person they become as they make this choice. I cannot judge this choice for another, but suggest each needs to honestly judge his own choices in this regard.]
I don’t have answers to these questions. I have questions. I refuse to chalk it all up to testosterone. Why, particularly are so many men choosing to resolve a dispute, their road rage, or a nursed sense of anger with a gun? All of us get angry, but most of us learn to control and channel our angry impulses, precisely because we realize how destructive they may be. Yet it seems that an increasing number of men have discarded the restraints on anger that most of us practice. Why is that?
This seems an important matter wrestle with in our churches, our schools, and our community organizations. I also think the social isolation, and the distorted ways of thinking that arise, fed by “dark web” sites, are factors in mass shootings desperately needing to be recognized and understood and addressed.
At this point we are a society determined to maintain our “right” to own guns and the maintenance of this right means that nowhere is safe–our schools, our houses of worship, our groceries, our parks, our restaurants, our parades and public events, our shopping districts and malls, our neighborhoods and our homes. For those who argue that an armed presence, a police presence is what we need–all kinds of public safety forces were present at the parade in Highland Park. No doubt they saved lives in their rapid response but seven died and twenty or so were wounded by the 80 rounds fired in the brief period before the gunman needed to flee–some with devastating wounds that will take months or years to heal, if they ever fully do. This is the price of our freedom.
This is not the country I grew up in but it is the country we have become. Simone Weil contended that when we speak of rights, we need to speak first of obligations. It seems to me that our contemporary insistence on rights is devoid of the obligations that accompany any right. I wonder what our young men are learning about the obligations and responsibilities that come as they make the transition from boys to adult men. Are they learning only that no one should constrain their freedom, which the power of a gun makes more irresistible? Or are they learning that the exercise of our rights ought never impair the rights of others and especially the most vulnerable among us?
We cannot ban men from owning guns. But we can ask what kind of men we are raising our sons to become.