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Scene4 Magazine: Nathan Thomas | www.scene4.com

Nathan Thomas

Guns

There’s something I want to say that may lose me some friends, and I’m sorry about that.

But I’ve been thinking about this since Newtown and often since.

Do I want to take your guns away?

Yes. Yes, I do.

In the same way that I want your car keys if you’re drunk. If you’ve had too much to drink, give me (or someone else) your keys. If you won’t hand them over, I’ll take them from you. And, if you’re bats**t crazy or involved with crazy hate groups, you don’t get a gun. No. No guns for you until you’re not bats**t crazy or involved with crazy hate groups. At a minimum.

I’d also like to keep loaded weapons out of the hands of toddlers.  “Guns don’t kill people – people kill people.”  I guess so, but what of the growing number of stories of toddlers and other small children who pick up loaded weapons and accidentally kill or wound other children? Was that done out of the nefarious intent of toddlers?  Or was that done because guns are too darn easy to use?  But I realize we can’t keep weapons out of the hands of toddlers because of our good friend, the Second Amendment.

“But there’s the Second Amendment!” Yes. Yes, there it is.

I don’t care if you have a gun or many guns to bang away at ducks or want to kill Bambi’s mother. I’ve known hunters forever. They’re great folks. I’ve held an (unloaded) Uzi in my hands because of a friend who is a gun owner.

The health, safety, and what used to be called the public “weal” balance individual rights against public rights. Consequently, I have a right to speak my mind as guaranteed by the First Amendment. But I don’t have the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre and cause a panic that endangers others. I have the right to assemble. But I don’t have the right to get folks together in a room to plan a criminal conspiracy. And so on. There’s a balance between my individual rights and the general well-being of the community.

“If someone else had a gun, they could’ve taken him out.” Well, maybe.  That’s called war, last I checked.  The place where people with guns are shooting at other people with guns.  Are we at war now?  With whom?

In Charleston, it was a church.

I’ve read my Bible cover to cover, and I’ve even been a part-time preacher once upon a time. And I don’t know that the Man who spoke the Sermon on the Mount would want the only way to be safe in the Body of God is for multiple people packing heat during worship or prayers or Bible study.

And the absolute last place on Earth we want police or security officers or anything like that is a church.

And the last place on Earth you want to feel uncomfortable about strangers is a church.

Folks, I’ve traveled this great country from coast to coast and top to bottom. I am that stranger. I’ve been in every kind of church you can have. I’ve been at high Mass in a cathedral and Lutheran services in German, and I’ve clapped along with the band in what seemed like an adapted double-wide with folks rapturously speaking in tongues. (About the only folks I haven’t been with are the snake handlers – that’s a step too far for me.) I am a Christian person. As such I shouldn’t be a stranger in any house of worship. If my baptism means anything, it means I’m a member of the family wherever I go and regardless of whom I happen to be worshiping with.

In Oregon, it was a classroom – also a place I know a little about.  Do we want more guns in our schools?  In the hands of teachers?  Students? What kind of jack-booted world do we want to live in – in which we have armed guards in every hallway of our schools? And people seriously suggest this. 

“But I need my guns because of tyrannical government!”

OK. You want to take out the drones when they do a fly-over. I get that. But please don’t shoot down the Amazon drone delivering more “Frozen” gear for my daughter, she’ll be disappointed.

The Ohio National Guard shot at war protesters at Kent State. (One of the victims was a friend of a friend.) Hardly an example of liberal tyrants trying to take out the “real” America. Other than that, the examples of “tyrannical” government are usually agencies doing police functions – ATF agents, FBI agents, and police and the like. Are you going to arm up against Andy, your classmate who is now a sheriff’s deputy? Really?

I have friends who are police and good police. But we should probably have a conversation about what we want and need from police and policing functions.

“But laws that restrict guns mean that only criminals will have the guns.”

Well, I kind of get that. But fill in those words with about anything else, and there’s a part of that phrase which doesn’t make sense too. It’s only criminals who rob houses, so we shouldn’t have laws against robbery? It’s only speeders who break the speed limit, so we shouldn’t have a speed limit? (And this is from someone who has gotten his share of tickets.)

As I write these words, Stillwater, OK is the site of a tragedy at the annual Oklahoma State University homecoming parade. A drunk driver ran into the crowd and killed and injured folks.  When I was a boy, driving with a cold beer in your hand wasn’t considered a terrible thing. Now we have tough laws and fewer drunk driver accidents.  Hmmmm. . . . . .where else might this work . . . . .?

 “If he didn’t have a gun, he would’ve used something else.”

Yeah, probably.

But I’d like to keep explosives out of the hands of the Timothy McVeigh’s of the world, too. If someone is hell-bent on breaking into your house, they can do it. But you don’t have to make it easy for them. It doesn’t mean you have to live with your doors unlocked and all of your windows wide open. You throw some obstacles in their way, and you hope that will dissuade the 99.9%. That leaves you free to concentrate your energies on confounding that much narrower group of the .1% who are hell-bent on getting into your house.

“He got the gun legally. No proposed laws would have stopped him having his gun.”

Yes. Yes, that’s true. That’s why I want to take his gun away before he walks into that church or into that schoolroom or that movie theatre. That means we have to talk about mental illness. That means we have to talk about genuine racial hate and not pretend it doesn’t exist. That means we have to talk about technology that makes guns safer and a little (or a lot) less easy to use. That means we have to talk about where Second Amendment individual rights are balanced with the health and safety of the community.

“You’re just politicizing a tragedy.”

Well, maybe.

It was a church. It was a movie theatre. It was a grocery store parking lot. It was a school. Been to one of those places recently?

What rule says we have to live like this? We’re adult people. We can make choices.

Why do we behave so that if a nut-job from Syria beheads an American, that act is something worth going to war over; but a nut-job who is a mass murderer here at home prevents us from doing anything?

When I take my daughter to her Montessori school, I don’t want to have to eye the other parents and wonder, “Is she about to crack-up, go crazy, shoot her son and then herself? Is he on meth, and going to go nuts one day and come to school with a gun in his waist-band?” And I don’t want other parents eyeing me. I think my daughter is reasonably safe. But, if I think about it too much, I get petrified.

And I certainly don’t want to eye the strangers who come into my church. Is there a gun in that bag?

I’m a mess as a person. I’m a mass of problems. I need to engage with God in a way that makes sense to my heart and my brain. I don’t want the place where that happens to be in question.

I work in a school.  I shouldn’t have to worry about whether some person gets upset and decides to settle their issues in a river of blood.

“It was a racist attack, you’re fine if you’re in a white congregation.” I don’t even want to honor *that* base thought with a reply. What I will say is this: The last place on Earth where there should be any separation of peoples is a church or a school.

And you know that.

If you’ve read this far and you’re of a conservative frame of reference, I realize you might be very angry with me, or with the ideas I’ve put here. I have some friends who are strongly supportive of their guns. Thanks for reading. I have other friends who probably agree with this from word one. Thanks for reading.

A group of American citizens went to their church to study their Bibles together. And another American shot them because those citizens also happened to be black.  A boy went into a classroom and shot people because he had a difficult time getting laid.

I don’t think this has anything to do with the President, or with Congress, or liberal, or conservative. My message is this: How long are we as a people going to say this is the acceptable and/or appropriate price we pay for the right to own a gun?

How many bodies is it worth? How much blood?

Why do we have to live like this?

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Nathan Thomas has earned his living as a touring actor,
Artistic Director, director, stage manager, designer, composer,
and pianist. He has a Ph.D. in theatre, and is a member of the
theatre faculty at Alvernia College.
He also writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of his commentary and articles,
Check the Archives:

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©2015 Nathan Thomas
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November 2015

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