Friday, December 6, 2019

Taking Aim at Gun Control


Successful deer hunt

A friend recently posted a notice that 36 million deer hunters were out in the woods and there wasn’t one mass killing.  To my friend, that proved it’s human intent that matters, not the weapon.

That’s, of course, as I told her via Facebook, nonsense.

Not one of those hunters was carrying an AK-47 or similar assault weapon.  Why?  Because if they shot a deer with rounds from one of those guns, the animal would be shredded beyond recognition. 

Moreover, a person may be just as intent to kill and have a knife instead of an Uzi.  Guess which weapon will cause more damage?

Successful people hunt in Dayton
No one with a knife killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio this year and wounded 27 more or killed 22 people in Waco, Texas and wounded 24 more.  The list could go one.  After all, there have been more than 380 mass killings in the U.S. just in 2019. 

From 2009 to 2018, this country has averaged 19 mass shootings a year.  That has led to the deaths of 1,121 Americans, including 309 children and 19 law enforcement officers.

No other country has come remotely close to those numbers. That’s because most other countries don’t allow citizens to own weapons willy-nilly.

In countries like Switzerland and Finland, where gun ownership ranks among the highest in the world, gun owners are required to pass mental and criminal records checks among other requirements.  Guess what?  Far fewer gun deaths and virtually no mass shootings.
Hemenway

It’s no hard to figure out why.  Harvard professor Dr. David Hemenway wrote, "We analyzed the relationship between homicide and gun availability using data from 26 developed countries from the early 1990s. We found that across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides." 

Doh.

Gun homicide rates in this country were “25.3 times higher and gun suicides were 8 times higher in 2010 than in other populous, high-income countries,” according to a 2016 study. Overall, 82 percent of all people worldwide killed by firearms were Americans.

Our response to the carnage?  Congress passed a law preventing research into gun violence while common sense gun controls have never even got through either house since the Brady Bill in the 1994.  And that law, requiring background checks and a cooling off period, has been circumvented by excluding gun shows.  My nephew owned a gun shop.  He knew very well the impact of unregulated gun sales.

In Australia, in contrast, conservative Prime Minister John Howard and legislators appalled by a 1996 mass shooting in Tasmania that left 35 people dead placed strict requirements on gun ownership.  In the next decade, homicides caused by guns dropped 59 percent.  There have been no more mass shootings Down Under.

Opponents to gun control cite the Second Amendment, which clearly states that the need for a militia requires the right to own guns.  Any of those deer hunters in a militia?

Besides, we have journeyed more than 200 years since that Amendment was added to the Constitution.  Weapons have improved.  Then, after every shot, a shooter had to reload.  The idea of an assault rifle didn’t exist.
 
Nor are restrictions on gun ownership illegal.  In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that anyone can own a gun, but municipalities have every right to restrict purchases.  That’s been the norm for more than a century.  After all, in the old West, every town that incorporated invariably passed a law banning forearms in the city limits.  Those people lived with gun violence every day.  They knew.

My favorite howler is the claim that citizens need assault rifles to defend themselves against their government.  They also say that the Nazi Party disarmed everyone after taking control in 1933. 
Both are false.

In the first place, gunowners are supposedly patriotic.  Apparently that means waiting to be ambushed by a government armed with nuclear weapons and every high-powered weapon known to man.  Good luck with even an assault rifle.  In Germany, Nazis removed guns from people they didn’t like.  Everyone else was left alone.  Democracies don’t act that way.

Democracies are also guided by the people, who, in poll after poll, overwhelmingly favor gun controls in an effort to end the mass murders in our schools, malls and offices. 

Assault rifle
We can start by banning assault rifles, just as they were from 1994 to 2004.  The law had little effect because ownership was grandfathered in; and rifles were rigged to handle larger magazines.  Only a law that removes these weapons from private hands would accomplish the task.  There is no known use for an assault rifle except to kill people.


With proper restraints in place, you can hunt all the deer you want after clearing background checks and other limitations.  Maybe then, you’ll stop hunting people.


Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com. He is the author of the recently published novel The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.




Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Draining Emotion from Religion

Asma

A recent online article by Stephen T. Asma, professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, claimed that religion’s value lies in “its therapeutic power, particularly its power to manage our emotions. How we feel is as important to our survival as how we think.”

That’s typical philosophical rubbish.

Just how much emotional management does a starving child in Africa do?  How about the billions worldwide living on the margins of life, trying to eke out a living while a small percentage of the population wallows in luxury?

Emotion doesn’t drive them.  They are completely focused on such basic needs as food and shelter.

Emotion actually has very little to do with religion.  We can all enjoy a choir singing; the beautiful architecture of a religious structure; the wide-ranging rituals with their cultural and historical bases; and even a theological discussion.  So what?

What really moves people, though, is belief.  Emotion only plays a part when belief is challenged.

Does it ever.  

Asma recognized that science has undermined religion:

Religion does not help us to explain nature. It did what it could in pre-scientific times, but that job was properly unseated by science. Most religious laypeople and even clergy agree: Pope John Paul II declared in 1996 that evolution is a fact and Catholics should get over it. No doubt some extreme anti-scientific thinking lives on in such places as Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky, but it has become a fringe position.

But he’s wrong about that “fringe” part.  Just look at the pronouncements of elected officials who are fighting such scientific facts as climate change.  There’s no emotion.  Belief drives them – and, in some cases, economic concerns likely to be damaged by controls to reduce environmental impact.

Emotion didn’t send former astronaut James Lovell climbing Mt. Ararat to look for Noah’s Ark, even though the mount was “identified” as the supposed landing spot about 1,000 years ago, or thousands of years after the biblical sailor could have bumped into the peak.  Or that geologists had long destroyed the myth of a universal flood anyway.

Emotions didn’t cause a school board in Pennsylvania to attempt to impose Creationism teachings on students; or Oklahoma legislators from voting to allow Christian monuments on public land. 

Emotion played little, if any role, in similar efforts across this country.  Nor did it drive a single suicidal terrorist to immolate himself and anyone else in the vicinity.

Add caption
Religion did that.

Yes, religion does provide comfort in times of crisis – the old part-truism that there are “no atheists in foxholes.”  It certainly “comforts the bereaved among us,” to quote from a Jewish funeral service.  It does impel sincere people to amazing and welcome altruistic feats.

Asma said:

Mainstream religion reduces anxiety, stress and depression. It provides existential meaning and hope. It focuses aggression and fear against enemies. It domesticates lust, and it strengthens filial connections. Through story, it trains feelings of empathy and compassion for others. And it provides consolation for suffering. Emotional therapy is the animating heart of religion. Social bonding happens not only when we agree to worship the same totems, but when we feel affection for each other. An effective community of mutual care emerges when groups share rituals, liturgy, song, dance, eating, grieving, comforting, tales of saints and heroes, hardships such as fasting and sacrifice. Theological beliefs are bloodless abstractions by comparison.

But at what cost?

Religion continues to spur wars, divide society, disrupt normal discourse and  interfere with knowledge.

At one time, religion served as the societal glue.  In our isolated communities, we could accept the same tales and follow the same rituals to honor our invented deities.  That’s not the modern world. 

The world is becoming increasingly secular.  Religion has become wedges that is driving us apart, not bringing us together.

It’s time to move on, without a hint of emotion.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com. He is the author of the recently published novel The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.