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A Culture of Death

A young woman who was dedicating her life to serving families in pain died of a random shooting in Kansas City.

In separate incidents, 29 people were murdered, at least 20 of them by a white supremacist likely urged on by the rhetoric of the President of the United States, whose hate filled rhetoric incites violence.

Americans have created a culture of death, as Pope John Paul II noted. In Jewish culture no value is higher than the preservation of life, except perhaps abolishing idolatry. A portion of Americans break both laws: they idolize guns to such an extent that they would rather see people die than impose the rational limitations on guns that protect the citizens of every other democracy in the world. I have heard people say that the Second Amendment is in the Constitution to protect Americans against a rogue government. Two major caveats: do those people really believe that they will protect themselves against the most powerful army in the world, mostly comprised of young, professional soldiers, with their home weapons and at their age? And second, even were the "rogue government theory plausible at some future time, is it really worth sacrificing thousands of people and their families and friends annually. Obviously, the answer to both is no. Then why the devotion to guns? All kinds of theories make partial sense to me: despair at life, the failure of our culture to provide meaning in life, ideological devotion to White Supremacy or some other destructive political movement, momentary anger, the carelessness of youths who carry guns for the ego thrill. All of these make partial sense.

But I'll tell you a theory that does not make sense: mental illness.

It doesn't make sense to me because the upsurge in killings is new but mental illness is not. And what is mental illness: a momentary emotional swing, like anger? A lifelong product of upbringing? A chemical imbalance temporary or long term? People who become angry and kill on the spur of the moment may be temporarily mentally deranged, but they are not mentally ill; and if they hadn't had access to a gun at the moment they shot their victims would likely still be alive and celebrating with their families.

The claim of mental illness is simply a device to avoid acting on the real cause of our high mortality rate with guns: the plethora of guns, the ease of acquisition, and the lack of responsibility. So, for instance: so many gun owners claim that their guns were stolen, and then used in a crime. I can stop that one immediately with a single law: register all guns and make the gun owner absolutely responsible for it with criminal penalties. Someone stole it and used it in a crime? You're responsible for no preventing it from being stolen. Someone took it out of your car's glove compartment? You're responsible for not protecting it! You own a gun? It's use is your absolute responsibility, with criminal and civil penalties! Adults must accept responsibility for their weapons. If you can't keep it safe, you can't own it.

There are many steps that can be taken to protect lives. Americans, and our legislators, simply choose not to take the steps. The solutions would not be immediate or absolute, but they could be effective over time.

My only conclusion: we are devoted to death and guns more than to life. We are not a religious nation after all, just a pietistic one. A religious nation would put the Bible's absolute admonition first: "Therefore choose life, that you and your people may live."

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