The Hero in Us

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In the wake of the horrific killings in Colorado and Wisconsin, the gun control debate has been on the forefront in the media.

According to the figures released by the FBI, violent crime rate went down by 4% in 2011. Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesperson for the NRA, was quick to point out in The Washington Times that “It would be disingenuous for anyone to not credit increased self-defense laws to account for this decline.” But, further analysis of the data reveals that gun violence has pretty much stayed the same between 2010 and 2011; it’s the other homicide categories that went down significantly.

Gun ownership in the U.S. soared to an eighteen year high in 2011. 47% of Americans own a gun in their homes or elsewhere on their properties and gun homicide rates are the highest in the world, about eight times higher in the U.S. as compared to other developed countries.

These statistics point to a disturbing upward trend in aggression.

Books, movies and television serve us models of heroes who carry guns and are not chary at using them. The virtues of a lightning fast draw are reinforced as being the necessary trait of celluloid daredevils. A hero is one who can draw his weapon faster than the villain.  It is no wonder that gun ownership has risen. It gives credibility to the hero in us.

I submit, however, that there are a few practical considerations that make gun ownership somewhat futile. Imagine that there were few gun controls in place. Would gun owners carry their weapons to a movie theater or to a grocery store? How feasible is it to go to Sunday service at a temple, church, gurdwara or mosque with a weapon tucked in your trouser belt?

Only if that were the case, would the shootings in Arizona, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas and, let’s not forget, the Stand Your Ground case in Florida have had less of a toll.

Now, imagine that we did indeed carry our weapons everywhere. Are we then going to be in a state of readiness, at all times? If and when confronted with a gunman, how soon are we going to be able to draw out our own weapons to retaliate?

The very act of owning a gun signifies aggression. As a nation we would be better served to teach ourselves techniques of peace rather than elements of war. Let our inner hero be the one who reduces acts of violence by initiating and moderating dialogs of peace. For a peaceful solution is often the most sustainable one.

Jaya Padmanabhan

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