The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 39,773 Americans lost their lives to firearms in 2017. Since 1968, 1,625,000 Americans have died from gunfire. That is more than all American deaths in all wars since the founding of America more than 200 years ago. From 2008 to 2017 there were 342,439 deaths by firearms and 374,340 deaths caused by motor vehicles. It is hard to believe that guns are nearly equal to cars in their careless use. These numbers are facts, not opinions. The opinions come when people are placing blame for gun violence.
Everyone from the NRA to the WTA wants to explain why this is happening, and we would add another voice to the discussion. The trend in firearm deaths is evident. In 1968 the number of deaths due to firearms in the United States was roughly 24,000. In 2017 the number of fatalities was roughly 40,000. In almost 50 years, there has been a dramatic increase that no one can deny. That leads to people placing blame for gun violence.
What else has changed in those 50 years? We have only cited the years for which we have numbers. Before 1968, deaths due to firearms would have been much lower. As a teenager in the 50s, I can remember that when someone died due to a firearm in our half of the state, it made the front page of every newspaper.
Some say that mental illness is the cause of the increase. I would suggest that we have always had the mentally ill with us. Until the mid 20th century, there were virtually no medications that relieved the symptoms of the mentally ill. I can recall classmates in high school who were mentally ill, and none of them resorted to violence with a firearm.
Some say that gun availability is the cause of this, but I bought my first gun when I was 12 years old. I had a hard time deciding between a 12 gauge shotgun and a 22 rifle. In southern Indiana, it seemed that every pickup truck had a gun rack behind the driver’s seat. There was usually more than one loaded gun in the rack. The trucks were never locked so any five-year-old could have climbed in, grabbed a loaded gun, and started shooting.
So when placing blame for gun violence, we cannot completely point to those factors. The one thing that has changed in the same time period is our country’s fundamental faith in God. When you read all of our historical documents, even those written by those who may have had doubts about God, you see a basic declaration of the importance of living by God’s principles. Even though my father was an atheist, he grew up with a father who was a minister, and he believed and lived by the basic teachings of the Bible.
In the last 50 years, we have been saturated with the doctrine propagated by the media and the educational establishment that humans are just animals. Along with that, goes the belief in survival of the fittest as the basic rule by which we should live. In the animal world, you generally don’t see the notion that the less fit should be cared for and looked after by those who are fit.
The idea of caring for the less fit has been denigrated among human beings by people like Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They vocalize what much of our culture wants to believe. Everything from abortion to euthanasia is radically affected by what we believe about the worth of a human being. If educated leaders in the secular world want to eliminate those they see as unfit, how can we expect a mentally ill person not to embrace the same idea? The problem is how they identify the unfit.
“We then that are are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). That is a principle of Christianity and should be applied to both spiritual and physical weakness. In Matthew 25, when Jesus describes the basis of judgment by God, He said, “I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison, and you visited me…”
Perhaps society is placing blame for gun violence on the wrong things. It is only when a person accepts the biblical concept that ALL human beings are created in the image of God, and therefore, ALL human life is sacred, that we can hope to see a change. It is only then that we can have a psychological foundation that allows even the mentally ill to understand that they have value and that people care about them and want to help them. There is no-one “unfit” in the sight of God. Violence will only increase as our children play video games and watch movies that glorify those who are strong destroying the weak.
— John N. Clayton © 2019