The Infringement to Self-Control

On the night of October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured. It was the deadliest mass-shooting committed by an individual in the United States, to date. We still don’t know why it happened.

He must have snapped. That must be it. How else can you explain it? How could a single, seemingly normal human being suddenly become a gunman, determined to kill or wound as many other human beings as possible?

Gunman is an interesting word. It would seem to intimate that the gun and the man become one, as though the man loses his human essence, transformed instantly into some other kind or species by using a gun to commit a crime.

Well, if he snapped, so could anyone else who owns a gun, right? It only makes sense. We should do something to prevent that from ever happening again. Pass a law. Why doesn’t somebody pass a law? Do something to stop the gunmen. Stop the apocalypse.

The fact is, no law would have prevented it, and no law will prevent it from happening again. Maybe next time a hundred people will die. Then, that event will be the worst killing spree in American history. And so on. If not with guns, then with a truckload of fertilizer.

America has always had guns. James Madison, the man most scholars consider to be the Father of the Constitution, said that Americans were blessed to have the right to arm themselves, which no other nation on earth afforded its citizens, because they couldn’t be trusted. He also said that the liberty of a free people depends upon the self-control of individual citizens. The more they lose the ability of self-control, the less freedom they have, because more laws are needed to govern them. He was right.

America has always had guns, but we have not always had the level of relentless violence that we see all around us, every day. We can’t turn on the news without seeing it or hearing about it. We have become a society that practices violence, while professing peace. We promote violence as a way to solve problems and to provide escape from them. No more proof is needed than to look objectively at the music, books, movies, TV shows, video games, and even sports that we support with our wallets every day. Even a “good” hockey game must include at least one fight. The fact is, we have come to love violence in this country. No other culture exhibits such a love of violence.

Let’s face it. Anyone can be violent. Nobody is immune. We all have it in us. Road rage is more common and closer to home than we’d like to admit. What is violence, but the loss of self-control in expressing anger or frustration? With the continual increase in violence in America, it’s obvious that we’re losing the ability to control ourselves, to govern ourselves.

That’s scarier than any gun.

Unless we find a remedy for such prolific violence, we will lose our freedoms, little by little. By steady erosion, we’ll eventually lose the Second Amendment. Then, the First. Then, the Fourth, and so on, until we find ourselves in thrall to a despotic government. Our lawmakers and those in power will be pressured to make more and more laws to fix a problem that can’t be fixed by any law.

It is up to us, as individual citizens, to find a remedy to the love of violence in our culture. But, unless we seek such a remedy, we won’t find it. “Seek and ye shall find,” says the book that many profess to love, but hardly anyone ever reads anymore, and even fewer practice its teachings. One might readily and rightly conclude that the increase in the love of violence has come with the decrease in the love of scripture.

One thing is for certain. Neither the culprit nor the remedy will ever be found in a gun cabinet, empty or otherwise.

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