In the middle of December, 2012, two outbreaks of violence in America, each involving people being randomly killed by guns, happened within the space of several days. On December 11, at the Clackamas Town Center, a mall in Clackamas, Oregon, a young man fired a semi-automatic rifle at shoppers, killing two people and seriously wounding a third person, before shooting and killing himself. On December 14, at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, another young man, also wielding a semi-automatic rifle, shot and killed twenty-six people, including twenty children, before taking his own life. Both acts of murder served as grisly proof that America still is plagued by a pair of dreadful problems that demand strong action: the problem of violence, in general, and the problem of guns, in particular.
President Barack Obama, speaking at a public vigil in Newtown on the evening of December 17, said, "We can't tolerate this anymore," and spoke of his special grief for the twenty children who had been killed there, but as a duplicitous leader with a record of voicing support for the so-called right to own a gun, his sentiments were suspect and had little meaning. If President Obama and other Americans were honestly concerned about the well-being of their children, would they not be ardently determined to ordain whatever measures might be needed, such as sharply abridging the current extent to which firearms are available and annulling the Second Amendment of the Constitution, to ensure the safety of those precious children? Instead, it is far more likely that, if most Americans actually had to make a final choice, they would give up their children before they would give up their guns. Such is the vile depth of their collective sickness.
Being a pacifist who is steadfastly committed to the principle of nonviolence, I have become wearily accustomed to hearing loud mockery, and receiving harsh dismissal, whenever I choose to put forth my own beliefs, but in view of the repeated instances of haphazard violence that continue to pollute the common realm of daily existence in America, I believe more firmly than ever that I am in the right. It is undeniable that guns are abominable devices of profound evil, expressly designed to kill and to maim, and it is equally undeniable that evil always, and inevitably, results when people are allowed to have easy access to guns. Only a hopeless fool, or a dangerously bellicose member of the National Rifle Association, would even attempt to dispute either of those self-evident contentions. Guns have become the primary tools of violence in America, and therefore it undoubtedly is, in my reckoning, a pressing matter of moral necessity that they should be condemned and outlawed.
Beyond the question of guns in America, there is the wider question of the American mentality itself, a perverse mentality of heedless violence that accepts killing, embraces killing, endorses killing, and glorifies killing. It seems that Americans have an unholy craving for bloodshed that can never be satisfied. They constantly wage war abroad, usually against civilians, and they regularly shoot one another at home. Even American entertainment is filled with slaughter and mayhem. In films, television programs, graphic novels, and video games, violence and brutality are mindlessly celebrated, without any consideration for the value of human life. In the daily pattern of American experience, human life usually is held as worthless, which is why killings happen with such sickening frequency in America. If Americans truly regarded human life as valuable, as they claim to do, they would renounce violence in all its varied forms. At the very least, they would be willing to shun the use of firearms.
I am aware that, in daring to offer these straightforward words, I am speaking into the cold emptiness of an unyielding void. When Americans are called upon to address, or even to acknowledge, the extensive damage that is caused by the violent framework of American life, they usually respond by being proudly hardheaded, refusing to admit the wrongness of their savage ways and roughly fending off all appeals to reason. I know that few Americans will comprehend the full intent of my blunt comments, and I also know that even fewer Americans will be inclined to agree with them, but in this case, the truth is absolute and stands nonetheless. In cities, towns, and suburbs across America, that truth is there to be seen, clearly and readily, every day and everywhere: Americans, as a people, are relentlessly prone to violence, as evidenced by their irrational devotion to their guns.