Too often guns and poverty go hand in hand.
Whether it’s all out war or localized armed conflicts, guns play a prominent role in spreading poverty rapidly over broad areas. One cannot help but be struck by the fact that in developing nations where children are decimated by hunger – there are guns. In regions where people die from treatable illnesses because there is no medicine – there are guns. In areas where babies are stillborn and women die during childbirth without medical care – there are guns. And in over crowded slums where the disabled line the streets begging – there are guns. No matter how severe the poverty, nothing seems to supersede the need to have guns. Sadly a firearm can unleash hate and evil in an instant. One momentary lapse in judgment can change at least two lives forever. That is why the ability of one individual to kill effortlessly at will is a terrible and frightening thing. But we must come to grips with the fact that, for the foreseeable future, guns are here to stay. That being said, the real solution to the problem of violence and the murders that occur at gunpoint is a change in us. Humanity has to re-examine how we value life. We have to have the courage to step back from the easy opportunity to kill.
Guns are prevalent because there is significant money to be made by selling arms to those who are convinced they need them. Governments that do not care about the immorality of spreading death to those who are already suffering are happy to line their pockets with the blood stained money they can easily make by supplying every side in a conflict with weapons. There is no consideration given to right or wrong or a distinction made between freedom and tyranny, there is just easy money to be made supplying the instruments of death that will guarantee that a particular area remains locked in brutal poverty for years to come. Governments who deal in arms do not care if their products are used by children who have been forced to join militias. They do not care if their goods murder innocent civilians. They do not care if their merchandise maims and cripples both physically and psychologically. They just want to make money. For them it is not a life and death matter – it’s just business.
It is a grievous form of irony that so many men of peace have been murdered with firearms. Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Medgar Evers, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, John Lennon and many more all sought peace in their own ways and yet all died violently at the hands of one individual with a gun. Stop and think about the potential these men had to offer humanity, but in one moment all of that wisdom, courage, leadership and creativity was snuffed out by the pull of a trigger…and yet the firm belief that guns are not only a necessity but a desirable addition to a civilized world persists. It is difficult to comprehend how making killing as easy and affordable as possible helps a society. To put a deadly weapon into the hands of someone who is not mentally or emotionally competent to handle such responsibility is not only dangerous it is morally wrong. However, in a capitalist society right or wrong does not count. The money behind the organizations and lobbyists that fight for the right of every unstable American to own a weapon is all that matters. Our political leaders are bought and sold. In America bullets have more power than ballots.
For the most part guns exist for one basic purpose and that is to take life. Whether they are used on human beings or animals, firearms are our preferred method of killing. However, it is important to point out that a gun is just an inanimate object that cannot hurt anyone. It is the human being who picks it up that suddenly has the power to kill. So it is our attitude towards the sanctity of life that determines how we use a firearm, and, unfortunately, life is cheap in many parts of the world. Human beings are killed everyday because of their gender, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their political viewpoints or because of their religious beliefs. When you have a disagreement with someone who has a gun they have the option of winning that argument by ending your life. If it is a one on one encounter it is murder. On a larger scale it is war. In the worst case it is genocide. But at what ever level, it comes down to our unwillingness to value every human life equally.
For the one billion human beings trapped in the horror of extreme poverty having guns added to their daily existence elevates the possibility of danger to an unbearable level. A young man who literally has nothing in his life except the AK-47 he holds in his hands, reveres the weapon for all the potential it represents. In his mind it symbolizes freedom because no one can tell him what to do when he has 30 cartridges he can unleash in a short burst. It frees him from the need to earn money because he can simply take what he wants. It delivers him from those who would oppress him because he can oppress them first. It changes him from a victim into an aggressor, and it can change him from someone who respects human life into someone who can kill without hesitation.
In poverty-stricken areas around the world – including America – boys as young as 8 years of age carry guns in the belief that it offers at least some measure of security in a life that has always been unpredictable at best. In their immature minds a weapon levels the playing field, allowing those who are armed to fight back against the injustice that is inherent in poverty. Many young men feel it gives them respect to be seen carrying a gun. After all, in their hands they hold a device that gives them command over life and death. Each person that comes into contact with them is at their mercy. They believe a gun gives them absolute control in a world where they have never had control over anything. All of their lives they have been a victims, but suddenly they move from being powerless to being individuals with the ultimate power of life and death over others. They are convinced that a firearm gives them a way to fight back against the helplessness of their lives.
Tragically a gun gives anyone the power of God.