Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You Packin' Heat?

I am haunted by this news story:

A boy is dead who didn't have to die, and a man has killed, who might not have had to kill.

While I generally support the idea of concealed-carry permits, I have grave reservations over whether John Q. Public always understands what it means to measure one's response to the actions of others.

Yes, I understand that a citizen should have the right to draw on some criminal who threatens his safety, and I understand that criminals deserve to live in fear of whether their potential victims might be armed.

I occasionally visit the Chinese buffet that resides in the building where the Luby's massacre took place, and I, like everyone else, have wondered how many lives might have been saved if someone could have fired back at the killer.

(Of course, there is no guarantee that 6 or 7 random, panicked, civilian diners, pulling out firearms of their own in the middle of that chaos would have made anything better.)

We all know the narrative that is used to explain the need to pack heat:  The law-abiding citizen is just minding his own business, when the criminal seizes the moment, has a weapon and the element of surprise in his favor, and carries out the robbery, the assault, the kidnapping, the rape, the murder, or what have you.

And who hasn't wished this innocent victim could have been armed, and at least had a chance to ward off the attacker?

But the story above is different, isn't it?

Yes, the guy is claiming a shotgun was pointed at his car, and maybe it was. The surviving boys from the car are claiming there was no weapon in their vehicle, and maybe there wasn't. We will probably never know.

But what led up to the critical moment?

The innocent, upstanding citizen himself, John Q. Public, supposedly minding his own business, was the one who initiated the argument over the volume of the music, and made contact with the boys a second time when the music was turned up again. The guy who had no legal standing to order these boys to turn the music down. The man who was waiting five minutes for his fiancee to get in and out of a convenience store. The father who didn't live in the area, but was visiting town for his son's wedding. The visitor with no stake in the community in which he was a guest, and no connection to the boys he confronted.

Do you really think the volume of the music in the car next to him was not something he could have tolerated for five minutes?

Do you really think he could not have simply joined his fiancee inside the store if he didn't like the music in the car next to him?

Do you really think this matter was so critical that he needed to confront complete strangers he was never going to see again?

Do you really think something so important was at stake here, that it warranted introducing hostilities into a visit that was supposed to be about his son's wedding?

Surely not.

Why do you think this man confronted these boys?

Just because he was annoyed by their music? Maybe. Who hasn't been annoyed by the rudeness and presumption of someone's loud music? Or maybe this guy is just a complete hothead who confronts people all the time. Who knows?

Of course, now that his only priority is to avoid legal culpability for this killing, we will certainly see him portrayed as a kind and gentle soul who feared for his life and fired eight shots into a car out of pure necessity.

But I doubt he fits either stereotype, the hothead or the gentle soul. I suspect he is an average guy given to normal human emotions, and the fact that he was armed had something to do with the boldness he felt and the shortness of his patience, which prompted him to confront complete strangers over a trifling nuisance in a convenience store parking lot in an unfamiliar city he was visiting for his son's wedding.

Who doesn't feel tougher when insured by Smith & Wesson? Who hasn't fantasized about inviting some disrespectful punk to go ahead and make your day? Anyone might feel like the wrong hombre to fool with if a loaded gun were within easy reach.

Is it tempting for us to go ahead and start a fight we might otherwise avoid, when we know we have the power to finish it?

How do we handle the power to hurt other people?

Whether or not you're carrying a physical weapon, you have within your reach, at this very moment, everything you need to make someone bleed.




*Uncontrolled anger.

*Digs at character flaws.

*Assumption of bad motive.

*Reminders of past sin and its aftermath.

These weapons and others like them are more damaging than any blade or bullet, and are readily available to every one of us, without any permits or restrictions. When it comes to these weapons, we're all packing, aren't we?

Since we're all practicing concealed-carry, what kind of people ought we to be?

*Makers of peace (Matthew 5:9)

*Absorbers of insult (Matthew 5:38-42)

*Lovers of enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)

*Choosers of loss (I Corinthians 6:1-7)

*Refusers of revenge (Romans 12:17-19)

Where is maturity? Where is wisdom?

Wisdom and maturity are found when our easy access to the deadly weapon makes us less likely to pick the fight in the first place.

What do you imagine the shooter from the news story is now wishing he had done that day?

1 comment:

Rob Dennis said...

I did a youth rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last summer and gave a talk about honoring God. That day more news came out about the Martin/Zimmerman tragedy and wouldn't you know that story was in my talk. So here is a big angry looking (even though you know me and know I'm not) shaved headed dude on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial about to say simply this: if either party in this situation had sought to honor God this probably wouldn't have happened. If our motive is to honor God then we will be more likely (or should be anyway) to show the grace, mercy, and forgiveness He shows us, the WAY He shows it to us, unconditionally.