Gun Reform VS. Self-Reform
Engaging Violence within & without
By Andrew J. Bauman
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree. No one shall make them afraid.”
Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3-4
After years of battling depression, and only a few months out of the psychiatric facility, I walked into the local Walmart in east Tennessee and bought a gun. I remember holding the gun loosely in my silent apartment imagining how the bullet would pass through my brain. I am glad I didn’t pull the trigger, but at the time, ambivalence around my life and my death reigned supreme. That was over 13 years ago, I now consider myself a miracle. Someone who has tasted the depths of hell and the throngs of glory and who now has the responsibility to speak to both realities. I should have never been able to buy a gun that shadowy November day. I simply lied on the form I signed about my mental health status and I walked out the door as a first-time gun owner. I was suicidal. I wasn’t going to harm anyone else, I hated myself enough and knew where to turn my venom if things got out of hand. My life was worth national gun reform.
Both sides of the national gun debate have their accuracies. We do need more access to high-quality mental health treatment (as a mental provider I know first hand the load each counselor bears, it’s far too heavy and the salary far too low for mental health providers to thrive.) On the other hand, we desperately need gun laws to be improved to help keep those who should not have access get access to firearms. It will not stop all gun violence, but it would help, just as it would have helped me.
All people are capable of great Evil, at any moment. No one is exempt. No matter how healthy we are; all are capable of losing that mental stability we think we had. One broken heart from a lover, one betrayal from a dear friend, one internet bully, it doesn’t take much when you feel the darkness of the entire world within you. We are more fragile than many of us would like to admit. According to Harvard School of Public Health, “Every study that has examined the issue to date has found that within the U.S., access to firearms is associated with increased suicide risk.” Shouldn’t we as Christians do our best to protect those most vulnerable citizens even from themselves? Shouldn’t we make an attempt to mitigate further tragedy if it is in our power to do so? We must be on the front lines of promoting peace not crafting access to more violence and war?
I thank God, I didn’t pull that trigger that day. I thank God, that I was rescued. A professor/ counselor at the college I was attending began to take an interest in my life. He began to father my orphan heart. He was able to show me that God was real, through his love for me. He showed me a larger narrative to live for, that my life mattered, and that I could use my broken story for redemption and I am proud that I am now living into this great calling on my life.
We all need larger narratives to live for, and the story of life conquering death we must be on the frontline of that fight because it’s the heart of the Gospel. Life wins, and we must bring this life into the darkness of violence, even the violence within ourselves. Goodness has the last word on Evil. I am inspired by those who are doing this work in disarming violence and promoting peace, folks like Shane Claiborne over at TheSimpleWay.org and folks at RawTools.org who are “Disarming Hearts and Forging Peace”. And people like John Huckins and Jer Swigart with Global Immersion Project who are training peacemakers in way the Jesus. These folks and many more are leading the conversation for what it means for us to live out and into the Prince of Peace.