Marianne Williamson is Right. We Have a Gun Problem AND a Culture Problem


I am getting tired of the way the gun debate plays out in the wake of mass shootings.  Everyone tries to score political points or use the deaths of innocent lives to advance their own agendas.

For example, here is court evangelical Tony Perkins claiming that the problem is not guns, but evolution and the “driving of God from the public square.”

Others naively believe that mass shootings will stop if we just ban certain weapons.

Why can’t it be both?

Do we live in a violent culture?  Yes.  In one sense, the United States has always been a violent culture.  In another sense, there are clearly things going in our culture right now that were not present fifty years ago. It is thus worth thinking about changes over time when we try to explain why we have so many mass shootings.

Are guns a problem?  Yes.  If Tony Perkins is correct, and we do have a moral problem in the country, then why wouldn’t he support bans on assault weapons that can kill large numbers of people in short periods of time?  If Perkins believes that human beings are sinners, then I think he would be the first person to want to take these weapons out of the hands of sinful people who will use them to kill people.

I think Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson gets it mostly right.  Here is a taste of her recent op-ed in The Washington Post:

America does not just have a gun crisis; it has a cultural crisis. America will not stop experiencing the effects of gun violence until we’re ready to face the many ways that our culture is riddled with violence.

Our environmental policies are violent toward the Earth. Our criminal justice system is violent toward people of color. Our economic system is violent toward the poor. Our entertainment media is violent toward women. Our video games are violent in their effect on the minds of children. Our military is violent in ways and places where it doesn’t have to be. Our media is violent in its knee-jerk shaming and blaming for the sake of a better click rate. Our hearts are violent as we abandon each other constantly, breeding desperation and insanity. And our government is indirectly and directly violent in the countless ways it uses its power to help those who do not need help and to withhold support from those who do.

The darker truth that Americans must face now is this: Our society is not just steeped in violence; we are hooked on violence. And in area after area, there are those who make billions of dollars on deepening the hook. Until we see that, we will just have more violence. Our minds must awaken so we can see all this. Our hearts must awaken so we can change all this. And our politics must change so we can discuss all this.

Read the entire piece here.

13 thoughts on “Marianne Williamson is Right. We Have a Gun Problem AND a Culture Problem

  1. Tony: Please see my above response to one of your previous comments. Your ability to empathize and enter into conversation and dialogue with people with whom you disagree needs much work. You might disagree with this assessment, but I am not sure that matters when it comes to you commenting on this blog.


  2. Alex,

    Obviously, neither of us know all the details of the sad situation you described, but people who don’t have access to handguns also have no trouble finding other methods to kill themselves. I don’t know how the whole thing breaks down statistically in the USA, but one reads about plenty of pill-overdosers, poison-drinkers, wrist-cutters, bridge-jumpers, carbon monoxide-inhalers, etc. Handguns are not the only way for a person to commit suicide.


  3. John,
    A member of your church told me once they would have probably committed suicide if they had had access to a hand gun on a particular night they received bad news. They said they were only deterred from using an available long gun because they were not confident they could not retrieve it discreetly. Our Culture had failed this person, but lack of access to a hand gun may have saved this person’s life. It’s also a reminder that gun owners should never assume people in their homes are immune to suicidal thoughts.


  4. “He stood up with a lit Molotov cocktail and threw it at me,” Baker would tell The Sentinel in June 2003. “I dodged it, but it exploded on the sidewalk behind me.”

    The bottle filled with gasoline passed so close to Baker he could hear it make a swishing sound as it flew through the air.

    As he closed in, Baker saw the figure try to throw a plastic gallon bottle filled with gasoline.

    Baker dodged that, too, then found himself being chased by the figure in black.

    Keeping his head, Baker led the person away from the [school] building and a duffel bag that investigators say contained a baseball bat and two butcher knives. He would later talk down Herbert “Teddy” Getz IV, who confessed to the crime.

    My brother, sister, two of my cousins, numerous church members and I were in that school that day. Baker is my neighbor now. Isn’t there reason to believe it would have gone differently if Teddy had had access to an AR-15?


  5. You and me both. No sane person is in favor of mass shootings. But there is no reason to believe that banning so-called assault weapons will do anything to prevent them. It’s pure political theatre.


  6. You spoke of “the Groundhog Day” repeated agitation for “banning stuff”. A lot of that is political posturing of course.
    But I have to say I am more than tired of the “Ground Hog Day” mass shootings of people who were lawfully going about their business.


  7. Everyone tries to score political points or use the deaths of innocent lives to advance their own agendas.

    Starting while the bullets are still flying.
    Each casualty nothing more than An Opportunity To Advance MY Agenda.


  8. “Why wouldn’t he support bans on assault weapons that can kill large numbers of people in short periods of time?”

    Knowing a couple firearms enthusiasts and growing up around California Hot Rod Culture, I’d like to point out a minor factor in the mix that nobody else seems to notice:


  9. “Why wouldn’t he support bans on assault weapons that can kill large numbers of people in short periods of time?”

    Why indeed? We’ll set aside the pesky constitutional prohibitions implicated by your desire to ban certain demon guns, as well as your refusal to even consider that many millions of people use semi-automatic rifles for home defense, to focus on the use of the term “assault weapon.” What is that, exactly? It sure sounds scary (thus, its political utility) but since words should have meaning, please define it.

    What most people mean when they invoke so-called “assault weapons” is an AR-15, which as noted above is an incredibly popular, civilian-use semi-automatic (it fires one round per trigger pull) rifle. To people who know nothing about guns — and that’s about 99.9 percent of our betters in the media and most politicians who endlessly lecture people on this topic — AR-15’s look frightening (“Look at all those … gizmos and attachments! It’s painted camo, like a Rambo gun! Is that thingie under there a grenade launcher? Look, it has a frickin’ laser!”). But the reality is they are less powerful than many hunting rifles and are no more deadly than semi-auto handguns (yes, they have more range, but in the close-quarter mass shootings which inevitably give rise to this Groundhog Day agitating for banning stuff, range is irrelevant), which are used in the vast, vast majority (over 98%) of violent crimes.

    (Note: an “assault rifle” is an actual thing, basically a magazine fed, select fire (capable of full auto) infantry weapon, which is not available to the public and which is not an AR-15.)

    If you want to ban semi-auto rifles, why wouldn’t you also — read: be far more eager to — ban semi-auto handguns? Handguns kill far more people than bogeyman “assault weapons.” And it’s perhaps significant that we did have a much-ballyhooed assault weapons ban during the Clinton era, where they randomly selected fright-inducing cosmetic features having absolutely nothing to do with a gun’s lethality (barrel shrouds, bad! Collapsible stocks, bad! Flash suppressors, bad!) and made owning one a felony. Guess what? That ban lasted for a decade, and accomplished … nothing. Nada. Zilch. Didn’t reduce crime. Didn’t reduce gun deaths. Utterly worthless, as are most endeavors based on pure emotion and wholly arbitrary categories of verboten things.

    You say that a Christian should want to take weapons out of the hands of sinful people who want to use them to kill others. What of the innocent people (still sinful, of course, but law abiding) those sinful evildoers have decided to kill? What gives you the right to take a weapon they would use to defend themselves and their families out of their hands?

    Maybe next time we’ll tackle Ms. Williamson’s Orwellian re-purposing of the word “violent” to mean: “Most anything I don’t like.”


  10. It “can’t be both” because Neotribalism is the name of the game today. Politics is the new religion, and our “tribe” is viewed as something needing to be defending at all costs. As a dear friend of mine says (who is also a historian), the problem is that we no longer know how to call balls and strikes (to use a baseball metaphor). Very sad indeed.


  11. Ms. Williamson proposes a Department of Peace. Of course, she is a day late and a dollar short on the international front. We already have a Department of Peace; it’s called The Department of State. Ms. Williamson does state, however, that her new department would also foster peace activities domestically, so we need to discuss her innovative and heartfelt but ultimately untenable idea.

    I give her credit for identifying a moral vacuum in our society. Three cheers for the single Democrat presidential candidate who is not afraid to engage faith and values sincerely. Therein lies the problem. Secularists, using primarily the Democrat Party as their vehicle, have pretty well run religion out of the public square. A domestic Department of Peace, as broadly outlined by Williamson, would necessarily have ties to religion. After all, where do most of our morals and values originate? Litigious atheists, secularists, and humanists would quickly tie the new department’s programs in knots. The ACLU would have to double its staff just to keep up with the workload. Of course, religious conservatives might also bring lawsuits alleging infringement of their particular values.

    Another practical pitfall is that The Department Of Peace would attract an unhinged bevy of unrealistic ideologues who could live quite comfortably on the high the civil service pay grades in the Washington area. The department’s workaday meetings would be almost like a reunion of the group sensitivity sessions which were in vogue from 1967 through 1972. Some “real cool” employees would materialize suddenly from the arid plains of New Mexico, the mountains of Vermont, and the streets of Berkeley. The last laugh would be on the U.S. taxpayer.


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