You don’t have to be a Christian to see the wisdom of the line in the Lord’s Prayer that asks that ‘we be not led into temptation’. From the ice-cream dangling in the direction of a tubby child to the wallet picked up from the seat of a taxi, there are many circumstances that tempt us to do things we know we should not. People with good consciences simply don’t.
Among the worst things we can do is to take another’s life or to take our own, unless there are justifiable reasons for doing so. Defence is justifiable – though not all agree – and ending your own life in circumstances where it doesn’t much hurt others but relieves you of severe pain must become acceptable in a humane society. But the highest suicide rates are associated with those who have access to unguarded drug cupboards. We all feel a little suicidal at times; fortunately access to the means is restricted for most of us.
I doubt there is anyone who wants to put a loaded gun into the hands of a small child. The temptation to pull the trigger might, at times, be overwhelming. For the same reason we do not make a habit of providing weapons and live ammunition to lunatics. Which is why large numbers of people at a gathering are seldom killed by lunatics. But the number to meet this fate is increasing, especially in the United States.
We are told that it was not known that the perpetrator in the recent Las Vegas tragedy was mad. Killing people you don’t know for reasons that have nothing to do with protection of self or others is madness by any definition. The majority of people would never do it. I will hazard a guess that even the tiny minority who might would hesitate if they had to stop and think, and if the means for assassination were difficult to come by and controlled in use.
Until the last presidential election the rest of the world thought America a sensible place. Lax on gun laws, for sure, and a bit over-dedicated to money-making, perhaps, but on the whole common-sensical. Presidential problems apart, the US is now widely seen as crazy to allow gun acquisition and ownership indiscriminately. A constitutional right to bear arms no more empowers everyone who fancies it to amass piles of armaments – for whatever reason – than it allows a drunk driver to sit at the wheel of a moving car.
The argument that America is a dangerous pace is circular. If it is a dangerous place it is because of unlimited access to guns. Reducing gun ownership will take time and monitoring the holding and use of guns will be tedious. So is policing the roads. It is the price to pay for a society that wants proper rules about dangerous driving and dangerous weapons. But there is another reason for gun control, too.
Law enforcement demands officers of high integrity. Their authority and presence should do most of the work for them. When they resort to violence they demean themselves as well as those they are protecting. It is sad that British police are increasingly armed. Sometimes they have to be and by all means we want them safe but their increasingly bearing arms is one more step in the direction of accepting violence as a way of life.
Bringing a society back from the road to escalating violence is no easy task.
No politician worth his salt would say that it cannot be done.