The Empowerment Project

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Letters from readers telling stories of nonviolent dispersal of danger.

This is an ongoing project. Stories will be added as they come in. My intention is to puncture the idea that we must be armed to be empowered, indeed, to break the grip that guns have on our society and pierce what theologian Walter Wink calls The Myth of Redemptive Violence: the notion that some violence is good.

Please write to me at koehlercw@gmail.com.

 

 

Dear Bob,

Eleven of my 40 years in the justice system were spent as a police officer and there was at least five times when I could have legally shot someone, including once in a face-to-face encounter with a man with a gun who had just shot a woman. In each case, I was able to convince the person to drop their weapon and to avoid having the death of another on my conscience.

Three of my personal friends were murdered in the line of duty and I had to physically fight on a number of occasions. I am not naive.

Following the recent shootings, I published a very short piece on a nonviolent response: http://williamjohncox.com/we-can-stop-the-slaughter-of-children/

Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts, even in your retirement.

William John Cox

WE CAN STOP THE SLAUGHTER OF CHILDREN

By William John Cox

The federal government, including the President, Congress and Supreme Court are effectively intimidated and immobilized by the right-to-bear arms lobby, and state legislatures are powerless to enact effective laws to regulate the ownership of firearms.

Nonetheless, across the nation, in thousands of cities and towns, people are asking if there is anything they can do locally to prevent such tragedies.

There is an effective and inexpensive answer: Simply reduce the number of guns in circulation, while respecting Second Amendment rights, discourage gun violence, and honor the memory of those whose lives have been destroyed by guns.

Imagine a memorial to gun violence in front of every city hall and court house in the country constructed of guns that have been legally seized by local law enforcement and the courts and that have been voluntarily surrendered by members of the community.

Over the years, guns taken out of circulation are welded to the unique neighborhood sculptures and the names of local victims are inscribed on the memorials.

As rust, rather than blood, runs down the sculptures and stains the ground, the horror of gun violence will fade from our collective consciousness and become a footnote in our nation’s history.

We can learn to live without guns, as we come to accept that what makes us human is our capacity to live at peace with one another, not our ability to murder young children by pointing a gun and mindlessly pulling the trigger.

We must do something, otherwise we all share the blame whenever the innocent are slaughtered by guns.

J

Hi Bob

I have story (naturally) but it is actually funny! I must of been pissed! (This is too crazy to be reprinted). I was at my aunt’s home on Long Island and in a Budget Rent a Car place when a guy came in and started to rob the manager. He wanted the money in the register (my initial thought…is this guy an idiot? What car rental company has cash?) He did get the poor manager’s personal cash and some from two other people, when he turned to me (the funny part … I usually carry my pocketbook with my whole life in it but only ran in with my wallet while my aunt waited outside). He looked at me and I said “I don’t have any cash but I do have a CONCEALED WEAPON PERMIT (from Florida) and pulled it out!

Don’t laugh…he ran out of there…I never figured it out. Maybe he thought I had a gun concealed but it would have been funny had he not got away with the manager’s $700 personal money.

Tonight I heard a suggestion, there should be such an enormous tax on the ammo. It would be prohibitive to buy BUT naturally the pro gun guys said “well THAT would be like taking the 2nd amendment away” (are we going to give out free ammo? You could make the case…the welfare ammo housewives of NJ). I don’t know it sure seems crazy and things have become progressively worse.

Now the other day two opposing NBA players “got into it” and said they would take it “outside’ after the game, but by the time the game was over they did go outside and talked, what if they had guns there would surely be at least 1 dead NBA player or maybe more than 1. I sure don’t have the answers but it isn’t more guns. I say “Muskets for all!”

Janet V.

J

Dear Bob,

Great for you doing this. Here’s a story from me:

As a 5’2” woman and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I spent much of my life afraid to be out in the world by myself. Even going to an unfamiliar restaurant at night seemed dangerous. It seriously stunted my life for many years.

In my 30s, as part of my recovery from incest issues, I took two courses from Impact Personal Safety. This is the group that teaches women to fight back from the ground by kicking. When women are attacked, usually the first thing that happens is that we get knocked to the ground. Also, we have no upper body strength, so we can’t take a stand like a man would. But we have all our power from the hips down, courtesy the fact that we’ve been built for childbearing. By learning the Impact techniques for knocking out an assailant, as well as how to avoid and defuse situations, I felt safer in the world.

I’ve used these techniques perhaps four times in 20 years. In the most confrontational situation, during some gas crisis another driver took offense when he thought I had cut him off in getting to the pump. As I began pumping gas, he came barreling towards me. Instead of cowering, running, crying or anything else “typically female,” I stood my ground, put out my right arm/hand in the “stop” position and said, “Stop!” It was like he had run into a wall; he didn’t understand. He then started yelling at me, but from my training (which I’d triggered with a particular response and which kept a stream of remembered encouragement from my classmates running in my head) I automatically ignored anything he was saying. I remained in the “stop” position and kept my running response of, “You need to back away. You need to go now. You are not allowed to talk to me that way. You need to back up and go back to your car…” etc. I did not look at his face, but at his right shoulder (he’d indicated by his movements that he was right-handed) to see if he was going to haul back and try to strike me. That would have been my signal to drop to the ground, kick out his knee, then go for either his groin or his head. But by this time others in the crowded gas station were watching and he realized I wasn’t going to give way, so he cursed me out and walked away. I finished pumping my gas and left.

In the other three instances, I was able to defuse the situations verbally. BTW, that one assailant was maybe 5’5”, skinny, not imposing. As I had trained to deliver a knock-out blow to a fully padded assailant who happened to be 6’8” and 220 lbs., I was completely uninitimidated by him.

If you or others would like to view some Impact videos, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=impact+personal+safety&oq=impact+personal+safety&gs_l=youtube.12…0.0.0.8749.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0…0.0…1ac.

There are several videos there.

BTW, I think that PE class should teach girls self-defense as of maybe 5th grade.

Thanks for doing this.

Libbe H.

J

Exactly. There are a lot of ways to defuse a violent situation other than using a gun, but once guns are present, regardless of who has them, the stakes all change. I was a bouncer at one of the toughest bars in NY for almost five years (McSorley’s). There was a fight a month. I was the smallest guy there, and my only weapon was my big mouth. Being from Detroit, I knew how to use it, and get the fuck out of the way.

Allowing concealed weapons in bars could well be the most stupid and transparent of all the NRA skullduggery. We spent a hundred years trying to civilize the “Old West” but now they want to return to it.

I’m for reclamation of all assault weapons and ammunition. I’m sure most of these cowboys won’t give them up, but there need to be penalties when they take them out of the closet. There is no place for them in a civil society.

Ben Sen Dan

J

Hi Bob,

I like your article, and hope you sent it to Jeff Goldberg. I actually have a small story:

I was a “door man” (aka bouncer) off and on, for three years at a tavern in the hills behind Santa Barbara, CA, while I was attending grad school at the local university. Weekends were enormously popular, as it was originally a stagecoach stop and very quaint. We also had bands three nights/days those weekends. Our clientele was a volatile mix of bikers from LA, real honest-to-god cowboys from the Santa Ynez Valley, hotshot firefighters from the national forest, and students. Talk about oil and water!

Amazingly, in the three years of breaking-up or preventing fights, turning away people sneaking in their own booze, a couple of gun carriers, and warding-off many who wanted to take a shot at the door man, just because, no one ever actually took a swing at me. I was reminded of this experience when you mentioned the term “presence of mind.” When things got weird, and they did often, a strange calmness and a very pointed focus came over me. While positioning myself physically for the best defense in case of an attack, I also gave complete attention to the assailant(s). I don’t remember ever feeling fear, though that memory may not be accurate. I believe the calmness and focus were the keys.

I also wanted to mention that in subsequent years I did a lot of contracting in LA, in the supposedly dangerous areas of Melrose and Santa Monica Blvd. While I was always attentive to people and situations around me, keeping a vigilant eye, I never felt threatened in all the time we worked there. In reality these areas are incredibly vibrant, diverse, and make for great people-watching! I think it’s sad that people avoid those areas because of fear, but that is very common.

Did I or have I ever considered carrying a gun? I find the notion ridiculous in the extreme. Weapons seem to be for people who are frightened of life. I once took a machete away from a neighbor who pulled it on me, coming completely from a place of his own fear. I was trying to reason with him. (These old memories keep popping up!) I find most weapon carriers sad and pathetic. The mass killers are at the extreme end of this group. Most assailants are cowards.

BTW, you DO have a choice about living in the gun culture. Move across the border to Canada; they don’t have one. :)

So, that’s my little story. Use it if you like, and no hard feelings if you don’t. Keep up the good work. Take care,

Dick G.

J

Hello Bob,

I started this right after I received your article email and have had several interruptions. I’ll stop here and see if I remember any others that are suitable over the coming days and weeks. I’ve had some involving guns where no one got hurt (more like unarmed disarmament of armed people), yet they would be hard to tell without revealing who the person was in my life with the gun (none ever pointed at me). I look forward to reading the stories you compile.

Here are a couple from me:

First, I’d very much like for you to include the Peace Pilgrim story about the man who was going to rape her (and I believe ended up in tears). I can find it for you if you like. It has been an inspiration to me as I move through the peace movement.

I have a couple unusual ones, that may not be complete enough to share, but here they are:

First, as a little common background, I live in an unincorporated area of Will County, where street lights are far between, so there are segments of each block that are nearly pitch black.

Shortly after I moved in, I was going to my mailbox at night and a large (100-125 lbs.) black Rotweiller suddenly came charging at me, barking, from half a block away. Maybe I had just gotten out of a meditation session; I don’t know; but somehow, without fear, my instinct was to command, firmly, loudly, in a controlled manner, “STOP” and then held the expectation that it would. It stood there looking at it as it stopped about 25 feet from me, and seemed unsure what to do. I yelled, “GO HOME.” It left.

About a year after I moved in, I was walking down a dark area of the street and sensed someone was walking behind me about half a block. I looked back and a man dressed in all dark clothing was walking at about my pace about that distance back. I kept walking at that pace (just ½ block from my house), and prayed a deep heartfelt, yet not panicked, prayer for safety. I turned around before I had to give away which house I would be going to and the person was gone, nowhere in the driveways behind me, as if he had vanished between houses.

I was on the phone with a childhood friend that had a history of alcohol abuse/addiction through adulthood. We were about 33-35 at the time. We had reconnected and been in regular or somewhat regular contact for a couple months after being in sporadic contact for 10 years when he lived out-of-state. He and others in his family had histories of attempted suicide. He told me he was calling to say goodbye; that he was going to do one more grand “crime” (theft) and kill himself. I asked him if I could come over to talk with him and he said no. I wondered if it was a multi-day bender that was speaking. When I hung up, not knowing if this might be a time when he was actually successful, either by accident or intent, I spontaneously cried in prayer, “Dear God, if this is not your will, do something.” About two minutes later he called me, crying, and said I could come over. I brought him back to my house for the weekend; he slept and was as back to normal as he ever was.

I have numerous stories of nights out as a young adult, partying with girlfriends and getting us out of situations where a guy or some number of guys thought they were entitled to a little more “fun” than one or more of us was willing to engage in. Here’s one that might have gone differently if one of us was a gun advocate. Not sure it’s appropriate in the context you’re creating, but I’ll tell it anyway. I was in my late 20s, out with one girlfriend that lived rather close to me in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. We were in a bar in my old neighborhood, about 15-20 miles from where we then lived. A guy was with his friend, after coming from a racepark with a hoarse voice, whom my friend dubbed, “the guy with the raspy voice.” We were ready to leave about an hour after they arrived, and my friend and he were speaking and playing pool and laughing together a great deal. My friend is one who doesn’t need alcohol to be uninhibited and we often would just get plain silly/goofy when we were out. This was no exception. When he asked for her name earlier, “My name is woman,” spontaneously emerged from her mouth, with a strong, powerful emphasis on woman. As we were getting ready to leave, he asked for her phone number (she was living with a boyfriend at the time and truly was not flirting beyond the implied flirting of playfulness or intending for anything to happen between them) and she finally gave him her parents’ phone number so we could get out the door. About a mile away from the bar, we realized they were following us when he was screaming out of the passenger window, “woman” at a stop light. Obviously, it would not be good for us to lead him to the apartment she shared with her boyfriend. We “ducked into” a subdivision and I was driving a bit fast and erratic trying to lose them in the streets when we were pulled over by the police for going the wrong way down a one-way street (I hadn’t noticed that). They pulled over behind us, too. I explained to the officer that we were just trying to lose the guys behind us, who were following us from a bar. “Raspy Voice” actually came to my friend’s window trying to get her to roll it down, calling “woman.” It turned out that the police officer was Raspy Voice’s brother-in-law, “had his number” and let us go without a ticket while he held them back to give us a chance to get far enough away for them not to follow us. As an aside, my favorite part of the story is that a week later, my friend told me that she was talking to her father and he said that someone called the house asking for “woman.” He told the young man, “Oh, you must be looking for my daughter, Donna.” (He had 4 daughters, all adults living away, at the time.) She was an emphatic Rod Stewart fan at the time and I think just liked hearing him talk that night.

Karen J.

J

My family was robbed at gun point by two men who confronted my father with pistols as he was leaving our motel room. They forced him back into the room and demanded all our money. I have several observations: 1) we cooperated, but didn’t volunteer anything, such as that the cigarette case that fell out of a suitcase held several hundred dollars cash.

2) Nobody got hurt.

3) I stayed calm, and urged my sister to open the locked bathroom door to let the robbers leave via the window. She cooperated, and they left via the window.

4) The robbers were as scared as we were. When I realized this, I also realized they didn’t want to hurt anyone, they just wanted money, or something to pawn. This realization helped me stay calm.

I’m not much good at thinking fast, but if I can stay calm, I can usually find a way out. I’ve been lost in the woods, too, and I had to decide what to do. (It really wasn’t hard, once I thought about it. I wasn’t that lost. Yet. I made sure not to become more lost.)

Ann T.

J

Robert,

Your piece on Establishing a New Consciousness about Gun Violence was excellent, and I have a few stories to share.

One of my mentors, Chuck Matthei, was living at the Community for Non-Violent Action in Voluntown CT during the Vietnam War when members of a local “militia”, the Minutemen, entertained themselves by driving by at night and shooting guns into the compound. They even managed to burn down the barn one night. The response from the community, after much deliberation, was to take shifts sitting in a chair outside facing the road at night, armed only with a flashlight. When a car drove by, the “guard” would shine the flashlight onto his or her own face, highlighting their vulnerability, their humanity and their courage. They had no further incidents.

Similarly, a mentor to both Chuck and myself, Wally Nelson (a WWII conscientious objector, a participant in the first Freedom Ride in 1947, a founder of the Peacemakers in 1948, and the first national field organizer for CORE), moved for a while to the nation’s first intentional interracial community, Koinonia Farm in Americus Georgia, in 1957 when a dynamiting, drive-by shootings and a 70-car KKK caravan scared away their only black farm family, so that the resolve and integrity of the experiment in interracial living would not be ended by threats. They employed non-violent tactics similar to what I described at Voluntown. Because their farm produce was also being boycotted by the Jim Crow community, they began a pecan mail order business, with the motto “Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia!”, and it became a major part of their income. Eventually, Habitat for Humanity grew out of this courageous and generous community project.

Chuck also introduced me to a tiny but very strong-hearted elderly woman (no more than 5 feet tall), who lived alone in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. One day, she was rushing along the sidewalk to take several boxes of stamped and addressed envelopes for a mass mailing for some campaign to the post office. She was confronted by a man who demanded her purse. In response, she indignantly shouted “How dare you treat an old lady like that. I need to get these to the post office before it closes and you should be offering to help me.” With that, she thrust the stack of boxes into the bewildered man’s outstretched hands and firmly said, “Here, follow me.” And the man followed her like a puppy to the post office.

The mother of another friend of mine, Nelia Sargent, was walking along the street in the “combat zone” of Boston when she came upon two men confronting each other, one armed with a knife. Calmly, she walked up behind the armed man and embraced him in a gentle hug, whereupon all the tension and anger drained out of him and the confrontation ended. That woman, part of the Porter Sargent publishing family (which published Gene Sharp’s three-volume “The Politics of Nonviolent Action”), was – like her husband and his father – a prominent pacifist and social change activist.

When I served some time in a county jail, I watched the one mature Corrections Officer break up a fight between two inmates by giving the larger of the two a bear hug from behind and speaking calmly into the man’s ear. The fight immediately ceased. Later, the CO told me, “You know, what most of these kids need is a hug.”

The closest, perhaps, that I ever came to a mugging was in 1980 when I was leafleting against draft registration at a post office in working class and strongly pro-military Rochester NH. As an organizer, I made sure that there were teams of two leafletters at other post offices, but took this one myself for lack of volunteers. A pickup truck full of drunk rednecks drove slowly by, taunting me, and one big guy came over to try to drag me away. I engaged him in conversation and, when he turned to his buddies, I slipped into the post office where I fearfully notified the postmaster that I was being threatened (he offered no assistance). But it may have been my calm man-to-man response to the large and scary man outside which created an opening for both of us to disengage.

I employed similarly calm and firm responses to the several threats I received from people who picked me up hitchhiking in the 1970s, including some apparent sexual predators, and always completed my travels unscathed. Courage, I had to learn, did not mean the absence of fear, but the transcendence of fear and the maintenance of the humanity of all parties.

- Robert Riversong

Warren VT

J

Hi Bob,

I think it’s important to recognize that people disperse, unwittingly and unarmed, possibly dangerous situations every single day, far more often than with a weapon. Very few of us carry a weapon, even if we own them. Each one of the situations I’ve experienced were different, so finding a common thread is difficult. I do know that carrying a gun would not have helped — there is too much time involved in identifying a bad situation, then arming oneself, getting a clear shot, etc. when simply moving out of the situation would be best. As bad as things can get: assault, battery, rape, intimidation, it’s important to recognize that none of those are capital offenses.

Here is an attempt to try to convey what I’ve learned to others:

1) When there are signs of predatory behavior, most of us have a gut response to those subtle signs. So, if something feels wrong, act on it without hesitation. Don’t stop to assess anything but how to get to a safer situation if possible. So, perhaps you’ve made an incorrect assumption, but it’s not going to hurt anyone to be safe if you weren’t already.

2) Predators are most generally cowards. They can’t get what they want by honest means, so they choose to try to take what they want. This is useful knowledge. There are far worse things than dropping/ tossing your wallet or purse or seeking witnesses. If there is a store nearby, go directly to the cash register, even walk behind it and put the counter between you and danger should a potential aggressor actually follow you into the store.

I do need to add a caveat on the “drop wallet/purse” idea. Since my purse stolen the first time, I don’t keep personal contents in it. I keep I.D. and any plastic money on my person, even with a purse. The most anyone would find in my wallet/purse would be stuff to freshen up, keys and maybe a $20 bill. It’s actually kind of a decoy. . . now that I’ve thought about it. It’s a bit embarrassing to reflect on how insidiously I am affected by these experiences and how I subconsciously respond.

3) A predator will try to choose what they believe to be a straggler, a weak person or an easy mark. They are going to try to use the element of surprise and very few are really very clever, but don’t underestimate a stalker, either. Walk with strength if you feel you are being targeted. There are ways you can physically convey strength, but posture and your gait are easiest.

4) Don’t act like a victim. If possible do not run nor display fear or suicidal aggression. Displaying anger is usually better. Take the attitude of “What the hell do you think you are doing?!” rather than “Why me?”, after all, you’ve done nothing wrong and should be angry. Just don’t lose perspective and forget to look for a safe exit or assistance. Until you are in a safe situation with witnesses, there is little reason to try to talk things out, unfortunately.

I have had a situation where I did need to act compliantly in order to get close enough to turn the tables on a person with a knife, but that was only because my exit strategy didn’t work out and they were able to grab my arm.

5) This person planning to assault you usually wants you to fear them enough to comply. Don’t. They usually want an easy target. Make it clear that you aren’t. As best as you can, be contrary. Do something unexpected if necessary. The predator has a script they think should be followed and has tried to set up a situation that fits that fantasy. Usually, you can make an educated guess about that and throw a wrench in the works. At the very least, you might buy needed time.

6) Do your best not to be physically restrained by a person in an assault. It may be that eye contact is necessary, but the longer one puts off eye contact and behaves as if they are unaware can buy time. Eye contact can help you assess intent and convey information to an attacker to back off, if you have enough room to move and you have a safe avenue for retreat. The problem is that if you are restrained then you can be moved from the area. Do everything in your power to prevent that.

7) If you need to slow someone down and you have a safe distance, eye contact and loud behavior (REALLY LOUD!) to attract attention can work, just remember to keep moving in the direction of safety which would be numbers (witnesses), friends and/or authorities.

Loud behavior on your part, pointing at your attacker while moving away from them, will often catch the attention of bystanders. I think it has to do with the juxtaposition of pointing at someone while moving away. A cellphone might be helpful, too, if it’s handy and you can snap a picture and keep walking away. You might even be able to hand it off to another person or provide the illusion of such an act, creating two targets rather than one, but there is a serious liability to this, so be careful. Jay walking, if you can do this in relative safety, can also cause a stalker to break off their pursuit.

It probably goes without saying, if you do manage to get a portrait of your stalker/attacker/mugger, your next stop is the local office of authorities, no ifs, ands or buts. The same goes for urban areas with their ubiquitous cameras that didn’t exist when these things happened to me.

Obviously, nothing I’ve stated above would help a poor soul stuck in a theater with an insane shooter. The only way to deal with insane is to find shelter quickly or “out crazy” them through an act of incredible courage of some sort. There just is no cure for gun violence other than fewer guns, imo.

Bob, the real paradox is that I feel our society seems to imply, increasingly, that I must change my natural behavior to accommodate some sick individual; that in the process, I lose a part of myself. Yes, I am alive and generally well, but the very idea that I must somehow change who I am — a nice person you might want to talk to over coffee, into, what? A porcupine? :^)) All because of the possibility that some sick person wants to instill their darkness into my life? I won’t do it. The above “tips” are only for special occasions. Perhaps I don’t live in fear simply because there has been so many attempts to mess with me and, somehow, those people have failed or I’ve been successful at thwarting them or just plain lucky. Another person might feel differently. I am also sure that unsuccessful attempts of personal violence is greatly underestimated.

I hope you find something helpful here.

Sincerely,

Kathryn H.

JJJ

The following is a dialogue on guns between me and Mark A.:

Bob:

Not presuming to know, or assume, your religious beliefs, I do want to comment.

Humankind is in a morally ambiguous state. We cannot bring ourselves to say that killing a child in the womb under the “choice” cover (often targeting blacks) is murder. We condone perpetual war. Man lives in a kind of pre-Jesus Christ state, as if the Sermon on the Mount and its admonition to be the blessed peacemakers and beat all swords into plowshares never existed or happened. We’re still living under an old testament/old law paradigm–an eye for eye, tooth for tooth mentality that centers on power assertion and revenge. We need to turn the page. But the page has to be turned before guns can be demoted as a societal tool.

In the hands of such a people in such a moral climate, guns are a two-edged sword, just like human nature. They can aggressively kill the innocent in evil hands and they can kill the evil assailant in more morally-directed, saner hands, belonging to someone who’d never use a gun except in self defense when no other options exist.

So until we can find a more unified moral plane where we can put down our weapons and end the wars and aggression, from the military down to the street level, this is what we have. If the mere absence of guns would bring peace, then all police and military should give up theirs, too.

Mark A.

MY RESPONSE:

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your thoughtful letter. I agree with much of it. I’ve sort of made my peace with the presence of guns … I accept the intensity with which they are held onto by many people and have no illusion I can alter that. At the same time, I am ever more deeply committed to nonviolence for myself. I am certain that’s the only way we’ll “turn the page,” as you say. The only way guns will be demoted as a societal tool is voluntarily, as people in increasing numbers come to recognize more effective sources of nonviolent power and the media learns how to write about it intelligently (and without cynicism). I would add that the good-evil thing is not clear cut. There are plenty of gun accidents, suicides, unfortunate shootings at the hands of good people. Evil is in all of us, and so is good. Guns impose a false simplicity on the world.

Peace and happy new year,

Bob

MARK’S RESPONSE:

Well said. I am a sometimes-shooter at target ranges, just to make sure I can understand and handle a gun. Not understanding guns is unwise.

Yet, I would rather not have one. Guns are a precise reflection of human nature, in that they can help or deter evil — that duality is inescapable.

I may get one with a CC (conceal-carry) license and all that, just to exercise the right for the right reasons, and the mistake many gun skeptics make is that gun owners desire this situation cuz they just gotta have a gun and their trigger finger constantly itches. That is untrue of most gun owners. Beyond sporting and hunting, the great majority of private gun owners express trepidation regarding ever having to use their weapon against a human being. Nobody likes this overall situation, but until we learn more, morally and spiritually, as a people, we have to be able to defend the innocent with arms if necessary.

Another huge mistake is the notion that only cops can be trusted with guns, cuz they’re sainted. A cop is a just a citizen in costume. And a Brownsville TX cop gunned down a student in the hallway, fatally, a couple years ago. Ditto in San Antonio, where a cop literally tailed and murdered a rebellious but harmless pupil– and kept his job!! If guns are going to be allowed, a police monopoly won’t do. And the military sends a dreadful message to one and all — that, if dressed in an official narrative about bad Islamic guys, massive killing is a daily errand carried out with impunity.

Mr. Biden is not anti-gun and anti-violence. He’s anti private gun. Only the law-abiding average gun owner is expected to beat his sword into a plowshare. The police, the military and the criminal who disobeys all gun laws will be the ones still armed. And schools will remain sitting ducks. I wish it were otherwise, though i am for all forms of empowerment, across the board. Prescription drugs to kids must be vastly curtailed, and violent video games and horrific chain-saw movies that dull the moral sense need a harder look than guns.

MA

MY RESPONSE:

Hi Mark,

Thanks for another thoughtful letter — I appreciate having this dialogue with you, and appreciate your openness. You make an interesting point: “Nobody likes this overall situation, but until we learn more, morally and spiritually, as a people, we have to be able to defend the innocent with arms if necessary.” I agree with you to a certain extent, but see several devilish paradoxes lurking in this comment. First of all, how are we ever going to learn more, morally or spiritually, if we remain armed? Learning requires surrender to the unknown, and we can’t surrender if we’re armed, or at least emotionally fortified. Second, while I certainly agree that we must defend the innocent, to a certain extent being armed endangers the innocent … risk of accident, suicide, even “play” suicide that turns real, and the basic arms race logic that bad guys and good guys both need to keep arming themselves ever more heavily … and then once again we’re stuck in a situation of failing to learn more, morally and spiritually. My main point in what I think I will call the Empowerment Project is that a sense of empowerment comes from an internal source, not an external one.

All the best,

Bob