The Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts recently had a good column titled “Fantasies vs. Real World Tragedies.” He described the lunacy of at least two sides of the gun issue (indeed, there are many sides).
I agree with Pitts: the lunacy continues on what was hoped to be a “discussion.” And he got me to thinking.

As a life-long hunter and gun owner with probably 20 guns in my safe – from family heirlooms to sport-shooting handguns – I am ready to repeal the Second Amendment.

Ban assault-type weapons and high capacity clips. Close Virginia’s gun show loophole. Tighten background checks. Demand “smart gun” technology.

I am in the minority of gun owners who believes that ownership is not a right but a privilege, and I don’t mind having to earn that privilege.

But alas, all these measures would not solve our current problem. 

There are already too many guns on the streets, and too many legally owned guns are accessible to questionable people.

My own city of Richmond’s murder rate has been rightly considered high for decades, though nearly all occur in a few well-known poverty-stricken, gang-ridden areas.

Recently, a 7-year-old carried a loaded handgun onto his school bus. A parent had left the gun within reach.

The Connecticut school shooter likely could have passed a background check had he wanted to purchase a gun, but he didn’t need to. He had access to his mother’s legally acquired guns.

When gangs have guns and pass them around, when it is “my turn” to “own” the gun for a night, I feel obligated to use it, whether against a rival gang member, an acquaintance who “disses” me or in a robbery.

Recently, the Richmond Times Dispatch held a public forum to discuss the question, “Do guns save lives?” The impression with which I was left was the overriding assumption of a culture of violence.

So many – including many in the gun community – assume the world is unsafe and the government and perhaps even neighbors are not to be trusted.

As a culture, we seem to be increasingly suspicious, even paranoid. The culture of violence, of course, pervades the street culture.

My point is that guns are obviously a significant part of the issue, but the larger issue is the assumption of a culture of violence.

If I am right, isn’t it time to talk about the origin of such a culture? Shouldn’t we be addressing how to change that culture?

If so, where do we begin?

Mike Harton is a former seminary professor and dean as well as a former board member of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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