In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut the news media is replete with interviews, commentary, heart felt condolences and opinions as to the causes and future prevention of such carnage. Repeatedly I hear and read “culture of violence,” “can no longer tolerate,” “better gun control,” “mental health services,” “increased security,” “having teachers bear arms,” and more. Our own Juneau Empire had two articles on gun control and one letter to the editor yesterday (12/16/12), and another four articles, a letter to the editor plus the political cartoon today.
Meanwhile I understand that the Planning Commission has issued a permit that would allow the establishment of an indoor gun range between Nugget Mall and the Airport which would offer the rental of onsite use of automatic firearms.
This strikes me as an issue worthy of public discussion in our community. Several questions come to mind that might be addressed before a decision about the desirability of such a facility is reached.
Does our country have a culture of violence?
Note how much we hear these days about school bullying, street gangs in every major city, heightened popularity of high contact sports such as cage fighting, increased popularity in many of the Lower 48 of automatic weapon firing ranges, violence in video games, movies, TV shows, etc. We’ve even reached the point where camouflage clothing is now stylish among young people and is thus available in Fred’s, Wal-Mart, Alaska Outfitters and dozens of places on line. What’s the message in that? As I recall the origin of camouflage is concealment when one is in battle.
Is this what we’re aiming for? Do we want to have a culture of violence?
To ask the question is to answer it. We label all the violence throughout our country as unintended consequences, something that unpredictably cropped up unexpectedly or happened out of our awareness.
To what extent are we responsible for how our culture evolves? Do we have an active role to play in how it evolves or are we merely passive recipients? Does our culture just some how happen to us?
Does the opportunity to fire automatic weapons as recreation or entertainment move us a step or two toward a culture of violence or a few steps further away from such a culture?
What kind of thoughts do you think might go through the minds of our teenaged children while recreationally firing a Tommy gun, a sub-machine gun, an AK-47, an assault rifle at a target? Do they tighten their muscles, clench their teeth, grimace, wonder if some day they’ll get their chance, experience an emotional rush? And what physical sensations are being recorded in their neurological system as they experience the kickback of an automatic weapon?
A Cherokee Proverb says:
There is a battle of two wolves inside us all.
One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth.
The wolf that wins? The one you feed.
When we open up an automatic weapon firing range in our community, what wolf are we feeding?
• Dillon of Juneau is a retired educator, psychotherapist, veteran and Juneau Veterans for Peace member.