On Guns, Violence, and the Coming Civil War

I wonder if our next civil war will be over guns.  I pray that we do not have another civil war, but I fear that it may be inevitable.

I follow closely the raging debate over gun violence in our nation and I sense no resolution to our dilemma, only hardening attitudes and increasingly aggressive behavior.  I feel like Galadriel in Lord of the Rings who said about the coming War of Good and Evil, “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.”

We are awash in violence and drowning in guns.  Many of my friends want to restrict and regulate gun ownership, as they see it as the quickest and most logical way to end the carnage.  Yet, do they truly understand who they need to convince?  Do they truly understand the culture whose cooperation they need?

I live in two worlds – the city and the country.  I work as a deacon in a poor urban parish and live 60 miles away in the Ozark boarder region.  I make the 120 mile round trip four days a week, and have many friends and acquaintances in both worlds.  That short hour’s drive takes me to two different nations that share little in common but one thing: a mutual suspicion of each other.

I am convinced that my urban friends will push for gun regulation, and my rural friends will not give up their guns without a fight.  The two cultures are too far apart.  The ancestors of my rural friends fought a vicious, four-year long civil war when they thought their right to own slaves was threatened – what do we think they will do when they conclude we are going to take away their guns?

Do we really understand and appreciate that?

If regulations are passed, they will need to be obeyed and enforced.  Many gun owners will not obey them, and few rural police forces will enforce them as they sympathize with their neighbors.  So, federal marshals will be sent in to enforce the new laws, and when they come to confiscate the weapons, how long do we think it will be before it breaks into a gun battle?  How many more Ruby Ridges will we see?  Or Branch Davidian massacres, as in Waco, Texas?  Or Murrah Building bombings, as in Oklahoma?

I do not think I am overreaching here.  I hope I am, but I suspect not.  To my urban friends who are tired of mourning the dead I say that there is an entire parallel society out there filled with people who are as mad as hell at the world and can’t wait to shoot someone.  They are to the point they would rather kill or be killed before they give an inch on gun ownership, as lunatic to us as that sounds.

Are we ready to pay that price to regulate guns?  Do we really think that regulating guns in the US will “take” as a body of law?  This is not Denmark or Japan, where everyone cooperates when a consensus is reached.  This is a country that did zero about gun violence after Sandy Hook, when twenty school children and six teachers were murdered in their classrooms.  Even that was not enough to motivate our nation to bury our differences and do something to stop the violence.

I deeply suspect that if gun regulation is enacted, it will be done by force, not moral persuasion, and the battle to enforce those laws will be long and bloody, with a very dubious outcome.  Are we willing to pay the price?  Are we ready to fight another civil war?  Frankly, I think there must be a better, third way to end the violence.  If we do not find it, we may be facing a civil war hotter than the low-grade one fought now in our urban areas.

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