Volleys of statistics about guns zip past us.
Christians cannot avoid this life-and-death debate. It can be intense, even among people who sing from the same hymnals.
Relax, though. All I’ll add to the debate today is a simple scenario with made-up numbers, to promote thinking calmly about this issue.
In an American city of 100,000 people, say 50,000 own guns.
Say most of those 100,000 folks are fine people. The best people.
Say, reluctantly, that 1 percent of them are not. Say those 1,000 not-so-fine people, given enough provocation or enough incentive, might resort to violence as a way to get what they want or prevent what they don’t. And 500 of them have guns, because we are assuming that people with guns are no better or worse than people without guns.
Say 1 percent of those 500 potentially violent people with guns actually use their guns in anger this year.
Say, optimistically, that each instance of gunplay yields a single victim and the population of our city falls to 99,995.
However, some say this tragedy can be lessened by arming the defenseless 50,000.
OK. Say these 50,000 people are no different, fundamentally, from the 50,000 who chose to have guns in the first place.
So, within the 50,000 new gunowners, 1 percent are not fine people, which means that in total the city will now have 10 fatalities thanks to the 1 percent of 1,000 potentially violent gunowners who actually pulled the trigger.
But wait. The purpose of arming all of the 100,000 was so that defenseless residents would not be killed.
One hope is that arming 100 percent of the citizenry drops the fatalities to zero, since an attack on an yperson is now dangerous. Happily, the population remains at 100,000.
But wait. That perfect ending is too much to expect if many of the residents believe they have cause to be armed.
Knowing that, let’s be critical enough to say 1 percent of the 100,000 people are neither controlled enough, intelligent enough nor mentally healthy enough to be inhibited by the danger they face in initiating gunplay.
Of those 1,000 foolhardy gunowners, say 2 percent actually experience enough provocation or enough incentive to actually use their guns against other people. Not just 1 percent, as we supposed in the general population, but more, because these people have less restraint.
That’s 20 people. Let’s say 10 succeed in killing, dropping the population to 99,995. The other 10 are killed in self-defense by their intended victims, dropping the population to 99,990.
This scenario results in more dead residents overall, and just as many “good” dead residents.
But wait. Some say this tragedy can be prevented by reducing the percentage of armed public.
Say it’s cut in half, from 50,000 to 25,000. This yields 250 potentially violent gunowners, which if 1 percent pull the trigger means 2.5 victims.
This represents an improvement. Unless – as some argue – the presence of fewer guns emboldens the 250 potentially violent citizens with guns, so that they kill more often.
This is an exceptionally simplistic sketch of the issue; I know you can improve on it.
Please, Christians, do that.
No matter your politics or your philosophies or your beliefs, please stand up now and lead the nation in rationally discussing how to get fewer people shot to death.
The volleys aren’t waiting, so why are we?
Email Dr. Doug Mendenhall, who teaches journalism at Abilene Christian University, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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