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Times have changed, everyone. Let’s get it through our heads that times have indeed changed. And we cannot stay behind the times any longer, or we face the annihilation of all of society’s hard-won mores and values.

On the subject of guns, the line has been drawn in the sand.

In my country, U.S. legislators today stand on one side of that line, with all the power and authority needed to halt—or at least slow down—the further spread of gun violence by individuals. The public and the press increasingly call on our representatives at all levels of government to cross that line in the sand and take action, by effecting reasonable controls on the proliferation of gun violence in this country.

Will U.S. leaders withdraw their specious arguments surrounding the interpretation of a constitutional amendment adopted over 224 years ago? The American Constitution’s Second Amendment was clearly based on a “well-regulated militia” and not on unlimited ownership of military-style assault weapons. In my opinion and the opinion of many, restrictions passed by the courts are both reasonable, necessary, and not strict enough.

Pam Bosley of Chicago, left, holds a photo of her son Terrell Bosley, who was killed in 2006 when he was 18, as she attends a rally against gun violence in September on Capitol Hill. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Pam Bosley of Chicago, left, holds a photo of her son Terrell Bosley, who was killed in 2006 when he was 18, as she attends a rally against gun violence in September on Capitol Hill. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

But reasonable gun controls are not really the true “line in the sand” issue. The issue is a simpler one: Should murder be allowed to take place? The moral and social law regarding murder was established well before current laws or the Constitution. Humanity has yet to truly adopt this exhortation and binding law to the fullest degree.

God recorded the Sixth Commandment in Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.” The year was 1393 B.C.E when the great leader and prophet Moses was born. Some 80 years later the Burning Bush resulted in the Exodus over a period of many more years. During that time Moses descended Mt. Sinai and gave the Hebrews the Ten Commandments.

God gave everyone the Ten Commandments, as evidenced by their adoption in both Christianity and Islam ever since. The prophets of God do not contradict each other in relaying God’s Plans to humankind. God values life highly—and wants us to, as well. Therefore “You shall not murder” is the line drawn in the sand by God Himself, and how abominably man has failed to follow it since! But that doesn’t have to continue. For God has not only promised peace on Earth, but eternal peace as well – if we can get there of our own accord by taking action to right the ills of humanity. We can do that by following the eternal spiritual law:

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. – Deuteronomy 30:19.

I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks p. 29.

These truths are self-evident, universally acclaimed by men and women of reason, parents of dead children, and victims without count. Are we men and women of reason? Or will we remain no better than the animal?

5 Comments

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  • Jan 14, 2016
    David I want to thank you for this brilliant exploration of a very delicate and somewhat confounding matter of deep concern. The points you make are, at once, cogent, spiritually influenced and socially relevant and timely. That you have grounded your comments on a reasonable selection of writings from the Faith -- adds to the efficacy and value of your reflection on this to some confounding situation.
    Reggie
  • Jan 14, 2016
    Thane, Thank you for your obviously well thought out positions. And you point out one fact that should have been pointed out by me on gun violence (not just elimination of all guns, as you judiciously point out), which is, it is a concrete spiritual and moral law that takes the change of hearts to ultimately implement. I cannot speak to the need of arms for self-defence - exactly why we have militias in the National Guards, police, Armed Services and other validly constituted protective agencies. Even Baha'u'llah stated, to paraphrase, that it is acceptable to act in self-defence. The ...debate is over "what" we consider to be the "what" of what needs to be defended. Your freedom fighter, my terrorist and all that.
    Also, as you point out clearly, and I agree, my article should have defined better the time or times I was referring to. I am unashamedly an advocate of gun control for every gun, whether in private ownership or by protective services, and have even advocated, as they do in Britain, the replacement of guns with tasers, But that is neither here near there. The point to me I think is that guns used criminally or badly, no matter the holder, is evil and we must take all steps, all, to cut down on those circumstances where innocents, not combatants over a just cause, are killed or maimed. And i do not want to open up the opposite argument where guns kill innocent children and others by accident, or are perpetrated on spouses in angry, even momentary, domestic disputes. Without the available gun there, would the outcome have been different?
    But I am not a conjecturer of what could have been, but rather a believer that each one of us and our governments, control our own destinies. And to your point, as long as legal gun purchases can be made, just like the banes of alcohol and cigarettes, it truly is up to each individual to draw their own line.
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  • Jan 14, 2016
    I have to disagree with you Rodney...and this is something I struggle with on a regular basis. We are indeed to honor life, and strive for a higher plane. That being said, in the interim, we still need to protect the lives of the innocent. In fact, as Baha'is we are allowed to carry weapons for this very purpose...for DEFENSE of life, in times and locations of danger. We are not to just lay down our lives in surrender to evil, unless that evil is being perpetrated on us for no other reason than that we ...are Baha'is.
    This, combined with common sense, tells me that my choice to have the ability to protect myself and my loved ones from the random and nasty violence, from terrorism, from psychotic acting out, etc, is just and good.
    Personally, I could not live with myself if a means of protection was available and I chose not to use it, while watching innocent people die around me. And even though the number of such incidence is small...very small over all, they still exist and the possibility of them is always present. Thus I choose to own, and when so compelled, carry a firearm.
    And just to be clear, my choice has nothing to do with the Second Amendment in the US constitution. It is a result of observation.
    The greatest atrocities in the world are committed on those who have no means of defending themselves against the atrocity. Every dictator who has brutalized their people, has done so when the people are disarmed or underarmed. If they are already disarmed, they do this easily and readily. If they are not, as was the case with Hitler's Germany, they find ways to disarm them before brutalizing them.
    Similarly, the few horrific "mass shootings" we have seen in recent times, have ALL...every last one of them...been perpetrated in a place that the perpetrator knew would be full of victims. They were all in clearly defined "gun free zones", or in countries where private ownership and concealed carry of guns are outlawed. I know of not one single incident that has occurred in an area where the population is known to carry guns. And most tragic of all, is that had these places been full of law abiding concealed carry people, all carrying weapons at the time, the incident would have been halted immediately...before so many victims could be racked up. If nothing had happened, if not pad guy had shown up, not one single person of that fully armed room of people, drawn their weapons. Not one single person would have been harmed, and odds are, no one would have even known the weapons were there...even if the room was full of them. That is the difference between the law abiding and the law breaking.
    Ad to this fact, that it has been proven over and over again, that law abiding, civil, conscious human beings do NOT break the law. They DO honor life, and you will see why the numbers of incidents among law abiding gun carriers are so low as to be statistically insignificant. A law abiding person has no desire to harm another human being.
    On the other hand, no one has yet shown me a single criminal with evil intent who suddenly took pause and said to himself...hmmm. the law says that it is illegal for me to own a gun, so I guess I better not use one to kill those people I intend to kill. Everywhere in the world, gun laws or no gun laws, where people wish to find rooms full of victims to kill, they do so. And the fact that no law can eliminate all guns in America. No law can assure that criminals will not obtain weapons. Guns have been here for far too long, and are too deeply ingrained in our culture. Guns will ALWAYS be available on the black market here in the US. Which means that no matter how restrictive the gun laws are...no matter how many more law abiding citizens are refused the right to protect themselves, the lawless will ALWAYS have access to weapons. If you do not believe this fact, then simply look around you. Did the War on Drugs eliminate drugs, or did it make a new class of criminal that could become wealthy because of the War on Drugs. Did the Prohibition of Alcohol, keep our communities safe from the affects of alcohol, or did it create yet another criminal element? Abolishing guns will be no different.
    Meanwhile, here in the US, where law abiding citizens leave their guns in their cars because the sign in the establishment they wish to enter, requires them to do so, are the only defense against the lawless that wishes to cause harm. The police cannot do this, only the individual that is present. By removing their ability to carry a weapon into an establishment, where that weapon would not even be known to exist by others in that establishment, you have created an establishment full of potential victims. You have created a feeding ground for evil, should evil just happen to wish to feed there that day.
    How many lives could have been saved had a law abiding person with a means of stopping a mass shooting, been present during a mass shooting. The emotional, fear based decision makers who wish to remove the means of innocents people protecting innocent people against evil, seem to forget this question. They think that further restrictions against ONLY law abiding citizens will cure the problem...and they ignore the fact that it is the lawless and evil that have no respect for law...that could care less what the law says, that perpetrate such evils.
    My only beef with such things is that they are attempting to make me a victim as well.
    When entering an area or place that I feel may be dangerous, I carry a concealed weapon. Fortunately, this is seldom. But it is good to have that choice. I am thankful that I have never, in my entire life, had to point a gun at another human being...but if ever the time comes, and I do not have that means available, I will be letting myself and other potential victims down.
    This philosophy is no different than going into the woods. Every time I venture into the wilds of Alaska, where I live, I carry a "bear gun". This is usually a .500 caliber pistol in a shoulder holster. It is heavy and can be cumbersome, but I carry it every single time. Not because I walk through the woods fearing a bear will jump out from behind every bush, nor because I wish to shoot at every bear I see. Rather it is because it is like insurance. You hope to never need it. You may have even forgotten your are carrying it...but if one day you actually do need it, and you don't have it, it is too late to go get it.
    It takes only one such incident in a person's life time, animal or human, to cause irreparable damage. Only one. And this has nothing to do with US law...everything to do with being a responsible human being.
    The above deals with my own personal opinions and life. It doesn't even touch on the many thousands of lives that are spared violence every year, just because the targeted individual did have a gun in their possession...the mere brandishing of a gun in the face of immanent danger from another human being, has stopped that person in their tracks and caused them to turn and flee...without a single shot being fired. Over and over again, year after year this has happened around the country. These are statistics that rarely get recorded by law enforcement, because no shot was fired and no death occurred...but it still happens thousands of times a year.
    Similarly, my story does not touch upon the many weaker people out there, who would have been victimized if they had not had a gun. The women who would have had no choice but to succumb to the rapist; the elderly who were in their homes when a violent person decided to make it his own; or the poor person forced to walk to work and back in the dark, in a city where violence is never far away. How about those people? Who is there to protect them? How many have been saved over the years by the brandishing of a firearm at just the right time, or by actually shooting those who would not be deterred by the mere brandishing of a firearm? And how many have had victimhood forced upon them because they did not have a means of protection on their person?
    Yes those that are forced to use there weapon to take another life in defense of their own or others, suffer consequences, both legal and of conscious, but they are alive and if the bad guy is dead, he is done victimizing.
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    • Jan 14, 2016
      Thane, again, thank you so very much for presenting a cogent and reasonable argument for the right to carry - in self-defense, and self-defense only if I read you right. And yes, tragedies could have been prevented - perhaps, perhaps even likely. but as I replied elsewhere, "perhaps" is just that, and represents a fear. Yet most of my intent in the article is one of removing that fear once and for all, albeit in a future time. when there won't be a need for self-protection of that sort. And let me be frank here, being bipolar as i am ...and having been in extended hospital stays to return to "normal," I can fully attest that for one reason or another, genes, tendencies, fear, grandiosity, coverups, whatever, the mentally unstable mind is capable of anything. I want to remove the most effective killing tool from the criminally insane to commit that mayhem, as you do also. Hence I am a huge proponent of universal mental health care also, proper diagnoses and treatment.
      Like you, I am applauding the mainly (99%) of law-abiding citizens, yet righteous bullets have stopped mayhem in miniscule amounts as well.
      And let me admit another feeling, fear, yes fear, that if my community and state lived in civil unrest on their doorsteps as in Aleppo and elsewhere I would be compelled to own a gun. It's a what if, and so I don't face that reality. You do where you are and laws allow it. Frankly, if I did I don't know what I'd do.
      But technology is a marvelous thing, and i hope in this transition away from guns, a law would be passed for ownership of smart guns only, only usable to the legal gripper. And again, what ifs may cause me pause on many levels, but I deal with the reality I'm in, and the future reality I wish all humanity could partake of -- a happy, safe, peaceful world.
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  • J Shartzer
    Jan 14, 2016
    Are there Baha'i writings about these two aspects of gun use: suicide and self-protection? I don't mean self protection in terms of robbery...shooting someone over a wallet or TV set. But regarding a clear threat to one's life or protecting one's family?