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…armament, heretofore limited, is now being increased upon a colossal scale. Conditions are becoming acute, drawing nigh unto the degree of men warring upon the seas, warring upon the plains, warring in the very atmosphere with a violence unknown in former centuries. With the growth of armament and preparation the dangers are increasingly great. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 321.
Most of us are smart people in many ways—but we all know the phrase, “Smart people can do dumb things.” I know I do. In fact, I’ve concluded that man’s stupidity is only bound by his desire to please himself.
Or as Albert Einstein put it, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Of course, this ironic bon mot comes from one of our greatest thinkers and scientists—and he didn’t even see example after example after example of stupidity on the local TV news every evening or driving down the highway every day. Perhaps in our own thoughtless or careless words and actions, we’ve all done something dumb recently. Real life examples abound when we consider our own and others stupidity, or rather, stupid actions.
Luckily, we know people have the capacity to rise above stupid words and actions:
The power of the intellect is one of God’s greatest gifts to men, it is the power that makes him a higher creature than the animal. For whereas, century by century and age by age man’s intelligence grows and becomes keener, that of the animal remains the same. They are no more intelligent today then they were a thousand years ago! Is there a greater proof than this needed to show man’s dissimilarity to the animal creation? It is surely as clear as day. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 72.
Human beings may have an animalistic lower nature, but our will and intelligence can overcome and overpower our baser instincts, wants and desires. Our innate spirits—our hearts, minds and souls—can overcome the baser nature, the old nature, of humanity as a whole.
For example: take the seemingly unending desire for guns here in the United States, where over 311 million people of all ages live. Per the 2007 Small Gun Survey, in the United States, there are 88.8 guns per 100 residents, ranking us higher than Serbia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. In fact, the U.S ranks the highest. Tunisia, the lowest ranked, has one-tenth of a small gun per 175 residents. As of 2009, “the estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States had increased to approximately 310 million: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.”
This means, statistically, that every man, woman, small child and baby in the U.S. now has a firearm.
You and I and most Americans know these statistics, and we increasingly understand the personal tragedies wrought by the use of guns in all forms. Our intelligence informs us of the facts, and we want to stem the tide of gun violence. Change is coming, slowly, seemingly not at all in some areas, yet quickly in others.
But laws and regulations won’t get us as far as we need to go. Instead, we need to reform and renew the very nature of man—old versus new, cruel versus kind, hateful and greedy and angry versus loving and generous and peaceful.
When growing up I was impressed by the fact that British Bobbies didn’t carry handguns. I didn’t know a few elite squads did, but in general, Bobbies still don’t. To quote Wikipedia, “In the year 2011–12, there were 6,756 Authorised Firearms Officers, 12,550 police operations in which firearms were authorised throughout England and Wales and 5 incidents where conventional firearms were used. Since 2004, police forces have increasingly been issuing Tasers to Authorised Firearms Officers for use against armed assailants. Tasers are considered by the authorities to be a non-lethal alternative to firearms.”
So yes, we do have alternatives to firearms for maintaining social order—when the population isn’t more heavily armed than the police. Even more importantly, the population has to trust the police, now a national topic under a microscope with police killings in the news, and also, killings of police. Why should citizens be distrustful? This sacred cow is now under its own microscope, with gun owners and non-gun owners alike. The rampant spread of gun violence has prompted open conversations about the ownership of lethal weapons in this country—including by the police themselves.
Our nation has participated in disarmament talks with other nations for decades, and most have proven successful. Why not begin our own, internal disarmament talks now? The alternative—even more weapons and even more killings—doesn’t seem desirable at all, except for the gun manufacturers. So instead of stupid, let’s get smarter about our society, and find a way to disarm.
Something drastic has to change with our attitudes of personal freedom and “the right to bear arms,” by all concerned. Our arms should be bearing our children to their cribs and beds, not to their graves.