A Volatile Mix
The mix of inequality and guns is volatile. Gun violence increases as inequality increases.
In their book The Spirit Level, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson reveal the distressing cost of inequality. What I find persuasive is their reliance upon reputable data. They go beyond simple opinionating, and instead allow the numbers do the talking. Some snippets:
Greater inequality equals higher degrees of homicide.
Economic inequality leads to higher rates of homicide.
Inequality widens race/ethnic differences.
In more unequal societies, people are five times as likely
to be imprisoned, six times more likely to be clinically obese,
and murder rates may be many times higher.
What seeds of violence are sown through inequality? What is the poison within inequality? Their analysis reveals:
In more unequal societies, more people are oriented towards dominance,
self-enhancement and status competition. People need to be self-reliant
and other people are seen to be rivals.
Inequality weakens community life
Francis de Tocqueville, writing about America, observed that
substantial differences in material living standards between people
was a formidable barrier to empathy.
It is not difficult, then, connecting the dots between inequality and gun violence. Guns are expressions of power. Guns put dominance into one's hand. Guns are about me proclaiming superiority. Guns negate empathy. Whether I am hunting, protecting my family, fighting for my nation, stalking my rival, a gun means I will control and conquer you, that your community, your nation, your gang is less valuable than my mine, that you are a threat to my way of life and my community's existence, and you will do my bidding.
Certainly, guns can be legitimately used for hunting, protection, enjoyment, and national defense. But, all too frequently, tossing guns into the inequality mix is like tossing a match into a can of gasoline.
Pickett and Wilkinson open windows of peace. They imply, and I would suggest, if we want to lower gun violence, people need to come together, work together, seek the common good, listen to each other, support each other in difficult times, serve the poor, encourage the vulnerable, focus on loving, work for justice, lobby for political change, provide means for employment with a fair and sustainable wage, socialize, insure that all people have health care, provide resources for families, invest in education for all, allow people to have time together apart from work, and....
Personally, I believe the church is perfectly positioned to open these windows. I think we know a bit about "things that make for peace."