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The debate on gun control – or gun safety – depending on which side of the political spectrum you prefer, provides the opportunity for some  pretty significant insights into elements of social psychology.  Now, the debate, by its nature, is highly political.  It falls under the interpretation of Second Amendment Rights, which was settled in law by the Supreme Court.  Whether you agree with the Court’s interpretation that the Amendment applies to individual rights rather than to the rights of a “well-ordered militia” at this point, is only relevant to the extent of the position you might hold.  But I would like to stay clear of political arguments as much as possible here, and try to focus on the underlying psychological effects of answering this debate.

Acceptable risk is defined as “any risk that is currently tolerated is considered to be acceptable.”  As a nation and as individuals we calculate acceptable risk on a daily basis.  The CIA’s administration of the “drone program”,  in theory, tries to minimize the risk of injuries and fatalities to civilians in order to kill enemy combatants.  Each time we get into our automobiles and drive down a two-way street we calculate the likelihood that the oncoming driver will stay in their own lane so that we can get to our destination unharmed.  We weigh the likelihood of contracting an STD when we engage in unprotected sex.

It seems to me at this point in the gun debate, we are calculating how much risk we will tolerate for our individual and collective safety in order to embody our Second Amendment Rights.  Are we, as a society, willing to continue tolerating over 30,000 gun deaths a year.  Are we willing to tolerate 20 children being obliterated in Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Are we willing to tolerate 13 teenage students being massacred as they attended classes at Columbine High.  How many  assassination attempts on our public officials and religious leaders is the acceptable amount before we, as a nation, decide to come to some conclusion as to what, if anything, could we do.Gun-Control31-550x384

Notwithstanding the arguments in the public forum, from the NRAs paid protagonists who reap the financial benefits every time a gun or bullet is purchased, to Congress’ beligerence in the face of 92% of Americans who want universal background checks – unless our collective psychology shifts, and we recalculate what we are willing to accept as Americans – we will continue to endure exactly what we have chosen to tolerate.

There are many choices we can make to control, limit or expand gun ownership and gun use.  But something I learned many years ago in Sunday school – “if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”  And of course, this is not only accepted as a  literal interpretation, but it also exemplifies a spiritual or psychological principle.  What we hold in our consciousness becomes our reality.  If we have an individual or collective consciousness of an unsafe world that has to be defended against, we are much more likely to create and maintain that world on some level.  If the marketplace is flooded with all types of firearms and ammunition and there is no sensible regulation, we in effect stimulate and reinforce a fear-based consciousness which permeates all levels of society.

If everyone were armed, like in the old Wild West, everyone is potentially in danger.  If armed teachers and personnel have to walk the halls of elementary schools as some are suggesting, it tells our children from a very early age that the world is unsafe – and so begins the development of a consciousness of fear rather than trust.  And so, a consciousness of “living by the sword” is born.childsword

If we continue to accept a lack of adequate and sensible controls or limitations on gun accessibility, those who are mentally vulnerable will continue to use these available weapons as a means of acting out their disordered self- or world-view.  Criminals will continue to have much more access to weapons than if limitations were a barrier to their illegal activities.  Suicides could be diminished if safety were a priority.

Every right comes with a responsibility.  Since we as a nation have the right to bear arms, we also have the responsibility to protect ourselves to the best of our ability from the misuse of that right.  Obviously, there are those in our society who do not engage in this right responsibly.  We are a nation of laws – of rules which are meant to guide, promote, and protect freedoms.  These laws are meant to help our nation function, develop, and prosper.  Just as we maintain our families with rules and expectations – we cannot develop a healthy society without them.

The lack of willingness to protect ourselves from ourselves does not reflect a healthy society.  No matter which side of the gun safety issue one is on, the risks we are willing to accept to uphold the rights of our Second Amendment will determine if we are worthy of this right or not.  colddeadhands

I’m just curious.  How many deaths and injuries are we willing to live with before we collectively come up with a solution to reduce the risks.  Or shall we just accept them – the “cost of doing business”, as they say.  Well here’s something else they say – “you get what you pay for.”

Kevin Michael Ross, M.S., LMFT

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