Living in Fear

“There is something deeply hypocritical about praying for a problem you are unwilling to resolve.” Miroslav Volf, theologian and author.


“No amount of words can express the loss our community feels for the fallen heroes of the Village of Cameron Police Department and Chetek Police Department. My prayers continue to go out to the families and loved ones…” Rep. Tom Tiffany on the two police officers recently killed in NW Wisconsin in a traffic stop shootout.


Tiffany has been a strong opponent of all efforts to pass sensible gun control laws. There is something “deeply hypocritical” about his unwillingness to do anything – even small reforms – to reduce gun violence and deaths.


Tiffany continued in his April 14th email newsletter. He lauded the community for its “outpouring…of support and love” by “baking cookies,” changing to blue light bulbs, “donating money to the local [police] departments,” and “thousands gathering for a candle light vigil.”  He said, “an unfathomable tragedy struck western Wisconsin as two of our law enforcement officers had their lives taken by a senseless act of violence.”


No Tom, it is not “unfathomable.” It is predictable and your pro-gun agenda is responsible for enabling these incidents. It is “senseless.” But it could have been prevented.


Why, Tom, did the shooter have a loaded gun in the car? This man had an arrest warrant for not paying child support and a history of violence toward his former wife. Why does Wisconsin not have “red flag” laws or strong gun licensing laws that protect people – and police officers – from violent, angry men like this one? These sensible gun laws could have disarmed the shooter and prevented this tragic incident. Why, Tom, have you opposed these sensible efforts to prevent “senseless” violence?


Instead of baking cookies, why weren’t 1000 people rallying to demand action on gun violence in Wisconsin?


What kind of society do we want? Do we want to live in communities with respect, tolerance and freedom for everyone where no one needs a gun? Or do we want everyone to be angry, fearful and packing heat?


“Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?” Ernest J. Gaines (1933 – 2019) American novelist and short story writer.


This week President Biden asked, “What has our nation come to when children cannot attend a birthday party without fear? When parents have to worry every time their kids walk out the door to school, to the movie theater, or to the park? Guns are the leading killer of children in America, and the numbers are rising…” He was talking about four people being killed and 28 wounded at a birthday party for a 16 year old girl.


A safe community is one in which no one is carrying a gun. In a safe community no one is afraid or feels the need to carry a gun. The United States is supposed to be the best, most free, most prosperous nation in the world. But instead we are a nation living in fear.


People are afraid. Politicians, especially on the far right, are responsible for much of the fear. They use fear to manipulate the pubic for their own political gain. They preach fear of anyone who is different – racial minorities, immigrants, gays, transgenders, Jews and Muslims. Criminals are pouring across the “open” southern border. Muslims are all terrorists. China is planning to take over the world. Librarians and teachers are “grooming” our children. Liberals are destroying America. Crime is “skyrocketing.” The government is “overreaching,” can’t be trusted and is going to take away your guns.


All this is ridiculous, irrational and unsupported by facts. But perceptions are more powerful than reality. Facts, perspective or critical thinking don’t matter when people have been fed a steady diet of fear based on lies.


Barry Glassner, the author of “The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things” says, “…overall most Americans live in what is arguably the safest time and place in human history and yet fear levels are high.”


There are rational reasons to be worried about many issues. Most of us are only an accident, illness, or job loss away from bankruptcy. Many people are falling out of the middle class as inequality and corporate profits soar. Climate change, environmental degradation, social problems, political gridlock, and the rise of hate groups are real.


Guns can not protect us from these problems. But guns sales are up all across the country. In 2021 there were 5.4 new, first-time gun owners. Half of them were women. Statistically most people have little to worry about from crime, but fear is everywhere.


As with many problems we know what needs to be done. We have more guns in our country than people. We must  get guns off our streets — especially handguns and assault style rifles.   We must stop allowing virtually unlimited access to guns and unlimited ability to carry loaded weapons in public. There must be strong gun licensing and strict background checks. People known for hateful or violent behavior must be denied access to guns (red-flag laws). All the stand-your-ground, concealed carry, open carry and similar nonsense has not made our communities safer. Every day we see the proof in news stories about another shooting.


Assault style rifles must be banned. There is no justification for private ownership of these rapid fire, high capacity weapons. These are essentially weapons of war. But banning them is not enough with an estimated 20 million of them in the country. We need a strong buy back program and  severe penalties for not selling back these guns. Likewise for high capacity magazines. Today even 100 round magazines are easily purchased on the Internet. All this is marketed with fear and macho “warrior” fantasies. They are not sold for home defense or hunting.


A small minority of gun nuts own the majority of these guns. Why should the majority of us

live in fear of this minority? Why should one special interest group –the NRA (funded by gun

manufacturers) – set public policy on guns? It is time for the majority of sane citizens to

demand change and just say “no” to gun violence.