FROM THE MAY/JUNE 1998 ISSUE OF HUMANE RELIGION
The March 1998 report of still another killing spree by school children, this time in Jonesboro, Arkansas, brought to the fore the same charges and counter-charges that are always advanced by various pressure groups when children use guns to kill innocent victims.
The pro-gun forces go on the defensive claiming that guns don't kill, people do. And the anti-gun forces repeat the obvious: without guns, no individual has the ability to murder a group of people. But neither faction touches the heart of the matter. The problem is not the number of guns that are owned by Americans--it is what they do with these guns.
In Jonesboro, as in many other parts of the country, guns are the means by which children learn to kill. And because the beings they kill are not human, our school systems, state legislatures, and churches give their endorsement to this training in violence. They support the in-school programs and extra-curricula activities designed to teach children how to hunt: how to maim and murder small and vulnerable woodland creatures. And they tell these impressionable children that this killing is a recreational activity. A sport. Fun.
Hunting is also acclaimed as a unique opportunity for inter-generational bonding: parent and child can spend a day in the woods together, enjoying the beauty of nature while looking for small creatures to shoot. And when squirrels, possums, and various birds are crippled or killed, the children are praised for their skill. And, frequently, God is thanked for blessing their accomplishments. In fact, many churches sponsor hunting programs. Pigeon shoots, 'coon hunts, and other murderous events are planned by these churches as part of their family values programs.
School boards also give their benediction to these activities. Children are given days off during hunting season so they can join their elders for a day of recreational killing. But when they turn their guns on human targets, the same groups who helped desensitize these youngsters are appalled at what has taken place. And in the midst of the agony, the hand-wringing and the search for answers, no one discusses the fact that the children who committed the crime are the product of a culture in which recreational killing is as much of a favored pastime as baseball, football and cheerleading.