Guns, words and other powerful things

By Ruth Limkin

I’m always conflicted when I hear the mantra: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

On one hand that’s absolutely correct. On the other, it misses the point absolutely.

Yes, a gun usually requires a person to operate it to kill someone. However, a person’s ability to kill, harm, and maim is exponentially enhanced when you give them a semi-automatic weapon, as opposed to a knife. Or a feather.

There’s been tragedy in Toulouse, France in recent days, as self-identified al-Qa’ida gunman killed men and children in a series of attacks. A siege has been underway at his home over the past few days.

Reporting about this, the Australian wrote, “…the suspect was thought to be armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Mini-Uzi 9mm machine pistol and other handguns, but had thrown out a .45 pistol used in the seven murders. 

… The siege came as the Jewish victims of the attacks were being buried in Jerusalem and two of the soldiers were being laid to rest, one in France and one in Morocco. The shootings began on March 11, when a paratrooper of North African origin arranged to meet a man in Toulouse to sell him a scooter… an appointment at which paratrooper Imad Ibn Ziaten was subsequently killed, police said. 

Four days later three more paratroopers from another regiment were gunned down, two of them fatally, in the same fashion in a street in the nearby garrison town of Montauban.

 …Then on Monday the shooter, again wearing a motorcycle helmet and riding a scooter, attacked the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, killing a religious studies teacher, his toddler sons and a seven-year-old girl.”

I would hazard a guess that the suspect’s ability to kill that many people was enhanced by the kinds of tools he used – namely, guns. Similarly, a gun could have sat benignly if there was no desire to kill.

Intent and means. Purpose and partnership. Both are needed for results.

Of course it’s the desire that is the genesis of action. Yet the tools we use are necessarily linked to the outcomes.

It’s a reminder that the partnerships we choose will influence the consequences of our desires. With this in mind, there’s wisdom in evaluating what we have aligned with.

It’s also a reminder that our intent, our purpose and our desires are no small thing. The state of our heart will be expressed in the work of our hands – with whatever tools we use. That’s a reminder that the cultivation of our heart has not entirely private consequences.

One very simple tool each of us have at our disposal each day are words. They can bind up or break. They can warm or wound. They can help or harm.

Children may say, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Adults sometimes think, “Words don’t hurt people. People hurt people.”

On one hand that’s absolutely correct. On the other, it misses the point absolutely.

Today it would be good to pray for Toulouse. And remember to use our words well.


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One thought on “Guns, words and other powerful things

  1. Great article Ruth, “That’s a reminder that the cultivation of our heart has not entirely private consequences.” So true! It’s good to remind ourselves that even our thoughts have consequences.

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