Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 26, 2013

LION & THE LAMB: Carl Sandburg and guns

By Ted Braun
Chronicle contributor


Chicago has become one of the most gun-violent cities in our nation. There were more than 500 homicides committed there last year, and at least 40 killings already this year.

I wonder what Carl Sandburg would say today about this earlier home of his. He began his writing career as a journalist on the staff of the Chicago Daily News. After his death the following poem, titled “A Revolver,” was discovered in the Sandburg archives of the Library at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana:

Here is a revolver.

It has an amazing language all its own.

It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.

It is the last word.

A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.

Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.

It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.

It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.

It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.

It is more subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.

When it has spoken, the case cannot be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamas or any injunction or any stay of execution come in and interfere with the original purpose.

And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.

In light of this, what would Sandburg be saying today, especially to the men in Chicago and in our nation? It is increasingly evident from our nation’s recent history of gun-related violence and massacres that gun violence is a guy thing. For some reason, women have not been on any similar gun rampages. In fact, they have more frequently been on the receiving end of the bullets.

Mother Jones magazine, in its March/April 2013 issue, provides some interesting information:

Estimated number of guns owned by law enforcement and military in the U.S.: 4 million; by civilians: 310 million.

For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around the home.

In 2011, nearly 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to stop a crime.

In 2010, nearly 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers. A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 7 times if he has access to a gun.

Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns illegally.

Our own state of Tennessee rates among the worst for violence against women, ranking third in the nation for the rate of women killed by men. Even on Valentine’s Day, the day that celebrates love, two domestic violence assaults in our state ended in the deaths of the victims.

As we men join in the broadening national conversation on gun control, we need to be aware of the seductions of power that having a gun in our hands gives us. And how we can better protect the health and welfare of our nation’s women who so often become victims of that power.

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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.