Gun control, Gandhi, and true peace


Cooperation + tolerance = peace.1 (image source)

Prejudiced people will listen only to one side of a story. Swamiji had an open mind. He would take every point of view into account. He had a generous and forgiving heart.

Swami Turiyananda speaking of Swami Vivekananda2

My whole life I have never been much into guns, and never had a good feeling about people who used them on others.  You know?  Violence seems like a bad way to try to solve problems, at least the vast majority of the time.

More recently I’ve had friends who owned guns, and I started getting curious about this topic of “gun control”.  Why do people feel the need to have guns?  Sometimes if I can get inside people’s heads and see how they see the world, it makes it easier to have a dialogue, to cooperate, to find new solutions together.

Does that make sense?

In this article I’ve summarized some rationales I’ve discovered for why some people have not been favorable to so-called “gun control”, including Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) of all people, one of the most famous promoters of non-violence in living memory.  And I’ve tried to take a step back and put all this into a spiritual perspective that we could consider, no matter what religion we might subscribe to.

Warning:  this article describes situations that might be uncomfortable for some readers to think about.  Actually, what am I saying?  It should be uncomfortable for all readers.  But whether we like it or not, violence seems to be one of the issues we must face and understand in this “late time”3 of the “kali yuga”.4

1. Gandhi:  courageous, spiritually-inspired non-violence is best


Mahatma Gandhi advising Jawaharlal Nehru (leader of the Indian independence movement and later the first Indian prime minister of India), 1942.  (source)

Gandhi said that when faced with a difficult situation – sorry to be graphic, but let’s say you’re living in a ghetto and a gang of hoodlums wants to harm your teenage daughter or sister5 – there are three basic ways6 to deal with the situation.  Gandhi believed the best way is courageous, spiritually-inspired, non-violent intervention.

The idea is that you stand up to the aggressors, put your life on the line, and because of the spirituality that radiates from your body, the other people back down when they look in your eyes.

This, Gandhi felt, was the best approach for dealing with an aggressor, especially when done by a person with real moral fortitude, real backbone.  If you are a man or woman of God, someone deeply respected by friends and associates because of the peace and integrity you constantly radiate, this method is best, and might even work sometimes.

One thing Gandhi liked about this is that it is non-violent.  You don’t commit any violence, even in self-defense or in defense of your family.  The trade-off is that, if necessary, you might die right then and there, or get severely beat up.

In The Mummery Book,7 the protagonist stands up non-violently to a gang of corrupt cult members, even though he gets thrown into prison and dies a painful death.  Gandhi, I suspect, would appreciate this.

The qualification for this approach is that you really do have to have a strong relationship with God, or to put it another way, you must care more about truth than your own bodily safety.  In many cultures this trait was said to be essential for men, who were tasked with defending the community and defending their families.

2. Gandhi:  courageous, not-non-violent resistance is 2nd best


In “The Scarlet Pimpernel” – one of my favorite films – the protagonist pretends to be an effeminate buffoon, but he continually risks life and limb for the sake of others.  At times, he uses weapons to protect people, but he is skilled enough not to seriously hurt anyone.  Training with weapons used to be a requirement for all “gentlemen” in Western cultures.8  It was considered a matter of self-respect, honor, and being able to protect the innocent.

There were two remaining options Gandhi considered for dealing with an aggressor – in our example it was a gang wanting to harm your daughter or sister.9

The least of these three options, in Gandhi’s view, is to turn aside and let your innocent dependents be harmed.  Abandon your family, save your own skin, and allow the violence to take place.  Gandhi said people who do this might even puff themselves up with the idea that they are being “non-violent”.  Gandhi said this is the way of cowards, not the way of men.

There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent.

There is no such hope for the impotent coward.10

– M.K. Gandhi

Instead, Gandhi would say it is better to roll up your sleeves and fight the gang members, instead of letting them rape your sister.  He said that if you are incapable of non-violent intervention – staring down the aggressors and intimidating them by your own spirituality, perhaps asking God to send angels to protect the situation – then the next best thing is to intervene using ordinary human means, such as your fists.

The absolute worst thing, in Gandhi’s view, was cowardice.  It was more important not to be a coward than to be non-violent.

This was somewhat surprising for me to learn – what with my upbringing of emasculated male role models on television, cozy middle-class neighborhoods and all the rest of it.  But it makes sense, since Gandhi was a man with balls who lived by his convictions.

3. Gun rights advocates don’t trust corrupt gun owners


Kendra St. Clair, 12, was home alone when an intruder came into her house.  Kendra barricaded herself in the master bedroom closet and called 911.  (The intruder, it turns out, was arrested just the year before for abducting a 17-year-old girl.)11 She said to the 911 dispatcher, “please, help me, please,” as her fear reportedly escalated to sheer terror.  When the intruder came after her in the closet, she shot her mother’s gun for the first time in her life, and scared the man off.12  A U.S. gov’t survey says that intruders are more afraid of homeowners with guns than they are of the police.13

Another thing I learned about advocates of private gun ownership is that they do not trust people who a) own guns but also b) have a corrupt or criminal mindset.

So if a law is passed making it illegal to own a gun, and all the decent, law-abiding folks turn in their guns, the concern is that only immoral, non-law-abiding people like meth-heads, gang members and so forth will have guns after that.

Thus, one researcher claims:

Strict gun control laws in Great Britain and Australia haven’t made their people noticeably safer, nor have they prevented massacres.14

This seems anti-intuitive at first, but there’s a logic to it – basically, criminals don’t turn in their guns or buy them legally so the laws have not as much effect on them – which I invite you to explore at your leisure.

Then, taking it a step further… It is unpleasant for many of us with “liberal” backgrounds to contemplate, but when gun-rights people say they don’t trust gun owners with a corrupt mindset, this includes people in government office.  Just because someone gets a job working for the government, or controls the government, does not always guarantee that they are 100% completely free from corruption or violence, is the idea.  Is a violent, predatory government safe with all the guns?  I dunno.

Warning:  some of the images that follow may be disturbing.

I find strength in the words of Gandhi:

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love;
it is the prerogative of the brave.15

.   .   .



I’d like to think we can trust our public servants.  However they are not necessarily any more ethical than we are.  They may be under pressure to hide their superiors’ corruption, cover up for their buddies, or who knows what.  (image source)  A friend of mine who is an Asian-American software developer in New York, about my age, told me he was once threatened by a police officer.  The officer told him he could kill him if he wanted, and said “don’t think I couldn’t get away with it.”  This kind of annecdote makes me think that peace will come to our world when vast numbers of human beings experience a change of heart, and when we experience the kind of compassion and bravery Gandhi spoke of – rather than peace coming from bureaucractic solutions alone…


.   .   .



Apparently Gandhi really said this:  “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.”16 (image source)

.   .   .



A controversial guns-rights biillboard in Colorado. Apparently back in 1888 there was a movement among Native Americans in the mid-west called the “Ghost Dance” movement which urged Natives to give up alcohol and return to their roots. When the U.S. government banned ghost dances on Lakota reservations (can they do that?) the dances continued anyway. Then the U.S. Military moved in to forcibly disarm the Natives at gun point, and on December 29, 1890 at Wounded Knee, they massacred over 150 Natives, including women and children.17 The Native medicine man Black Elk later said of this massacre, “I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now… I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud… A people’s dream died there… the nation’s hope is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”18 (image source)

. . .



This is a typical pro-gun-rights image.  While I’m not a huge fan of guns, after considering the matter I do think I’d rather ordinary, law-abiding people have guns than these kinds of morons. (image source)  Yes, Hitler,19 Stalin,20 and Mao21 each benefited from gun-control and each made sure guns were collected from citizens before mass-scale “purges” or “roundups” took place.  I just found out that even the Ku Klux Klan began life as a “gun control” organization – its first order of business in 1865 was to try to disarm the freed slaves who’d fought in the U.S. Civil War!22

.   .   .



I love Comedian George Carlin (1937-2008), I agree with some of his rants, and I notice he was not unwilling to work some political opinions into his comedy routines. In 1992 he said, “I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don’t believe anything the government tells me. Nothing. Zero.”23  (image source)  In some traditional cultures, the “jester” is allowed to say things everyone else is afraid to say openly.

.   .   .



Okay, someone sent me this…  On the left is a partial screenshot of Sandy Hook victims from CNN.  On the right is apparently a professional “crisis actor”, who along with his family, specializes in helping “simulate” “mass casualty incidents”.  (Simulate = pretend / mummery.)  What’s odd is that his whole family of crisis actors look very similar to Sandy Hook victims and interviewees.24  Here’s a marketing blurb for the crisis actors:  “Visionbox Crisis Actors are trained in criminal and victim behavior, and bring intense realism to simulated mass casualty incidents in public places…”25  Huh???  Can someone explain this to me?  Why would Sandy Hook victims shown on television look identical to professional actors who specialize in pretending to be crisis victims?

.   .   .



Concealed handgun owner “saved untold lives” – LA Times.  In 2007, in Colorado Springs, Jeanne Assam, 42, used a concealed handgun to end a shooting spree at the New Life Church.  A 24-year-old man had shot and killed two people and was spraying the parking lot with gunfire and pushing through to the sanctuary.  He was carrying multiple guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.  “I just prayed to the Holy Spirit to guide me,” Ms. Assam said at a news conference.  “Authorities said Assam saved untold lives” with the help of her handgun.26 (image source)


4. True peace: from a parent-like bureaucracy or from a change of heart?


In the futuristic (?) 2008 animated film “Wall-E”, all human adults have become, effectively, ovresized bottle-sucking infants who are unable to think for themselves, unable to interact meaningfully with one another, and who have all their “needs” provided for by the technology of the megacorporation “Buy-n-Large”, which runs the government and the media as well as providing constant “entertainment” for all.

At times it might seem ideal if we could just out-source all our responsibilities for growing up and being mature human beings onto someone else.  Like a new kind of government bureaucracy which is scientifically designed to solve all our problems.

However, some people say this is not the way forward:

A truly rational and benign politics cannot be enacted merely by investing humankind in a worldwide system of parent-like bureaucracies.

The abstract system creates childish dependencies and illusory solutions, and it discourages the general possibility of genuine personal responsibility, or daily “right life”…27

In other words, the more dependent we are on massive bureaucracies for everything – including perhaps our safety and well-being – the more discouraged we are from living responsibly, according to this way of thinking.

The true politics of the individual is in relation to what is intimate to him or her.  Truly human politics is in the sphere of directly effective relationships, experienced on a daily basis – where the individual’s voice and experience can be directly heard and sympathetically felt.  That, fundamentally, is politics.  All the rest is only the vulgar and inherently disheartening daily “news” of the world-mummery of human egos.28

So as we go about our day, each time we interact with someone – whether it’s apparently our “friend” or our “foe” – it’s an example of human-scale politics and it expresses what kind of person we are.

This is sooo much simpler and feels so much more genuine than a lot of other stuff I’ve heard said about politics, which always seems to involve manipulating someone in order to accomplish some idealized solution to everything.

Presumably, true peace will also come from true politics…?

5. Summary


They say it is unwise to get between a mother bear and her cubs.  Perhaps animals, like this mother kitty, are not as cowardly as some of us humans, at least by the standards of Mahatma Gandhi?  (image source)

I still am not a big fan of guns.  I still do not own a gun.  However, I also have the luxury of not having a family to protect.

Part of me would much rather live in a world with zero guns, zero bombs, and zero attack drones, where animals don’t have claws, and women don’t have fingernails.  Let me know when that happens.  :)

For me, the real question is not whether I am for or against “gun control” – which as I understand it, usually means disarming all the decent, law-abiding people of some or all of their weapons, while allowing criminals and questionable organizations to have all the guns.

The real question for me is why is this made into such a big deal by the U.S. media, to the exclusion of so many other issues?29  And it is always portrayed as a civilian-gun-only issue, rather than a problem of violence in general.

The other real question for me is:  which of Gandhi’s three options would I choose when faced with a difficult situation?  Would I choose courageous non-violent intervention?  Would I choose not-non-violent intervention?  Or would I choose cowardice?

Please share your thoughts below.


  • What does Swami Turiyananda mean when he says “prejudiced people will listen only to one side of a story”?
  • What causes violence in the world?
  • Buddhist teachings say that violence is caused by 1) ignorance / prejudice, 2) greed, and 3) the need to control things we don’t like.  They call these the “three poisons”.30  What’s your take?
  • Going back to our earlier example of a gang wanting to harm your daughter or your sister in a ghetto, which of Gandhi’s three options would you choose today?  I think it’s important to make these considerations about us, here and now, otherwise they too easily devolve into vague abstractions.
  • Are your views on gun control the same or different from those of your parents?  I’m curious because often we assume our parents are unquestionably right about many things, and don’t consider other p.o.v.’s, even throughout an entire lifetime.
  • What is meant by saying “the abstract system [of parent-like bureaucracies] creates childish dependencies and illusory solutions”?  When is a solution “illusory”?
  • If anyone has a real story about facing a violent situation, I would appreciate hearing about that.
  • If someone wants a safe & non-violent world to live in, what would you tell them?

BOT Student

  1. Saying from Adi Da Samraj (1939-2008).
  2. July 4, 1915, as quoted here.  I suppose Swami Vivekananda is part of the inspiration for this blog, as an important forerunner to Adi Da’s recent work.
  3. Christians sometimes refer to this as the “end times” – meaning the end of the world is upon us, due to global breakdown of society economically, morally, spiritually, and in every other way, but Adi Da instead called this the “late time” which might be more palatable for some readers.  Actually not just Christians but Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews all predicted a breakdown of society to occur, or a “tribulation” of some kind, possibly followed by something positive for some people, depending on our faith and attitude…
  4. “Kali yuga” is a Hindu term meaning again that we’re in the “end times” where society breaks down ethically, spiritually, economically, and in every other way.  See previous footnote.
  5. This sort of thing really happens.  Pastor Earthquake Kelley recounts a story growing up in the projects of Stamford, Connecticut where a gang invited him to come along when they were out hunting for a girl to rape.  He was young and misunderstood what the purpose of the outing was.  He said “I watched as twenty gang members raped one girl.  Even as a young boy, I could not understand how someone could do that to another human being.”  From his book “Bound to Lose, Destined to Win”, published in 2011.
  6. This is based on an analysis of Gandhi’s philosophy of violence and non-violence provided by Unto Tähtinen in his book “The Core of Gandhi’s Philosophy” from The Basket of Tolerance.  It seems that Gandhi himself did not spell out his entire philosophy in words, but said “my life is my message”, so Mr. Unto Tähtinen’s book is one attempt to determine his philosophy by analyzing his actions.
  7. This is a story by Adi Da; see the Mummery Book page on this site for more info.
  8. According to Castiglione’s classic text “The Courtier” among other sources.
  9. Again, this isn’t an arbitrary example – it’s from a true story I just read just a few days ago by a man who grew up in the projects of Stamford, Connecticut. Except in the story, he wasn’t the brother of the girl.  See earlier footnote about Earthquake Kelley.
  10. From Gandhi’s “Non-Violence in Peace and War” as sourced here and referenced here.  NOTE:  I added the word “coward” to make the meaning more clear in my opinion, because he speaks again and again and again throughout his life of cowardice, and is not speaking about sexual impotence.
  11. per here.
  12. See abc news for more info.
  13. U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, “The Armed Criminal in America: A Survey of Incarcerated Felons,” Research Report (July 1985): 27. I did not review this source personally, but saw it quoted here.
  14. Joyce Lee Malcolm, writing an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal.  Ms. Malcolm, a professor of law at George Mason University Law School, is the author of several books including “Guns and Violence: The English Experience,” (Harvard, 2002).
  15. From “Wit and wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi” (1960 edition), according to here.
  16. Gandhi printed this on leaflets during WW I. The earlier Indian Arms Act of 1878, which, through its provisions granting the goverment unlimited arbitrary power to forbid possession of any and all arms by anyone or everyone, in practice meant nearly complete disarmament of the native Indian population, according to here and here.
  17. I found info about this on wikipedia and here.
  18. From “Black Elk Speaks”, by John Neihardt, as quoted at wikipedia.
  19. “In 1933, Adolf Hitler, seized power and used (gun registration) records to identify, disarm, and attack political opponents and Jews. Constitutional rights were suspended, and mass searches for and seizures of guns and dissident publications ensued. Police revoked gun licenses of Social Democrats and others who were not ‘politically reliable.’… The Gestapo banned independent gun clubs and arrested their leaders. Gestapo counsel Werner Best issued a directive to the police forbidding issuance of firearm permits to Jews… SS chief Heinrich Himmler decreed that 20 years be served in a concentration camp by any Jew possessing a firearm.” (source: How the Nazis used Gun Control, by Stephen P. Halbrook, PhD.).
  20. “Russians never had a tradition of gun ownership before or after the Bolshevik Revolution. The Czars, like most Royal rulers, never allowed the ‘right to bear arms’ for their people… The Bolsheviks… when they took over… murdered (people) en masse and confiscated all of their property including their guns, if they had any. The Soviet gun law passed in 1929 was aimed at the military officers and military retired (the only groups in Russia that possessed guns of significant quantities,) whom Stalin planned to purge…  Stalin killed and imprisoned millions in the 1930s…” (source)
  21. “The Chinese Communist party has, from its earliest establishment, made it a practice to carefully control weapons in its areas of control. In this respect it is not much different than most political and military movements that are attempting to gain control of a territory or overthrow a state. The degree of strictness the party authorities took with view to weapons in the possession of anyone not officially tied to the army (e.g. 8th Route Army etc.) or affiliated with its armed militia units varies from location to location… It is important to recognize that the ‘armed workers and peasants’ referred to in a document like this is not anyone and everyone: as the party penetrated various rural communities, technically only those registered in an ‘armed unit’ (武裝部队) or ‘armed cadres’ (武裝幹部) should be armed. In the postwar period, these would either retain their weapons and become part of the army, or surrender them when their units were dissolved…” (source: write-up by Konrad M. Lawson, Lecturer in Modern History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland).
  22. See here and here for more info.
  23. “Jamin’ in New York”. source: wikipedia.
  24. Image from here c/o here where they show tons more examples.  Also, one blogger summarizes a lot of questions about Sandy Hook at Fellowship of the Minds.  I don’t know what to make of all this but it does raise questions for me.
  25. As quoted here.
  26. From LA Times article. The shooter was a member of the O.T.O. organization (made popular by Aleister Crowley) and stated openly that he hated Christians. For more examples of mass-killings stopped by armed citizens, see here and here and here.
  27. From “Reality-Politics for Ordinary Men and Women”, by Adi Da, as published in Not-Two Is Peace.
  28. Also from “Reality-Politics for Ordinary Men and Women”, by Adi Da, as published in “Not-Two Is Peace”.
  29. For example, I came across this statistic:  “You are more than twice as likely to be a victim of knife crime in the UK as you are to be a victim of gun crime in the US (but there is no media debate about banning kitchen knives).”  This is based on 2006 data.  Quoted from here, which provides sources for all statistical data.  Obviously kitchen knives serve a useful purpose that everyone can see, and perhaps guns don’t.  But that doesn’t mean victims of knife attacks don’t deserve our sympathy just as much as gun victims?  The incredible, overwhelming media emphasis on civilian gun violence to the exclusion of so many other issues makes me uncomfortable.
  30. They are also called the three main “kleshas”, and are sometimes referred to as ignorance, attachment, and aversion (or ignorance, passion, and aggression.).
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  1. Paul   Thumb up +7

    Another excellent, thought-provoking post. Thanks!

    There’s a lot here, and it’s a large and important issue. What I’d like to do here is raise some points that I think should ALSO be taken into account, in addition to those made in your wide-ranging and thoughtful posting.

    First off, I have become acutely aware of how propagandized I have been by movies and television into seeing violence as a solution. How many dramatic stories have I seen in which after an extended period of emotional arousal, with fear, anger, righteous indignation, and so on, everything is satisfactorily resolved at the end when “the bad guys” are all killed or at least definitely defeated? It’s the basic plot to almost every action movie ever made, but it bears no great resemblance to any real-life situation I’ve ever faced. In my own life experience, people don’t divide into good guys and bad guys, even people who seem to be opponents need to be basically worked with rather than eliminated or defeated, and – our focus here – violence isn’t a useful way to improve a situation.

    I spend quite a lot of time reading the daily news, and I’m well aware that the United States government repeatedly promotes the basic plot I just described as a framework for understanding world events, and uses its out-of-scale-to-the-rest-of-the-world military as the proposed solution to every thus defined problem. And in pretty much every case, when I get to understand the situation in some detail, it becomes clear to me that what is going on has the characteristics I just ascribed to my own experience rather than to the Holly wood plot. (Yes, the movies and television I was describing are as American as the foreign policy with the same plot.)

    But even though I have drawn conclusions about the lack of truth and utility of this plot, its psychology has deeply infected me. When I get angry – and considering the world events presented in the news sometimes gets me angry – I look for someone to blame, and feel the impulse to punish them. If I was in a situation where I could hit or even shoot someone I feel is the perpetrator of some misdeed, I could really resonate with doing that, and perhaps even exulting in the act.

    That impulse in me seems kind of aberrant within me. When I contemplate actually doing such a thing, I quickly recognize that I would deeply regret ever doing such a thing. And not just because I’m totally incapable of dealing with any response in kind. Even in the best of circumstances, it is obvious to me that such an action would not ever improve the situation but would always make things worse.

    I’ll respond now to the scenario you describe in your posting: “let’s say you’re living in a ghetto and a gang of hoodlums wants to rape your teenage sister”. It seems to me that you have kind of stacked the deck in favor of violent action by describing exaggerated spiritual qualities that would be required for nonviolent action to be effective while suggesting “it is better to roll up your sleeves and fight the gang members, instead of letting them rape your sister”. In my own case, if I rolled up my sleeves and fought the gang members it would be at best a brief prelude to them raping my sister, if that was what they were intent on doing!

    I don’t know what I would do in that horrible situation, and I concede that in some remarkable specific case I might resort to violence if I thought it would actually be effective and there was no better alternative, but that seems EXCEEDINGLY unlikely. A “gang of hoodlums” is overwhelming likely to be more proficient in violence than I am.

    But even if I was Clint Eastwood with my trusty six-gun on my hip, there would still be a terrible cost to actually shooting someone with it. I got into watching Clint Eastwood movies for a while, and felt I was learning something from them. In his early ones, the bodies piled up rapidly, and the virtuous survivors lived happily on after. But in Unforgiven, a perhaps old and wiser Eastwood shows the reverberating consequences of an initial act of violence, which are an ongoing burden for all those drawn in.

    Here’s one real life example of someone who thought he had (at last!) a fully justified opportunity to use his martial arts skills to serve others:

    And here’s an example from the current news:

    I don’t have any definitive answer, but it seems that there would have been all kinds of ways that someone could have intervened, violently or not, and that a non-violent intervention may well have done a lot of good.

    Lastly, here’s a classic parable, suggesting, I guess, that the intimation of possible violence may be an appropriate tactic:

    • Hi Paul,

      Thank you so much for sharing your comments.

      I didn’t mean for this to be interpreted as a pro-violence or a pro-gun article. What I’m trying to do is to find out why some people feel it’s important to be allowed to own guns to protect their families in today’s world, and then I’m trying to see if I can sympathize with their p.o.v., rather than simply see them as “other” or “bad people” or “the enemy”.

      I think violence is bad. However, if confronted with a difficult situation, and a man needed to protect someone dependent on him… I dunno if I feel I have the right say that he can’t use his hands or certain tools to try to prevent the violence.

      I know a man who felt that he would never be confronted with a difficult situation. He believed that violent incidents only happened to “other people”. Perhaps good middle-class white people never have to deal with violence, right? Unfortunately this man found out his beliefs about that were wrong, and his wife was threatened at knife-point.

      Anyway, I don’t mean to suggest that it takes exaggerated spiritual qualities to choose non-violence in the face of a threat. I do think that for me, it would be challenging to step up in the face of a situation where my own safety and well-being were threatened. Gandhi said a man should be ready to die for the sake of peace and truth. So part of the point of the article was for me to muse about where I’m at on that issue.

      Also, the example about the gang-rape was not arbitrary – I read a true story about that exact situation just a few days ago, as I mention in one of the footnotes. Yes, just like Gandhi standing up the British Empire, one guy standing up to a gang is not good odds. That’s why Gandhi felt bravery was an important trait, I guess. He seemed to feel that in some of the challenges we face in life, the odds are against us…?

      Regarding the story about the snake that refused to hiss… yes, that is a great story. In doing research for this article, I found a statistic that 92% of the time, a gun owner scares off an assailant without shooting the person. Just pulling out the gun and showing it to the attacker is enough to end the interaction in many cases, it seems. Or perhaps firing a warning shot. Some gun owners take the responsibility of their gun-ownership very seriously and train regularly for how to deal with various scenarios with minimal harm to all parties. I mean, shooting a person unnecessarily can get you in enormous trouble, and for good reason.

      Going back to gangs, in “The Mummery Book” one way to look at the plot is that the protagonist is threatened by a gang leader, and when he disobeys and stands up to the gang (non-violently) he pays a very real price for his decision. What do you think of that? Is that an arbitrary and unrealistic scenario? Why is it written that way, I wonder.

      Anyway, thank you Paul for your comments. :)

    • Okay, I just renamed the article, and took the word “non-violence” out of the title and added “bravery” in.

      The article is more about how bravery relates to peace and gun-control. It’s not intended to be an article about non-violence itself – which is a very worthy topic, and needs more treatment than is given here.

      This is more about the “gun control” issue as it is framed for us to consider by the media over and over. It’s always framed as an issue that does not require bravery to deal with, only bureaucratic solutions from a parent-like savior. Which seems slightly fishy to me.

  2. TC   Thumb up +9

    Thanks for another great and provocative article.

    I grew up with guns all around. They were used for hunting, even though there was never a need for the food that such hunting sometimes provided. Hunting and killing was ‘fun’, just what you did if you were part of the scene in which I appeared. I stopped hunting one day when, as a teenager, I shot a dove, went to pick it up, and found it still alive. It was so fragile, soft and beautiful. As I picked it up, it looked me straight in the eye. Then a drop of blood came out from its beak, and it died. I got it, and never hunted again after that.

    I sold all my guns, and didn’t have any for many years. Now at age 69, living alone, I keep a handgun in the nightstand next to my bed. Would I use it? I probably would, but first I’d make any intruder really aware that I have it, by discharging a shot or two and yelling that I am prepared to shoot the person. I think that would scare off almost all intruders. If one kept coming, I probably would shoot him or her, because they would most likely be bent on doing me real harm.

    Beyond that, this article got me thinking about violence itself. This world is a violent place altogether. Look at what goes on here; living beings are constantly killing and eating one another. Every being ultimately gets killed and eaten by other beings. That’s the way this place is, and there are no two ways about it.

    But what sets humans apart is our capacity for strategic violence, or violence that falls outside the realm of what is actually, really required for survival and basic well-being. I feeling we do this because we have a deluded notion that it is possible to (personally, or as a group or nation) profit at the expense of an other’s well-being, even at the expense of the well-being and balance of entire species, even that of many species, even the entire planet’s capacity to sustain life. Is this not what we’re seeing today, more and more?

    Human beings in general are insatiably hot for ‘more and more’, as if getting and having more will somehow be effective at relieving the fundamental anxiety associated with knowing that we are going to suffer and inevitably die, and we are (religious beliefs notwithstanding) afraid that death means we will be completely destroyed, absolutely snuffed out into interminable dark emptiness. Getting and having more and more is a means by which humans try to counter the accompanying anxiety and raw fear. And this movement is so strong that we even use violence (more or less overt depending on the circumstance) to (by brute force) take more and more, or to remove perceived or real threats to our getting and having and hoarding. And in support of such quests, we elect governments based on the expectation that they will carry out such self-protective and acquisitive violence on our behalf.

    The issue is not control of guns, which are merely symptomatic of the deeper problem, the unwillingness to truly and bravely face the realities of life, which include suffering and death, and to be moved, by the realization that such suffering and death are universal, to sensitivity and compassionate, loving and helping of one another, even of every species and the entire planet.

    As for gun control legislation, Barry Goldwater said, ‘You can’t legislate morality.’ And while I agree with him, I still feel gun control legislation would be good for the US, if only as an indication that the various levels of government (elected by the people supposedly, but more and more by corporate money and clever manipulation of the populace by paid media) is truly dedicated to controlling violence at every level, from the local to international. I don’t believe this will happen in the US and worldwide until violence is realized to be (in the long run) counter-productive of real well-being. The whole living, breathing planet is in the most persuasive position to impose that lesson.

    As for bravery, the bravest are those who stare suffering and death in the face and counter all that inevitable horror with consistent and compassionately active, real love.

    May it be so, and quickly, for the sake of all!

    • Thanks TC.

      Yes, it seems like a lot of the debate about gun control is based not on understanding the roots of violence in our own personal lives, but on the idea that modern society can remove violence and greed and evil from our lives through bureaucratic means, by pushing some papers around between lobbyists and lawmakers.

      I just don’t know if it works that way, and it makes me uncomfortable to see “gun control” discussed in those terms.

      They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and while a lot of the intentions behind “gun control” discussions are good, I just don’t know if we can bypass the trial of our own life, our own confrontation with fear and threat and danger and mortality.

      I quoted Adi Da saying that politics should be human-scale rather than having it depend on massive bureaucracies, but I’d be curious to know how many people actually agree with that way of thinking.

      That doesn’t mean we can’t create intelligent formalities in our communities about when it’s okay to use weapons. But the way people seem to depend for everything on national mainstream media and advertising campaigns and so forth – even just to know what ideas are in vogue to support – makes me uncomfortable…

      Anyway thanks for sharing your comments. Maybe you will inspire other readers to share as well. :)

  3. compton memories   Thumb up +12

    I think most people of good moral fabric feel fundamentally the same about the root issue — or the right to self-defense… in that they agree individuals should be able to protect themselves from predators.

    It becomes a more technical matter when you — necessarily — have to bring in the issue of weapons. No woman, no elderly or disabled person, and really no man of today generally can adequately defend themselves against any aggressive and committed 18 year old with decent sized Buck knife, much less any other weapon of greater potency. So, to say you agree with the principle of a right to self-defense mandates that you allow for that defense to actually happen, and that pretty much means allowing private citizens to own handguns. Long rifles, farmer length shot guns, pepper spray, kung-fu classes, frying pans, and baseball bats are simply not adequate for close range, home-invasion, or personal confrontation levels of self-defense, much less anything involving multiple attackers. A handgun is what does the job. But so is knowing how to use it, and being willing to use it to kill. Liberals who feel all guns should be banned in an embrace of Ghandian non-violence have typically not spent time in the company of people who a) kill other people and b) enjoy killing other people. Those people are amused by liberal views, and they are happy that liberals exist. Liberals are good for business. But does everyone need to have multiple AK’s and a 50cal in the basement? Should people just be able to buy any firearm with no more training than what they’ve observed in the last five episodes of ’24’? It’s madness. There has got to be a reasonable, ethical, sustainable middle ground.

    Since living among genuine cold-blooded killers, I have never lived without a firearm in my room, and won’t in this lifetime so long as I have anyone to protect around me other than myself. There’s a personal case to be made perhaps for absolute ahimsa, and even submission to death rather than defensive violence, but I’m not sure how solid that case is finally. You only need to find yourself in a situation of deadly encounter once to understand what the real issue is, and what arises as your own internal choice in response to that. Few things are worse than being confronted with authentic evil and having no recourse to defend yourself or another who you love, which is far, far worse and something for which you will never forgive yourself if things go south on your watch. I suppose this starts to sound like a self-projected world of darkness and paranoia, and it’s important to not go there. But even not going there, consciously and as a practice, one still has to account for the realities of our times, and they are thunderously less than sattvic. It is perfectly possible Be Love and also Be Saying: “Stop right there, motherfucker.” In some cases, it takes more than a steady voice to make that command effectively heard. So the 9mm stays in the drawer, for me, for now.

    • Speaking of kung fu, I’ve had a few martial arts lessons. My sensei didn’t beat around the bush. He said “aikido is for self development. If you want protection, get a gun.”


      He also insisted we train with weapons – wooden swords and stuff like that. He was an absolutely awesome instructor. Very gentle, very sweet man, but he did not tolerate anything fake.

      Part of the training is we had to get over our fear of getting hit. That was a big part of it actually. And fear of hitting someone.

      Regarding what you say about “Gandhian non-violence”, I think based on the research I did for this article that some of that stuff might have very little to do with Gandhi…

      Thank you for sharing, sir.

    • TC   Thumb up +1

      Amen, Brother

  4. reader   Thumb up +10

    In the end guns serve one of three purposes, as do any weapons

    1. to hunt and forage for food.
    2. to inflict one’s will upon another, with violent means.
    3. to prevent the inflicting of another’s will upon another to prevent violence.

    One of these is evil, the other two are realities of earth for survival.

  5. Edu   Thumb up +4

    This reminds me of a joke =P

    More truth than fiction.

    Question: You’re walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, a dangerous looking man with a huge knife comes around the corner and is running at you while screaming obscenities and his intent to cause you and yours harm. In your hand is a Colt .45 Government Model and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family.

    What would you do?

    Liberal Answer: Well, that’s not enough information to answer the question! Does the man look poor or oppressed? Have I ever done anything to him that is inspiring him to attack? Could we run away? What does my wife think? What about the kids? Could a violent action on my part traumatize them? Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand? What does the law say about this situation? Is it possible he’d be happy with just killing me? Does he definitely want to kill me or would he just be content to wound me? If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me? This is all so confusing! I need to debate this with some friends for a few days to try to come to a conclusion.

    Conservative Answer: BANG! BANG!……………BANG!

    Texan’s Answer: BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! click…
    (sounds of magazine being ejected and fresh one installed)
    Wife: “Sweetheart, he looks like he’s still moving, what do you kids think?”
    Son: “Mom’s right Dad, I saw it too…”
    Daughter: “Nice grouping Daddy!
    (sound of second magazine being ejected, and another being inserted)

    • lol.

      As a former liberal, while I would never want to encourage or endorse violence, and while I do believe there are almost always non-violent alternatives available to us, I do find this amusing.

      I find it amusing because I now believe that there is something about the “liberal” mindset that tends to want to “pretend” death out of existence, along with suffering and the potential for violence.

      There is a refusal to accept the reality of death and ending. And cover it over with endless intellectual distractions.

      Also the liberal mindset is often the mindset of atheists who believe that birth is thanks to evolution, death is a sign of embarrassing “failure” of some kind, and that’s it: when you’re dead you’re dead.

      The whole thing is rather humorless and dark and self-conscious. It makes an idol out of physical bodily existence, and then looks to that same bodily existence to achieve some sort of perfection in and of itself, which it cannot achieve, except in imagination and fantastic schemes of bureaucratic salvation.

      I think your joke is apropos, sir.

    • I got an email from someone who took issue with this joke, suggesting it encouraged violence.

      Or maybe took issue that it was making fun of liberals.

      I was going to write back, but I thought I would post my response here. Here’s what I wrote…

      Liberals are not actually as non-violent as they might like to think, in my experience. As liberals (I used to be a liberal, and probably still am in many ways), we can be some of the most angry people on earth, only it’s usually hidden or expressed through covert means. We tend to have a glamorous self-image about *thinking* we are non-violent – like a proud nation that pretends to be virtuous – or we may take pride in being able to outwardly control our emotions most of the time. But then we might end up with passive aggression. Or another way to look at it is that, as liberals, our violence is expressed through our attitudes – even via suppressing our own bodily vitality, which is almost a kind of violence toward ourselves – rather than expressing violence overtly at others through our hands. But our default so-called “non-violence” is not necessarily loving or self-sacrificial in our actual interactions with people, in my experience – it’s more an idea, or an ideal, a way we want to see ourselves.

      That’s why I found Edu’s joke funny.

      As liberals, we don’t tend to believe that God or ego-transcendence are necessary – instead we are much more hopeful about additional legislation to control everything and everyone. We trust in man, not in God. (Actually we don’t even trust individual men, but we do trust collectives.) We’d like to evolve a more and more perfect society in which to idolize ordinary bodily existence. And to achieve this, we’re willing to use an idealized – but actually quite violent – bureaucratic system to enforce our will onto others, enforce our ideas of how everything should be.

      I saw a man on Facebook recently expressing the idea that ALL private gun owners are paranoid and deluded and are claiming rights that they do not deserve. When someone asked him about this, he said he was just angry about the recent shootings in the news, being a father himself, and was looking for someone to blame it on.

      While I sympathize with people being upset over publicized shootings, or being afraid for their families, I don’t know if we can bypass this trial of going beyond fear that Gandhi spoke about.

      In a way, we’re getting into the actual inspiration for this article. Would Gandhi smile upon those of us who talk about non-violence while living comfy, cowardly lives in middle-class suburbs, having our comfortable lifestyle protected by large guns that we get to pretend don’t exist? It’s a question worth asking, I feel. Does true non-violence require a willingness to die, on the spot, even in a very physical and earthy way, for the sake of love and truth? Gandhi’s claim was that yes, genuine non-violence does require this willingness. The Mummery Book also seems to suggest that some kind of non-violent self-sacrifice – or acceptance of whatever happens when we disobey powerful evil forces – is required.

      Going back to Edu’s joke about the violent man with the knife attacking someone’s family… As liberals, it’s my opinion that we DO in fact want this violent man killed or locked up or otherwise removed somehow (or best of all, written out of the story through intellectual argument, lol), but we want it done where we can’t see it, and done through a parent-like bureaucracy that takes responsibility out of our own hands. We don’t want a direct, earthy, participatory relationship with the man – we just want him removed from our otherwise spotless society, and placed under the parental care of some bureaucracy. Perhaps a mental asylum.

      Edu’s joke could be seen as equally making fun of conservative people – but I didn’t get any conservatives sending me emails complaining about it. Are all conservatives heartlessly violent? Or anxious and jumpy with their trigger fingers? This is not my experience, at all. But as a joke I thought it was funny because it poked fun at stereotypes, costumes we could wear in modern society – liberal costumes and conservative costumes.

      Anyway, I still think the joke was good because it helps provoke consideration and discussion. :)

    • Edu   Thumb up +1

      This hipothetical scenario does bring many questionings:

      Would one rightously defend oneself and one’s loved ones if a true menace was present with the avaialable means, whichever may be?

      Can one take the responsability of defend oneself and one family?

      Is there something in our culture that prevent us from confronting evil when necessary and keep us spinning our wheels in ideological controversies?

      Shouldn’t uncoditional love include self-love?

      Can most people wield (ACTIVELY, not passively) the faith and spiritual forces necessary to stop violent agressors before trauma is caused to oneself or inocents? Can most send unconditional love energy from the heart chakra to the attacker during a situation of sudden stress? Do most even know about this possibility? Even after being raised for most years in an externally oriented, atheistic materialistic culture? Is this a realistic expectation?

      Can severe trauma or violent death hinder one’s soul spiritual progress?

      etc, etc, etc…

  6. Dear Basket of Tolerance editor,

    Thank you for this timely and relevant post about gun violence and what to do about it.

    Your post has prompted me to revisit my essay about reducing gun violence in Oakland. I realized I hadn’t added some new ideas about what to do about violence, that I would like to mention here, in response to the general question about how and if we should control guns.

    I will just cut to the chase and tell you the main points of how I propose America, in particular, deals effectively with the issue of gun violence.

    First, the prohibition of guns, like the prohibition of drugs, can never work in America.

    Second, it is almost always a bad idea for any government to attempt to take people’s firearms from them, because it usually involves the enlargement of police state activities, and erosions of basic civil liberties.

    Third, the best general approach to gun violence in America is harm-reduction, not prohibition, with a primary emphasis on a bullet tax.

    Fourth, we need to “re-tool” gun culture, rather than suppress, demonize or attempt to eradicate it, by phasing in the use of less-lethal and non-lethal munitions.

    Fifth, we need to allow a culture of militaries and police forces that use non-violence, and non-lethal/less-lethal means.

    Sixth, we need to teach non-violence in every school, workplace and church.

    Seventh, we need to get to the root of violence, and solve it at the root, which is ego, not guns.

    Eighth, we need to set a collective goal of reducing killings in America by 50% in 10 years, and 90% in 20 years.

    Anyone who is sincerely interested in getting to the root of gun violence in America should read the book Not-Two Is Peace by Adi Da, which is the definitive book about how humanity and earthkind can realize global peace.

    Please see my blog site for more on this and other issues.

    Love and blessings,
    Theo Cedar Jones

    • Wow, I like a lot of your ideas, sir.

      Interesting what you say about violence being caused by “ego” and not the weapons themselves.

      It’s comments like this that make me feel that this article was worth writing. My blogging style is I don’t like to propose solutions, but that leaves my articles half-finished until other people come along to help finish them.

      Thank you for sharing, sir. I think these ideas may be helpful to many people.

  7. Lynne Udell   Thumb up +9

    Pertaining to violence in particular – this is a true story.

    A woman was walking home and she was jumped by a guy who begun to rape her. She relaxed her body and looked him in the face and begun repeating ‘I love you’ to him from her depth. After a period he stopped, tears coming to his eyes and walked away’

    This is an ideal but it is also true. Confrontation combated with love. I wonder when we will be brave enough for this?

    • Wow. Excellent story, thank you Lynne for bringing us back to Gandhi’s ideal of compassion and self-sacrifice and bravery.

      If we all did this, I think we’d live in a very different world.

    • Paul   Thumb up 0

      Thanks, Lynne.

      Interesting to contemplate the after-effects on the rapist and rape victim (loaded word) compared with the after effects in, say, Edu’s scenario of the “dangerous looking man with a huge knife” and any of the three he was supposedly attacking. (And yes, I presume that even a dead man will have an ongoing story.)

  8. Paul   Thumb up +1

    A point I’d like to make here is how glad I am to live in a country where it is very hard to get a handgun and very few are armed apart from hunters and farmers (mostly for shooting rabbits). I’m in Australia now, where the police are armed, but in New Zealand, where I’ve lived most of my life, the police are not armed.

    It’s very quick and easy to kill someone with a gun, compared with any of the other usual methods, and that results in a lot of FEAR where the possibility of a a gun being drawn and fired is raised.

    One of the scenarios I’m very aware of, reading the news of events in the U.S. particularly, is where someone, commonly a police officer or a homeowner facing an unexpected visitor, fears for their life and shoots the other person. Amadou Diallo is perhaps the most famous victim of the kind of scenario I’m describing – but there a LOT of others. Maybe not a lot compared with traffic accidents and heart attacks, but it has a very pervasive effect.

    For one thing it makes blacks and other more marginal people in society very fearful (or at least cautious) in relation to police. And creates a whole psyche that seems evident in compton memories’s and Edu’s postings above.

    I understand that you’re already in that psychic state, and lots of people are already armed and there is no way America is going to become “like New Zealand” in this respect any time soon, and it is hard to see how it could even move in that direction constructively. I can sympathize with those criticizing a merely legislative solution. A very pervasive grassroots movement seems like it could be effective, but how’s that going to happen? By Grace?

    The other thing I’d like to say is that I think the idea of armed patriots defending their liberty against the army coming to put everyone in FEMA camps or some such is something of a product of this gun-infested macho psyche. Maybe in some situation something like that would be appropriate, but if you’re meditating on shooting people who are “out to get you” i suspect you are more part of the problem than the solution. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising might be a precedent to consider (

    I’d prefer to focus on cooperative possibilities, including with people who might seem in the moment to be opponents. But we all need to be aware of the realities of each situation and assess for ourselves what might be possible.

    • Hi Paul, if you have time to comment further, I’d be curious to know if you agree with Gandhi’s three options for dealing with an aggressor and if so, which option you yourself would choose.

      For example, when someone attacks you – even let’s say, a verbal attack – do you respond with unconditional love, do you fight back, or do you respond in some sort of overtly fearful and submissive way?

      I’d like to keep bringing this back to a concrete & personal discussion, rather than talking about “grassroots movements” and such, which often seem very abstract to me. :)

    • Paul   Thumb up +1

      As I said before, the way the three options are framed seems very loaded to me. It’s obvious to me that violence is always a bad thing, both because of its effects on the one(s) to whom the violence is directed AND because of its effects on the agent(s) of violence. I feel a lot of the latter effects just through my “virtual” participation in violence through movies and television.

      BUT in some situations, violent action might be the LEAST BAD option available. In my own case, I’d also have to take into account that I’m likely to be very ineffective in taking violent action.

      Removing myself from the situation – which you seem to be denigrating as cowardly – might well be the best available option.

      But if there were others involved who were (even) weaker than myself, it’s more likely I would try some other form of action, non-violent or even possibly violent. I don’t think we are very good at predicting what we would do even in a known situation, and the hypothetical situation is itself rather abstract.

      One feature that is common in movies, on TV, and in U.S. foreign policy is dehumanizing the other people. Edu’s example (above) of “a dangerous looking man with a huge knife … running at you while screaming obscenities and his intent to cause you and yours harm” is an example of such a dehumanized individual. As he is portrayed, there is no possibility of mutual sympathy, negotiation, cooperation, etc.

      I don’t believe that such beings actually exist or could exist. In the short term, someone might be the functional equivalent of such a being, but over any (perhaps even briefly) extended time I would think there would be the possibility of connecting with the humanity of the other person. Lynne’s story of the rapist is an example. So is the story of the drunk on the train that I linked to above,

      And I don’t think you need to be a saint to connect humanly with another person, or even come up to “unconditional love” in the moment. We are all ALREADY in relationship with every other apparent being and we only need to acknowledge that prior reality and act on that basis, in whatever humble way we can, for that relationship to be made effective in the situation. It may not lead to a great outcome, but perhaps in some sense it may be the best one can do.

    • Edu   Thumb up +1

      Well… …there some people in this world that have little humanity left, and they are very well self-concious of this. As matter of fact they chose it on purpose. People who respect nothing else other than actual power, be it spiritual or worldly.

      see the “Franklin Cover Up”:

  9. question everything   Thumb up +2

    In case you wonder about the background of these “crazy lone gun men” and what medication has to do with it.

    • Hmm, somehow this comment got lost. Yes, thank you for sharing this. The first video is called

      MK-Ultra, CIA Mind Control & Brain Washing to Make Assassins

      and the second is called


      Looks very interesting with hundreds of thousands of views for each video. Certainly mind-control and assassins have been a major topic going back to the 60s, if not before. I think JFK was even a fan and friend of the filmmaker who made The Manchurian Candidate.

      I would encourage readers to take a look at these videos and let us know what they think, give us a report.

  10. Edu   Thumb up +1

    See also:

    “As an alternative, he suggested I read a book called “The Ultimate Evil” by Maury Terry and use it as a starting point for a conspiratorial novel. Maury Terry is a newspaper reporter who uncovered a coast-to-coast network of underground Satan-worshiping drug-smugglers while investigating the “Son of Sam” murders in New York City. The novel is written from the author’s point of view, and relates the facts in the order he uncovered them. Like a true reporter, he offers no theory to connect them. As I organized the events of his book, I was forced to do additional research – especially on the “Cotton Club” killers. After completing this task, all I needed to add were motives and a way to tie these “agents of chaos” to well funded political organizations that advocate industrial collapse.”

  11. Rick Brenner   Thumb up +1

    No one in favor of gun control is advocating all citizens turning in all of their guns such that only criminals will have guns. This is an extreme example that the NRA puts forth to further their agenda.

    • Hi Rick; thanks for sharing.

      I used to think the NRA was one of the most evil and strange entities on the planet.

      Now… well, now I can think of much worse things. And an asssociation of gun owners doesn’t seem that bad at all, really.

      Regarding the notion “No one in favor of gun control [wants] all citizens turning in all their guns”… I hope you are right about this.

      When the Chinese first came to Tibet, apparently they said “we’re from the government and we’re here to help you.” The Tibetans were like wtf, we didn’t elect you. Eventually there was forced disarming of the Tibetans and worse, though for a long time many Tibetans were in denial about how bad the Chinese were. (I’m basing this off Chogyam Trungpa’s book “Born In Tibet”.)

      Some people say this Tibetan situation was a preview of what is likely to happen worldwide in our lifetime. If you don’t like those sorts of warnings, stay away from Adi Da’s book “Not-Two Is Peace”, I’m sorry to say, as it contains some chilling warnings – if I’m reading my scripture correctly.

      Ultimately I don’t personally think guns are the answer; I think Gandhi’s first option is really the only solution. But for the purposes of this article I was trying to see things through the eyes of gun owners. Hard to practice cooperation or tolerance if I hold on to too many prejudices.

      Thanks Rick for sharing your sentiments.

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