Many of my progressive friends may disagree, but in my humble opinion America’s love of guns is only one of several symptoms pointing towards a deeper problem with violence in the country.

As Stephen Covey wrote, “As long as you think the problem is out there, that very thought is the problem.” His point was that the real source of any problem lay inside us – in our thoughts and beliefs.

Recently I wrote about how our media likes to distract us. Frequently, even when they do take on an issue, they tend to oversimplify it, turning it into a debate between two extreme positions or only focusing the discussion on surface symptoms rather than root causes.  That is what I believe they are doing with the excessive coverage around the “gun debate”.

The recent tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary have pushed the country towards knowing that we must do something to stop the violence. I strongly agree. The question is – what can we do?

This past week President Obama unveiled a multifaceted plan to work towards curbing gun violence. Most people applaud the effort. Many on the far right demonize any attempt to limit access to any kind of guns and ammunition. Many on the left criticize Obama for not going far enough with his proposals. Here’s a link to the summary of what the President is proposing.

To be clear, I fully support efforts to limit assault weapons, require background checks in all cases and reinstate the ability of the ATF to do its job. I also agree that this issue transcends simply the availability of guns. The other areas currently being explored, such as looking at violence in the media and shortcomings in our mental health services, broken homes, drug usage and so on are important steps. It’s a positive step that we are beginning to realize and publicly acknowledge that violence in this country is not simply a gun issue. The cause is much bigger.

However, I want to be very clear that I am for the rights of Americans to own guns. Gun ownership is not the problem. Many countries such as Canada allow extensive gun ownership without anywhere near the levels of violence we experience in America. As stated, this polarized debate about taking away guns is a distraction from our real issue.  Anyone who truly fears they are going to lose their guns needs to stop and reflect on what they really fear.  I believe a deeper fear is at play than the “loss of my guns.”

Furthermore, this whole debate over the “Second Amendment” is another distraction. The time we spend debating over what the founding fathers meant and why they created this safeguard in the Constitution is time wasted.

It’s time we stopped distracting ourselves with side issues and focus on our deeper problem. Although it’s good to explore the impact that guns, violent movies, violent video games, failures of our mental health system and the like contribute to violence in America, we need to keep foremost in our awareness that these are all just symptoms of a deeper inner problem which we are having difficulty admitting.

What is that problem? The real issue is that we don’t feel bonded to one another. Too many people feel unloved and alone. Too many people feel unconnected to other people. Inside many is a thought and a belief that other people out there in the world are “objects” that don’t truly matter. We are in competition with those “others” for survival.

That thought is the real problem.

We will explore that problem more next in part two of this five-part series on America’s violence.

Mark Gilbert

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!