published Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Cook: A violent man, a coward and fool

Me. I'm the fool.

It happened last week when Georgia's new gun law hit the headlines. Only needing the governor's signature, it's being called the most pro-gun legislation in America. As custom, I started banging out an early draft of an angry column about the madness of such a law.

• Why allowing the unprecedented spread of guns into our schools, government buildings, churches and bars is like a virus making us sick.

• How the law handcuffs police, who would be forbidden from checking for proof of a conceal carry license without probable cause.

• How felons can kill someone and gain immunity under the Stand Your Ground defense. How a drunk person could, too.

The column was hot and bothered, like I was yelling. That's when it hit me: in writing about guns, I felt like my words had become one.

It was hypocritical, arguing for peace while insulting. Not one mind would be changed, not one heart opened, only more of the same: division, entrenchment, hostility.

So I deleted the column, and started over, with this:

The push for more guns in public spaces is ... admirable.

And brave.

And, to a degree, virtuous.

Over the years, I've spoken with plenty of conceal carry folks, and often heard a similar message: we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Then, they present me with a series of midnight hypotheticals: how are you going to respond when someone breaks into your home while your family sleeps? What happens if you break down on a lonely road? Or bad neighborhood? And so on.

That's why we arm ourselves.

It's admirable, such armed courage, such willingness to be proactively protective. Gandhi once said that given a choice between a violent man and a coward, he'd take the violent man every time.

Because they're willing to act. They're willing to defend. They're willing to put their necks on the line. They're quite ready to fight fire with more fire.

In all the gun rhetoric, that quality of bold, decisive action often gets lost.

So does the real condition behind such a public-gun push.

It's fear.

Our growing, gnawing national fear.

It's become the American condition: When we see the world as such a threatening place, then our priorities turn inward. We arm ourselves. We horde. We scapegoat. We watch zombies on TV and await the apocalypse. We trade our faith for a handgun class.

"Disordered and excessive fear has significant moral consequences," writes theologian Scott Bader-Saye. "It fosters a set of shadow virtues, including suspicion, preemption and accumulation, which threaten traditional Christian virtues such as hospitality, peacemaking and generosity."

His book, "Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear," examines the ways that fear alters our spiritual selves.

"When our moral lives are shaped by fear, and safety is worshipped as the highest good, we are tempted to make health and security the primary justifications for right action," writes Bader-Saye, a professor at the University of Scranton.

In a nation of fear, our main desire becomes safety and security, which then trumps other desires -- toward democracy, justice and peace -- sending us jittery and distrusting into a distorted America where we begin to see others around us as threats and potential enemies.

And it is impossible to build neighborhoods, work toward the common good and strengthen our democracy when we're afraid of each other.

That's the real issue. Georgia guns is just a symptom.

Remember what Gandhi said about preferring a violent man to a coward? The violent man is already courageous, and to Gandhi, courage and bravery are most needed in becoming a person of nonviolence. Yet instead of using a gun to defend yourself, you're using another set of spiritual weapons.

To Gandhi, nonviolence was synonymous with fearlessness and true justice, which seeks to keep all people safe.

Here's an idea: if there are a dozen or so gun owners out there interested in talking about this more -- honestly, off-record and face-to-face -- then email or call. I'll share what I know about Gandhi, you share your reasons for carrying a gun.

Fools? Perhaps. But at least we won't be afraid of one another.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Pass_it_on said...

Thank you very much for an objective and rational article.

What many people fail to understand is making the decision to be armed actually restricts your actions, rights and behavior. One has much to lose carrying that responsibility on their shoulders. Much more than the criminal who disregards all laws.

Yet this decision is increasingly being made every day. The "why" as described here is perhaps the most insightful and cogent writing I ever have read in any publication.

April 1, 2014 at 7:35 a.m.
conservative said...

Gandhi often beat his wife. The non violent Gandhi often beat his wife!

Gandhi was at times a Homosexual/sodomite.

Several newspapers stated that he drank his own urine.

He made racist comments about South African blacks.

He slept naked with his niece.

He had enemas twice a day and if he like you would allow you to administer them.

Go to -

Then click on the link "reporting" in the paragraph below for more.

"As the Wall Street Journal is reporting, the book "obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that [Gandhi] was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist -- one who was often downright cruel to those around him."

Mr. Cook, like many Liberals sure do have some wicked role models

April 1, 2014 at 8:28 a.m.
conservative said...

Book Review: Great Soul - - The Wall Street Journal

... obligingly gives readers more than enough ... a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist—one who was often downright cruel to those around him. - Cached

April 1, 2014 at 9:05 a.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

Con man, Get some professional help soon. You are hung up on this homosexuality thing.

April 1, 2014 at 6:24 p.m.
moon4kat said...

Thanks for trying to open a discussion with gun owners. Sharing experiences might be helpful, and get people to think more deeply about what owning a gun involves and requires.
If you have a gun for "protection" and claim to be responsible, you have to spend a LOT of time thinking about it, cleaning it, practicing with it, making sure it and the ammo are in a safe place that is inaccessible to children and deranged (even temporarily deranged) adults.
That's not how I want to live; I don't want my life to center around taking care a risky weapon. It seems to me that having a gun is neither necessary nor wise. In more than six decades of living in big cities (Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Nashville) and small towns there has never been a situation that would have been improved by me having a gun. It would only have made things much worse.

April 2, 2014 at 9:10 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

"Fools? Perhaps. But at least we won't be afraid of one another."

Mr. Cook, the gun owners and the anti-gun folks are not "afraid" of each other - unless a particular gun slinger is aiming one of their weapons directly at us, then hell yeah...I'd be afraid! But it's more that we just have totally different ways of seeing the world. It is common knowledge that fear of the unknown and fear of change is what drives most conservatives to be so rigid and closed minded. But how is knowing that going to change them in any way? Liberals are pretty much hard-wired to be open and receptive to new ideas while conservatives are hard-wired to be resistant to them. It is part of our personalities and what defines us. Nothing is going to change who we are and how we see the world around us. So good luck with having a tete-a-tete and talking Ghandi with them over a beer. Let us know how many of them you can convince to give up their guns and start wearing a loin cloth and fasting for world peace.

The problem is not one of Ghandi vs. guns or Ghandi vs. the second amendment. I have no issue with people being able to own a gun (I have one myself - kept securely at home, where it belongs), and I don't know of anybody, even the most liberal of liberals, who is for an outright ban on gun ownership. The problem is that we have a rich and powerful NRA, supported by rich and powerful backers, and a large element of Wild West, vigilante wannabes among us who are opposed to any sort of sane regulation and they won't be satisfied 'til they can pass more and more of their lunatic, cringe-worthy laws to allow them to carry a gun EVERYWHERE they go. And they are succeeding in passing more legislation to allow them to do just that. And it needs to be called what it is - INSANE!

You are correct in thinking that writing in strident tones or giving in to your gut instinct to shout out, "Oh the insanity!" will not change anybody's mind, but neither will this milquetoast article where you talk about Ghandi and non-violence. I don't want to live in a country of Ghandis any more than I want to live in a country of Rambos (Ghandi had some admirable qualities - bless his skinny, loin-clothed little ol' self - but he was also a bit of a nut). Most of us just want sane, tight, no-nonsense legislation that recognizes that guns do NOT belong in any corner of our public places and that arming more people is NOT the solution to escalating gun violence. I honestly don't know what it will take to change anybody's mind, but singing kum-bah-ya with the gun nuts and playing the Ghandi card...well, good luck with that.

April 2, 2014 at 2:03 p.m.
258 said...

You completely missed the target with your column. Fear is not a factor in anyone's, that I know, decision to carry a firearm. Responsibility is.

Just as I go to work everyday because I am responsible for myself and my family, I also carry a firearm because I am responsible for myself and my family. No difference.

You can learn this first hand as I am about to take a concealed carry class April 15 and 17 from 6 to 9. Should I enroll you? Your next gun column could actually be an informed one.

Ps. Rickaroo, WOW, what a diatribe. Guess you really don't like that "shall not infringed" part.

April 2, 2014 at 3:25 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

258...The freedom to own a gun is not the freedom to carry one every friggin' place you go. You're damn right, I believe that that is a "freedom" that needs to be infringed. Prove to me where in the second amendment it states that you have that right. If the second amendment is so vague that you interpret it that way, then perhaps it is so poorly worded and vague, as some have suggested, that we need to scrap it and rewrite it in clear and easily understood terms for today's society.

What you are talking about is not responsibility, it is indeed fear. I am 64 and have lived all over the U.S., in large cities and small, and have been in all manner of close scrapes and tough spots, but there has not been one time where my carrying a gun would have made the situation any better, and in fact could have made matters much worse had I had ready access to one. For you to claim that carrying a gun on your person is just a matter of self-responsibility, like working and providing for your family, is utter rubbish. That is not responsibility, that is being afraid of your own shadow. I'm sorry that you are so afraid - er, pardon me, so "responsible" - that you dare not venture out to the mall or the movies or the restaurants without being sure to pack heat before you go. You call that being responsible; I call it pathetic.

Maybe you are comfortable in viewing our society as a perpetual war zone, where we need to arm ourselves just to go grocery shopping, but I am not ready to accept living in such a horrid place and I refuse to believe that there are not more sane and truly peaceful solutions to our escalating gun-violence. An armed society is not a peaceful society, it is a fearful one. It used to be, not too long ago, that every public place we ventured was a gun-free zone, and now the gun crazies are trying to make us believe that the only solution is to add more fuel to the fire by arming everybody and turning what was once gun-free into conceal and carry, or even carry openly. Hogwash!

How's that for a diatribe?

April 2, 2014 at 7:01 p.m.
258 said...

I was counseled years ago that when the facts are on your side (more guns = less crime) argue the facts, when the law is on your side (shall not be infringed) argue the law, and when you have neither bang the table.

You bang the table real loud.

April 2, 2014 at 8:40 p.m.
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