Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

On Being Pro-Knife

Molly Ivins, the late political columnist and humorist from the great state of Texas, used to quip, “I’m not anti-gun; I’m pro-knife.”  Speaking as a Christian pacifist, I’m against the owning of ANY weapons.  But as a matter of public policy, I like Ivins’ perspective.  The pro-gun folk like to say, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Well, this is trite, but true.  People have been murdered long before the invention of firearms and even since then people use many other things with which to murder their fellow human beings.  But what this doesn’t say is that guns make it easier for people to kill people.  And “improvements” in firearm manufacturing mean that each generation of guns makes it even easier for one person to kill ever larger numbers of people.   The good thing about being pro-knife is that it makes would-be murderers have to work harder!

I speak as a survivor.  In 1984, I was mugged by a man with a knife. I was brutally stabbed in the back repeatedly and nearly killed.  Now, perhaps, like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, I could have survived even if my attacker had used a gun.  But the odds that my would-be murderer would have succeeded with a gun are MUCH higher than with a knife.  And one can run away from someone with a knife more easily than someone with a gun.  I was never a very fast runner and am now middle-aged and overweight.  But I still have a much better chance at outrunning someone with a knife than I do of outrunning a bullet. (After all, I was born in Philadelphia, not on Krypton.)

Consider how much we could reduce violent tragedies if we replaced guns with knives:  High school shooting rampages like Columbine: Had the unhinged and alienated young men been armed with knives instead of guns, they might have succeeded in murdering one or two of their fellow students before being overpowered and disarmed–rather than dozens before killing themselves.  The accused shooter of Rep. Giffords may or may not have succeeded with a knife–but wouldn’t have killed 6 people and injured 10 others.  How much easier would it be to protect politicians from people with knives than from people with guns? We could reduce the size of the Secret Service and the Capitol Police and save money–while granting greater access to our elected officials as the Constitution’s Framers intended.  Remember a few years ago when an Amish school was massacred by a madman with a gun? The rampage would have been far less deadly if the man had only had a large Bowie knife.  Same with the Virginia Tech shooting.

The answer to every gun tragedy in this nation seems to be “more guns.”  More people in this country now own guns than at any time in our history.  3 out of 4 households have a firearm–a greater percentage than any other country (the nearest is Yemen).  But we aren’t safer. We are less safe. FBI statistics show that burglars shoot people with their own guns far more often than gunowners successfully repel armed burglaries.  Suicides and accidental shootings are incredibly high, too. 

So, let’s be pro-knife.  Let’s restrict handguns and automatic firearms  to the military (and cut the military, too, but that’s a different discussion). Hunters can own rifles, but let’s register them all and make mandatory safety classes and trigger locks.  Let’s make murderers work harder to commit their sins against the rest of us.

January 11, 2011 - Posted by | nonviolence, violence


  1. Yes! My wife and I had a discussion that echoed this post’s “What if the Tucson killer had only a knife?” question shortly after the recent tragedy.

    The fact that you are a pacifist after suffering near-fatal violence is a powerful witness.

    Comment by Josh Rowley | January 12, 2011 | Reply

    • I’m a former soldier who renounced violence and became a conscientious objector.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 12, 2011 | Reply

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