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The RoundTable

Gun Nation

Fall/Winter 1999


Major Articles

  • Guns Don’t Work – Daniel Berrigan, SJ
  • Gun Nation – Zed Nelson
  • Gunshots: What Really Happens – Carol Giles
  • Gun Nation: Arming the World – Susan Alan
  • Colombia Update – Cedilia Zarate-Laun

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Regular Features

  • Photos – copyright Zed Nelson
  • Cover –Photo Zed Nelson
  • Why This Issue – Carol Giles
  • Centerfold –  Gun Nation Photos  - Zed Nelson
  • From Abroad – El Salvador – Dean Brackley, SJ
  • From Little House - Mary Ann McGivern, SL
  • From Karen House – Annjie Schiefelbein
  • RoundTable Talk – Mark Scheu

Why This Issue:

"This is a peace gun," my four year old son announces to me with a glint of amusement in his eyes. He is holding up a structure he fashioned using Legos. The purpose of his comment, I know, is to deflect the almost certain disapproval he expects from me for playing with a gun. Maybe I will let him play with it if it is a "peace" gun. We absorb our culture so early and so quickly learn to try to manipulate what is bad into something good. I have been amazed at the deep-rootedness of our gun culture. Many of my friends have experienced the same tenacity with which our children insist upon playing with guns. All of these children are sheltered from violent TV shows; indeed, my son barely watches TV at all. Perhaps it is pre-school age rebelliousness or the need to develop a separate identity, perhaps it is somehow a function of (more often but not exclusively) male hormones. I don't know; nor do I care. I am simply saddened to see this lethal and evil aspect of our culture reflected in child's play.


This issue was inspired, in large part, by the photo exhibit, "Gun Nation." In this exhibit British photographer Zed Nelson captured just this deep-rootedness and pervasiveness of guns in our culture. His photos range from that of a young father in combat fatigues and tee shirt whose gun in one hand provides a cold counter-point to the sweet face of his baby held by the other to shot-up bodies zippered into bags at the morgue. As Nelson relates in his article, he came to the U.S. to observe and document "a nation's obsession with firearms." His exhibit was shown at a photojournalism gallery in Manhattan, New York, and in Arlington, Virginia. In addition to Nelson's article, we have included many of his photographs both throughout the issue and in our centerfold.


We have also turned to a classic piece to complement the contemporary work of Nelson's. We open our issue with Daniel Berrigan's 1978 letter to Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua, entitled, "Guns Don't Work." Although his letter is about a use of arms different from the focus of this issue, his analysis of weapons in light of the gospel of Jesus is a relevant and eloquent statement. Indeed, Nelson's photos document Berrigan's words that our culture consists of "an uneasy mix of gunmen, gun makers, gun hucksters, gun researchers, gun runners..." et al. It remains true, we believe with Berrigan, that guns will not bring on the reign of God.


Carol Giles turns our attention to what happens after the gun shot-both to the victim immediately and later in the hospital. Susan Alan of the Economic Conversion Project writes about our country's vast role in arming the world through foreign arms sales. Mira Tanna's interview with Colombian peace activist Cecilfa Zarare-Laun shows us the consequences of our arms sales for one of the recipients of our ghastly export.


We conclude with our regular features. And we do pray, as Jesus taught us, for the coming of his kingdom, a kingdom perhaps where Lego guns will be turned into Lego plowshares.


-Ellen Rehg



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