Buddhists Packing Heat

    Bloomberg.com published a surprisingly well written article on the changing demographics of gun owner ship in America. It is well worth reading …

    Natanel is a Buddhist, a self-avowed “spiritual person,” a 53-year-old divorcee who lives alone in a liberal-leaning suburb near Boston. She is 5-foot-1 (155 centimeters) and has blonde hair, dark eyes, a ready smile and a soothing voice, with a hint of Boston brogue. She’s a Tai Chi instructor who in classes invokes the benefits of meditation. And at least twice a month, she takes her German-made Walther PK380 to a shooting range and blazes away.

    Two years ago, an ex-boyfriend broke into her house when she wasn’t home. The police advised a restraining order. Instead, she bought pepper spray and programmed the local police number on her cell phone’s speed dial. “I was constantly terrified for my safety,” she says.

    The surge has been propelled by shifting politics and demographics that have made it easier and more acceptable than at any time in 75 years for Americans to buy and carry pistols. Post-9/11 fears also seem to be a factor, as has been the relentless pro-gun politicking of the National Rifle Association and marketing, particularly to women, by handgun manufacturers. Events like yesterday’s fatal shootings on the Virginia Tech University campus reinforce a feeling that the world is an unsafe place, even as violent U.S. crime rates fall.

    There is a misconception in the relatively safe West that all Buddhist sects disavow the use of firearms. Throughout history Buddhists have taken up arms in self-defense when their lives and society has been threatened. To quote a Buddhist monk from the Khok Pho district of the southern Thai state of Pattani …

    “Guns reassure your safety. If you are attacked but not dead right away, guns can halt the second shot. They can save peoples’ lives from many attacks…civilian forces are helpful if they work hard because we can’t rely on police or soldiers. At night, police or soldiers are always informed that there is an incident here and there. But when they arrive at the place, they are bombed or attacked. In this sense, villagers have to be vigilant and get strengthened…”.

    Earlier this year Michael Jerryson published a very interesting book, Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand, that examines role of military monks in Thailand who are armed and paid by the state to carry arms and defend their wat (monastery) from insurgents. It is a fascinating look into a pacifist society trying to come to terms with a violent reality.

    Steve Johnson

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!