Engrained into our psyche, etched into our culture, forged into our nation's self-image are pictures of the Western movie of an honest Sheriff, handgun on his hip, silver star on his chest, and the law clearly on his side as he mows down the bad guys. The law is enforced and justice is taken care of with bullets. In the American mind no court room is necessary. We know who committed the crime, we know who the good guys are, we know who the bad guys are, and we have a weapon to take care of it all. Our Western hero is lawman, judge, jury, executioner. And the good guy doesn't make any mistakes. This is America.
Also forged by these fairy tales is what constitutes a "real" man. He is brave. He is honest. He protects you and me from the bad guys. And he has a gun. The gun makes him a real man. The silver star, the cowboy hat, all that stuff is a part of the picture we have of all this, but the gun is the key.
Now couple all that portrayed fear that is comforted by the armed Sheriff with the historic bigotry that has been with us at least since slavery, and you have a cauldron that we have concocted to be American society. It ain't pretty, pardner, but it portrays much of the reality of our culture. Like it or not, it ain't pretty. But we buy it. After all, Gary Cooper and John Wayne showed us it is so. They wouldn't lie to us.
Is all the above an over-simplification? Have you seen and heard from the Sheriff of Milwaukee County? And he has the hat to boot. And some Hollywood script writer gives him the storied language to fit the image.
A gun does not make the man. Not even in the United States of America. Not in Tombstone, not in Milwaukee. A gun is a crutch, a stage tool to make a fictional portrayal of the development of a "real" man.
America is loaded with real men. We see them on the streets of this country every day. Feeding the poor. Helping underserved Americans organize their communities. Teaching kids. Donating health care. Tutoring. Sharing part of their income. Being peace-makers. Helping the elderly. Showing by their example that love can triumph over injustice and guns and violence and war and greed and bigotry.
With real men --truly men-- we can make America safe and successful and a leader for peace in a world that likes to celebrate violence. The decision about all of it faces each of us every single day. Are you a man, or do you need a gun to convince yourself that you are a man? Peace. Love. Solutions are not hidden. And guns are not one of the solutions.