NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

An Armed and Divided Nation

pius kamau.jpg
Pius Kamau

Arizona is considering tougher gun laws following the January rampage that left six people dead and Representative Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded. Right now gun owners in Arizona are allowed to carry their weapons almost everywhere in the state. KUNC commentator Pius Kamau believes that’s partly to blame for an increasingly untrusting society.


Growing up in Kenya I was deeply afraid of the Masai warriors who it was rumored killed young boys like me. They always carried sharp spears even when they boarded the train.

Since then, I have harbored great mistrust of people who carry weapons - concealed or out in the open. It’s an attitude I brought with me to America.

Long before the current popularity of conceal and carry, a medical colleague of mine had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. How he could justify being a physician and carry a weapon at the same time was a mystery. If the Masai were ready to use their spears at a moment’s notice, he too must have been prepared to kill. As I watched him tend to patients, there was always a shadow of a doubt in my mind. Could his healing hands actually also put a bullet in a patient? I considered these matters with the backdrop of the Hippocratic Oath. To consider using a gun to defend oneself, within the confines of the patient/physician relationship to do no harm, seemed absurd.

But this is also true of many other places of our interpersonal intercourse today. Not content in leaving our guns at home, we are now carrying them onto buses, into churches and other places that should be distinguished by love, trust and fellowship.

The culture of death that surrounds the gun issue in America is disturbing to many around the world. Second amendment rights make even less sense to me, especially in view of the many killings that take place on American streets, in our schools and at places of public assembly.

Trust is the covenant between citizens of a society like ours. I find it painful that we have to live mired in suspicion of each other. In God we may trust, but those who preach the need for self-defense against one’s neighbors are agents of a creed of disharmony. How can we pray together when those kneeling on the same pew may be armed?

The only advantage I see my armed medical colleague may have had was a sense of power - derived from his concealed weapon. Being armed and dangerous like a gangsta may puff up certain folks’ self image. But to me a gun adds little to a person’s character.

As a child I feared the Masai with their weapons’ naked aggression. It is a shame that as we drive down America’s street we’re afraid of our fellow travelers who for no reason might attack us. We should derive strength, comfort and fulfillment from what is in our hearts and minds and not what is in our holsters.

Born in Kenya and trained in Spain, Pius Kamau has been in surgical practice in the Denver area for three decades. He was a columnist for The Rocky Mountain News and has written for The Denver Post. Kamau’s commentaries have also been featured on NPR, in the Huffington Post and other national magazines and newspapers. He’s also contributed to several books and recently finished his memoir.