The Sikh Temple Massacre and Gun Control

While the shootings at the Sikh temple will no doubt inspire more calls for "gun control," I very much doubt that the Sikhs themselves will be among those calling for the citizenry to be disarmed.

I'm hardly an expert on Sikhism, but I am a dilettante; I know at least a little bit about a great many things, and some of the few things I know about Sikhs are relevant to a discussion of the shootings at the Sikh Gurdwara (temple) in Wisconsin and the renewed calls for "gun control" that are sure to follow.

I believe the Sikhs to be among the world's most noble and spiritual people. They are tolerant and peaceful, but they are not pacifists nor are they necessarily "non-violent". They understand that violence can be a necessity, and they have distinguished themselves as warriors, particularly on the side of their British colonial rulers during WW I and WW II. 

Sikhism originated as a protest against many of the negative aspects of Hindu theology and culture, in particular polytheism and the caste system. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, categorically rejected the caste system as being contrary to the humanitarian and egalitarian elements of the Sikh creed. 

It is part of the Sikh creed to stand against injustice, and to defend the weak and the downtrodden, regardless of religious or ethnic persuasion.

One element of the Sikh creed is that Sikhs shall always be armed (I believe it was the Tenth Guru who decreed that Sikhs shall always carry a sword. And he said "When all other methods fail, it is proper to hold the sword in hand"). This is often expressed in the carrying of a small dagger or sword (a "kirpan"). This is a symbol of a Sikh's commitment to protect the weak and to promote justice.

I believe a correlation can be drawn between this element of the Sikh creed and the "Sheepdog" concept familiar to many legally-armed American citizens, posited in Lt. Dave Grossman's famous essay "On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs"

My understanding is that this commitment for a Sikh to be armed is often ritualized in the form of a miniature kirpan wound inside the turban or worn in a cloth sheath underneath one's clothing.

The carrying of a sword is one of the "Five K's", the five elements that are required of orthodox (baptized) Sikhs, which also include unshorn hair and beard and a special steel bracelet.

So Sikhs are not against violence per se, or even against killing per se, but are admonished to "Kill only that, which, when killed, shall bring peace."

That's why most American gun owners have their firearms, too.

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