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Gun Madness in America: Avoiding the Obvious

Gun Madness in America: Avoiding the Obvious


By David W. Virtue
February 17, 2018

Another round of gun madness, another round of killings, the 18th school shooting so far this year. More can be anticipated. Since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America — an average of about one a week with no end in sight because of the collective amnesia by Washington politicians, the NRA and millions of Americans who believe that freedom can only be found spurting bullets from the end of a gun.

America needs to ban assault weapons like the AR-15 because they serve no purpose but to kill another human being. No one is safe in America any more. You can be in a school, church, supermarket, shopping mall or theatre. You can be in a rich or poor neighborhood, a so-called “gun-free zone” and still you risk your life.

On Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He was able to purchase a deadly assault rifle quite legally, yet was legally prohibited from buying a hand gun. The tragedy has left grieving families broken and a community shattered. It also showed up America as being the only country in the world that allows its citizens unfettered access to semi-automatic weapons.

But voices are being raised in public opposition to the madness that envelops America. Organizations like Everytown and Alliance for Gun Responsibility are speaking up about gun ownership. More importantly, Evangelicals are beginning to raise theirvoices. An evangelical movement calling itself Prayers and Action for Gun Safety had this to say:

“To the rest of the world, the situation looks insane. No other nation on earth would put up with this level of violence if it could stop it. America accepts it as a price worth paying for the right to bear arms. Fanatical gun-rights campaigners resist any infringement on those rights.

“The power of the evangelical vote – however it's defined – was demonstrated conclusively in the election of Donald Trump. Evangelicals tend to vote Republican and oppose gun control. So here's a suggestion, made with respect and humility, to the evangelicals who have the power to make change happen.

”Think very hard about your rights, your responsibilities and your citizenship.

“You value your rights under your constitution. That's good. But when our legitimate rights become toxic, the direct cause of death, injury and heartbreak for tens of thousands of people every year, Christians ought to be willing to lay those rights aside. We follow a Lord who did exactly that, laying aside his privileges for the sake of those who needed him (Philippians 2: 5-11).

“You have a responsibility to the weak and vulnerable. This is a golden thread running through the whole of Scripture, from the establishment of the Sabbath through the fierce denunciations of the prophets to the merciful love of Christ to the poor and needy. This responsibility is to protect them from harm. The number of times this is done by a private citizen using guns legally is vanishingly small compared to the harm done by other private citizens using guns illegally.”

Resisting gun control on principle is faithlessness, they say. “Christians ought to be the first to call for serious talks about how to reduce the number of gun deaths in America. And if that means giving up some costly 'freedoms', evangelicals ought to be first in line. Because when freedom becomes an excuse for doing wrong, or allowing wrong, it's corrupted (Galatians 5:13).”

Rights, responsibilities and citizenship: whom do we really serve?

In 1996, Australia introduced major gun law reforms that included a ban on semiautomatic rifles and pump-action shotguns and rifles and also initiated a program for buyback of firearms. From 1979-1996 (before gun law reforms), 13 fatal mass shootings occurred in Australia, whereas from 1997 through May 2016 (after gun law reforms), no fatal mass shootings occurred.

And the same arguments over the same issues are rehearsed in the same words by the same people. Among them is the plea not to use this event to push for gun control, because now is a time for grieving, not for politics. Nonsense. After Sandy Hook wherein 28 people died, the NRA moved in and exhorted parents of kids still alive to buy even more guns to fight against an imaginary enemy in the name of “freedom”. The Russians never came, ISIS is on the ropes, Al Qaeda and the Taliban will never darken American homes. And the government will never come to take away over 300 million guns already out there.

From a national-security standpoint, the Amendment’s suggestion that a “well-regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State,” is quaint. The Minutemen that will deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are based in missile silos in Minot, N.D., not farmhouses in Lexington, Mass.

From a personal liberty standpoint, the idea that an armed citizenry is the ultimate check on the ambitions and encroachments of government power is curious. The Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790’s, the New York draft riots of 1863, the coal miners’ rebellion of 1921, the Brink’s robbery of 1981 — does any serious conservative think of these as great moments in Second Amendment activism?

An editorial in The New York Times called for a repeal of the Second Amendment. “I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment. From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.”

It won’t happen of course. “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Former Chief Justice Warren Burger Justice called it a “fraud on the American public.” That’s how he described the idea that the Second Amendment gives an unfettered individual right to a gun. When he spoke these words to PBS in 1990, the rock-ribbed conservative appointed by Richard Nixon was expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges across the political spectrum. An unhinged NRA changed all that with fear-mongering about a federal government who might take away individual rights even as the same government writes out millions of dollars’ worth of checks each month to Medicare, Medicaid, disability and CHIP recipients.

But sometimes, that's just the point at which politics becomes personal enough for something to change.

Another argument that background checks and psychiatric evaluations would stop or slow gun ownership is a myth. Who defines who is crazy? The man who slaughtered 60 people in Nevada was perfectly normal. There was nothing in his body or brain that indicated he was in any way crazy. He methodically purchased guns in four states, set himself up in a hotel room and systematically slaughtered men and women indiscriminately. He passed every federal background check every time he bought a gun. A lot of the slaughter is by young men with no fathers, especially in the Black community. No father, no control. The young black male who killed five police officers in Dallas had an arsenal in his bedroom. No father to check in on him.

It's only February, and already in the US, according to Gun Violence Archive, 1,859 people have died by gun violence. Last year the total was 15,590. That's not counting suicides at around 22,000 a year and not counting the injured.

So the violence continues and nothing will happen because there isn't the political or social will to change anything. And cynical politicians, too afraid of upsetting the NRA and it cohorts and millions of brainless gun owners who believe freedom comes with collateral damage if you should just happen to get in the way of a bullet, will continue.

A Moroccan Islamist I talked with last week in Marrakech who, with me, watched the slaughter on the evening news turned and said to me; “Why do you Americans who hate and destroy Islamic extremists like ISIS and Al Qaeda, kill yourselves with guns at a higher rate. Only five people died of guns in family styled disputes in my country last year, thousands die in your country.”

As Miroslav Volf observed, "there is something deeply hypocritical about praying for a problem you are unwilling to resolve."

Our instinct for self-destruction will continue.


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