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Episcopalians respond to presidential gun measures

Episcopalians respond to presidential gun measures

President Obama spoke from the White House about an hour ago, outlining the executive actions that he is taking to address gun control measures and gun violence in the US, a problem that he called urgent.

As the executive actions are examined, more responses are expected. In the meantime, NPR summarized the speech here. The Episcopalians Against Gun Violence Facebook page linked to an article by Vox to explain the President’s proposals, while the Rt Revd Scott Hayashi, Bishop of Utah, also on Facebook, declared himself “excited” to share the Public Fact Sheet distributed by the White House.

NPR reported on the president’s speech live today:

Saying that America faces a “gun violence epidemic,” President Obama is taking “a series of commonsense executive actions” to reduce gun violence Tuesday, the White House says. First among the measures: tighter rules on background checks for gun buyers. ..

“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency,” Obama said. “It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.” …

Update at 12:18 p.m. ET: ‘The Rest Of Our Rights’

Saying that Second Amendment rights matter, President Obama adds:

“There are other rights that we care about, as well, and we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely — that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, S.C.; and that was denied Jews in Kansas City; and that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek. They had rights, too.”
He then says the right of peaceful assembly has been robbed in movie theaters in Colorado and Louisiana — and the pursuit of happiness and liberty has also been taken away in attacks on schools.

“Those rights were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg, in Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers in Columbine, and from first graders in Newtown.”

While applause had followed the president’s listing of those events, his final words about students were said after an emotional pause; they were greeted with silence in the room.

The president repeated: “First graders.”

As he attempted to move on with his speech, Obama paused to wipe a tear from his eye.

“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” he said, his eyes now wet with tears. “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”

NPR summarized four key platforms of the president’s plan.

  • Background Checks: Require all gun sellers — including online and at gun shows — to have a license and perform background checks. Have the FBI overhaul the existing background-check system.
  • Enforcement: Improve the use of America’s existing gun laws, and add 200 new agents to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  • Mental Health: Remove barriers that can keep states from reporting and sharing information about people barred from owning guns for mental health reasons, and spend $500 million to increase access to mental health care.
  • Technology: Push for research in gun safety technology, such as “smart guns” that can only be fired by authorized users. The research would be done by the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. The White House notes the federal government is “the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country.”

On Twitter, the Revd Susan Russell responded enthusiastically to the speech,


while Bishop James Mathes of San Diego tweeted that our baptism requires our support for universal background checks.


What is your response? What have you heard from others that you would like to share?

Photo: President Obama tears up talking about the first graders who died at Sandy Hook in 2012. Via



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Fr. Will McQueen

Laws passed by Congress are to be interpreted in light of the Constitution. We don’t write laws to reinterpret the Constitution.

Carolyn Peet

Mr. Allen, I don’t care if those lists were created by George Washington, they should not be used to deprive citizens of their constitutional rights. Do you disagree?

Cynthia Katsarelis

Free speech has limits. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, for example, because it’s dangerous. The right to assemble in peaceful demonstration might be contingent upon getting a permit.

To say that the 2nd Amendment has no limits, while other rights do, is an interesting argument. It was written when gun technology was limited to single shots. If there is no restriction to “bearing arms,” does that mean that people can have RPG’s and shoot them off near airports? Can people own tanks and use them on their morning commutes? How about nuclear weapons and jet fighters?

It takes a permit to exercise free speech and drive cars, but permit to own lethal weapons is a violation of the Constitution?

What about the rights of those First Graders in Newtown, movie goers in Aurora, high school students in Littleton, etc.? Isn’t the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness written into one of our most precious documents? 30,000 people are robbed of those rights every year.

I look at the Baptismal Covenant and I don’t see room for unlimited gun ownership. Somehow 30,000 deaths per year doesn’t sound like we are respecting the dignity of every human being and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

American myths regularly come into conflict with the Gospel of Jesus. It’s worth taking a very deep breath and pondering that reality.

Marshall Scott

But “constitutional rights” are not defined only by the language in the Constitution itself, but also by the history of the interpretation of the Constitution by Federal Courts, especially the Supreme Court (as established in the Constitution – another aspect of “separation of powers.”) So, all of that is relevant in understanding Constitutional law and rights. The fact that there are “Constitutional literalists” who want to obviate all that history simply isn’t compelling.

Part of living in a society is that those rights are balanced by responsibilities, and that is also part of Constitutional law. I do believe that there are “responsible gun owners” and “responsible gun dealers.” What defines them as “responsible” is their recognition that the law applies because they have responsibilities as well as rights, not to the law as an abstract thought, but to the law as society’s expression (shaped in legislatures, enforced by executives, and understood through courts) of balancing rights with responsibilities to fellow citizens and members of the society. My biggest fear about that small but noisy group that seem to want everyone armed and to expect to protect their own, is that they seem concerned only about “their own,” and not about a wider society. It seems an effort to institutionalize vigilante justice. Yet we have institutions, and not vigilantes, because we are working to function as a society, and not just as self-interested individuals with no broader responsibilities or accountabilities.

David Allen

I think that your court system has determined that there are certain folks who don’t have certain constitutional rights and those are folks whose names, for the most part, go on those lists. Exactly how has the president’s executive action denied anyone their constitutional rights? You can’t just throw that out there, make that claim, without evidence that you know of what you speak, that it’s actually true. I’ve watched Republicans lie about President Obama going on 8 years now.

Cynthia Katsarelis

For those people who say “just read the Constitution,” it’s interesting to note that there are notes and letters from founding fathers that give us an idea of what they were thinking. With the 2nd Amendment they were thinking militias of the sort that pulled together to win independence, and they were responding to the “need” for slave patrols, to support the police state that was required to make slavery work.

Even without that, there’s no getting around the fact that today’s technology differs vastly from the muskets of the time; I hear it took nearly a minute to re-load a single shot.

Warren Burger described the modern interpretation of the 2nd Amendment as a “fraud.” He was a conservative.

Of course the President should close every loophole. Of course he should call on allowing research so that we know better how to address the problems. Of course in an age with biometrics to make sure no one else can use your phone, we should look into that technology for guns. Around 250,000 guns are stolen each year. Of course there should be a way to track them (and perhaps have biometrics that prevent them from being used). These are all reasonable, moderate, and to me seems within the purview of an executive action. Should Congress have acted? Yes. Will they? No, they are completely purchased by the gun lobby. Obama’s actions are more than reasonable.

WWJD? Does anyone really think that Jesus would pack heat and encourage others to do likewise?

Christopher Johnson

Yes she is. Have you never actually read the Constitution?

David Allen

You would be surprised that many of us study the US Constitution alongside that of our own country. Many constitutions in the Americas, as well as the governments, were patterned after the US. But yes, I have studied the US Constitution in depth and recently as part of my citizenship preparations.

What’s humorous is that this is the first argument when a Democrat president issues an executive order to which Republicans are opposed, but when a Republican president issues an EO the Republicans say nothing.

Carolyn Peet

The executive branch is not supposed to make law. Do you not get that? You are all for this one because you agree with it, but what if a future president issues an EO restricting abortion rights, because “Congress won’t act”? Just because Congress doesn’t act the way the president wishes, you’re okay with him/her just bypassing the entire legislative branch? What if the EO guts an amendment that you were in favor of, like free speech, due process, etc.? I think you folks really need to think this through. Our constitution has served us very well for over 200 years. So now we should disband Congress as long as we continue to elect Democrat presidents?

Helen Kromm

“Our constitution has served us very well for over 200 years.”

I wouldn’t disagree. EO’s are an integral part of that Constitution, and you might want to read this:

Even that great liberal bastion of liberal journalism known as “Forbes Magazine” classifies Obama as a “piker” when it comes to executive orders.

Below is a list of President’s beginning with FDR, and ending with Barack Obama. The number next to their names represents the number of executive orders issued by each while in office.

When you factor years in office, Obama has actually issued fewer executive orders based on time in office than any other President beginning with FDR.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 3,522
Harry S. Truman 907
Dwight D. Eisenhower 484
John F. Kennedy 214
Lyndon B. Johnson 325
Richard Nixon 346
Gerald R. Ford 169
Jimmy Carter 320
Ronald Reagan 381
George H. W. Bush 166
William J. Clinton 364
George W. Bush 291
Barack Obama 226

The question I’d like to ask is do you believe all of those executive orders were unconstitutional? Or is it just the one we are discussing? Is it just Obama, and all the others are fine?

In fact, can you point to any other President where you felt his executive orders were unconstitutional- and have you ever gone on a board and criticized any other President for issuing an executive order?

David Allen

Wikipedia states;
“The No Fly List, the Selectee List and the Terrorist Watchlist were created by the administration of George W. Bush…”

But it’s Obama who is evil.

Carolyn Peet

Ms. Kromm, I am referring to the separation of powers provided in the Constitution. The checks and balances that are built into it. The president’s primary duty, for which he swore an oath, is to “defend, uphold, and protect the Constitution of the United States”. Obama enforces the laws he likes, and ignores the ones he doesn’t. For example, the “no-fly, no buy” conversation. A secret list, compiled by nameless, faceless, unelected bureaucrats, which people might not even know that they are on, would be used to deprive them of their rights to due process and to bear arms.
But that’s okay, ’cause if we disagree we must be racist. Right.

John Chilton

And on top of that, the president didn’t issue an Executive Order. This is an executive action. Yes, they are different. He’s directing the executive branch to ferret out those gun sellers using the private sales exception who are in fact gun not merely private sellers.

Fr. Will McQueen

Spot on Carolyn, and no, this isn’t a straw man argument. She’s making a very valid point.

David Allen

No she isn’t.

David Allen

Strawman/concern troll argument, the President’s executive order doesn’t make law nor does it set aside current laws or constitutional amendments. This conversation isn’t about what ifs or maybe in the futures.

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