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Three religious leaders frame gun control debate as NRA v. common good

Three religious leaders frame gun control debate as NRA v. common good

In the wake of what the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is now reporting was a hate crime carried out by a white supremacist against members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, some religious leaders have renewed their pleas for tougher gun control laws. In a column written for the Huffington Post in the wake of the previous mass killings in Aurora, Colorado, the Rev. Peter Laarman, Imam Jihad Turk and Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater framed the argument in terms of justice. They wrote:

In a thoughtful Los Angeles Times op-ed published earlier this month, Michael Kinsley asked readers to consider which of the injustices we accept today will seem utterly and unthinkably outrageous to people living 20 years from now.

We are convinced that today’s too-easy access to lethal weapons will be seen by future generations as one such outrageous injustice. This is because the absence of meaningful gun control in our time so clearly reflects the arrogant and disproportionate power of just one group — the gun lobby — riding roughshod over everyone else’s right to a modicum of public safety.

The Aurora shootings were big news, understandably, but we should never forget that each new day brings an average of 80 gun deaths in the United States, most of these occurring in poor communities. Eight of those killed each day are children. If there were any other public health crisis that killed eight children a day we would most likely mobilize as a nation to stop it. Yet in the face of this daily pile-up of corpses (not to mention a vastly greater number of woundings and maimings) most Americans have grown resigned to suffering under the boot of the NRA. It doesn’t have to be that way. Unjust power, especially unjust power with so much blood on its hands, can be challenged and overcome by a sufficiently outraged public. After all, it was an outraged public that finally curbed Big Tobacco’s power and that put a big dent into drunk driving through years of concentrated effort. The gun lobby will say it has the Constitution on its side; so did slaveholders and defenders of Jim Crow in eras past. The public, far more than any given Supreme Court, ultimately decides what the Constitution means.

Have the three religious leaders framed the issue properly? Do faith communities have a role to play in reducing gun violence, and if so, what is it?

(And if you are looking for an engaging Sikh blogger who has written some good items in the wake of the shooting, look in on Urban Turban Guy).

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John B. Chilton

Both in Aurora and in the Sikh cases the guns, though acquired legally, were acquired by individuals that were known to pose of a threat. In the Aurora case the university psychiatrist had identified her patient as enough of a threat to have his case considered by the threat assessment committee of the university. That committee decided the case did not rise to level of informing law enforcement.

In the Sikh case the suspect had been under the watch of the FBI for six years as a domestic terrorism threat. The Southern Poverty Law Center had tracked him for longer.

The Constitution is not a suicide pact. What we have here is conflict between the rights of individuals that pose a threat but have not committed a crime, and the rights of the citizens to be protected from these threats.

Are we willing to at a minimum say these individuals cannot buy guns?

Neither of the two major presidential candidates has recommended any tightening of gun regulation. They are too afraid of the NRA.

Once politicians were afraid of southern democrats and allowed Jim Crow to flourish. The Religious Right stopped the hearts of politicians from doing the right thing with respect to women's rights and marriage equality.

In each of these cases, faith communities made a difference. Is the NRA next?

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Bill Dilworth

Stupid autocorrect. "gun," not "Gina."

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Bill Dilworth

I think it's interesting that one of the arguments against gun control has been "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." Ignoring the fact that few are arguing for an outright outlawing of guns, the slogan is used to highlight the fact that many guns used in what might be called "conventional" crimes are bought illegally, because criminals aren't afraid to break the law. That's as may be, but in the temple and theater shootings, as in the Gifford and Virginia Tech and Oikos shootings, the guns (ed. correct) were bought legally. Career criminals may not be afraid of breaking the law, but it appears mass shooters don't have to be.

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E B

Further regulation of firearms would indeed be reasonable. Specifically, I am mindful of the recent tragedy in the Episcopal church in Ellicot City, Maryland and the killing at the Jacksonville Episcopal school. Surely no one would argue that the homeless individual in the former case should have owned a weapon. And I have great difficulty in understanding how access to an AK47 in the latter case was reasonable.

If the NRA indeed is for responsible gun ownership, then let it introduce legislation and other measures to restrict facially problematic access to weapons, as in these two cases.

Eric Bonetti

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Maplewood

"Do faith communities have a role to play in reducing gun violence, and if so, what is it?"

Yes, they do. I think we need to address the underlying violence that permeates our society. We are awash in violence, and it places us outside the bounds of Christ's kingdom.

It's our primary way to solve personal problems, interact with other countries, even entertain ourselves.

Faith communities must begin to "call out" acts of violence and persaude those who perpetrate violence to repent. And I mean all forms: in sports, in tv and movies, in home life, in books, in international politics, in our economy, in speech, etc. We need to practice consistant non-violence. THAT will leap-frog over the entire NRA/gun-control brawl and help get some things done.

Kevin McGrane

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