I volunteered to staff the Protect Minnesota booth at the annual GAME FAIR in Ramsey, Minnesota. The GF is spread over two weekends and is geared for hunters and fisher-folks, providing 300 vendors the opportunity to share and sell their products to avid outdoor enthusiasts.
Our Protect Minnesota tasks were to offer creamy life savers and trigger locks to visitors. They fit the spirit of the intention: SAVE LIVES! The tasty life savers are a metaphor for gun safety. Trigger locks save lives, especially keeping guns safe from children’s curiosity.
Our third task was to encourage people to sign our petition. The petition focused on urging elected legislators to support the BIG 2 Bills: Comprehensive Background Checks for licensed and private weapons sales, and a Red flag or extreme Risk Protective Order Bill which would allow a weapon to be removed temporarily from a person at risk to themselves or others.
We found people very receptive to our offerings with smiles and friendly exchanges in abundance.
I had three significant exchanges with gun folks. The first was at the entry gate when upon presenting myself as being with Protect Minnesota and concerned about gun safety, the gate-keeper proceeded to pull out her iPhone and have me listen to President Reagan talk to the NRA about the Second Amendment. Not surprisingly, the President quoted only the second half of the amendment, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” I proceeded to speak to the lady and reminded her that there was a first part that President Reagan omitted, “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state,….” She smiled, said nothing and turned away. Some facts are inconvenient.
I also had two other exchanges. One disheveled gentleman took off on the El Paso shooter saying he should be strung up, upside down, or placed in the middle of a mob where the people could stomp him to death! He also said some women asked to be raped, expressing no sympathy for these women. I don’t know how he segwayed from guns to this rant. I focused on gun safety!
Another man, quite knowledgeable, and I started talking about gun safety laws. He wouldn’t have any of it! A pure Libertarian! No restrictions! We have a Second Amendment! I brought up the first part of the Second Amendment which calls for a militia being the reason for guns. I also mentioned the need for those in the slave-holding states to be able to control their slaves. And then there was the Native American reality. And finally, the United States was still a frontier nation. All of these reasons helped explain the Second Amendment and temper the free-willynilly approach to gun ownership. None of this mattered. We shared statistics. I tried giving him the websites of five gun violence prevention groups. He wouldn’t have them. “You’ve got yours and I’ve got mine!” I said we need to take a look at the various studies and consider the preponderance of evidence. No way! Guns anytime. It is our right! My partner, Raphael, asked him to consider signing the petition. No way!
I was wearing my clergy collar and started talking about Jesus and scripture. I had him on this one! Jesus and Paul are always a problem for gun folks. I have found they like to go Old Testament and cite the war stories. But Jesus and Paul are problems. Again, inconvenient Truth! My partner got a bit concerned because the conversation was a bit testy at times. I was Minnesota nice, but I needed to engage. It ended peacefully.
Walking out at the end of my time, I passed a vendor who had what appeared to be a .50 caliber sniper rifle on display. This weapon can down a fighter aircraft! Then there was a guy selling a fishing game and pole, and another vendor teaching hunters how to train their dog and what to feed their dog. Interesting day.
I reflect upon Jesus. Jesus talked with everyone. Jesus ate with everyone. Yet, Jesus did not always agree with everyone. Jesus spoke the hard truth. Still, he loved everyone though calling some hypocrites and zeroing them with “woes.” His mission was to engage the world in all its tragedies and joys. Jesus lived to liberate and transform, and he could only do that by confronting all, engaging all, risking all and giving all knowing that victory was assured.
We press on!
Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes