Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount proclaims “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-17.
I would posit “good fruit bears good gun prevention laws.” On 26 February, House Democrats passed two good fruit GVP laws: universal criminal background checks which would cover licensed and private sales, and a Red Flag law that would temporarily remove a weapon from a person who could be a danger to themselves or others. Statistically, study after study, testify that these bills save lives. The vast majority of Minnesotans also agree with them. Nationally, there is similar support. But the Republican-controlled Senate will not even give them a hearing. Republican Senator Warren Limmer, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, opines, “We have a reality that we have to deal with. We have a divided government.”
So the Republican Senate proposed four new bills: 1) Increase penalties from a gross misdemeanor to a felony for straw buyers who knowingly transfer firearms to criminals; 2) Require courts to follow-up to ensure that individuals subject to restraining orders comply with orders to surrender their firearms; 3) Clarify state law to define the crime of drive-by shooting to cover any shooting from a vehicle; 4) Prohibit guns for sex offenders who have been civilly committed.
Yes, these laws are helpful. They are “fruits.” Yet, I would also call them low-hanging fruit. There is no mandatory background check. How is it possible to always know if a person is a criminal? How thorough is the checking up on individuals who are supposed to surrender their firearms? A Red Flag law can supercede a restraining order and is not dependant on a restraining order. Restraining orders are primarily for marital and partner conflicts. It appears the suicidal person could be out of the loop and beyond surrendering their weapon. Criminal background checks and Red Flag laws are “pre-laws” which can address conflicts sooner and are therefore more preventative. All four of the proposed laws avoid the criminal background check. Fruit, yes. But low-hanging.
It is consistent that the Republican Legislators always grab for the low-hanging fruit and refuse to expend the effort to climb the ladder of the healthiest fruit, the fruits that save the most lives while protecting a responsible person’s right to purchase a weapon. Republicans play to their base while refusing to act for more effective GVP laws. “Good fruit” is harvested when there is respect for data, caring conversation, honest debate on the merits of each bill, and commitment to the common good. The Republican bills and Democrat bills could easily pass as a GVP Omnibus Bill without denying a legitimate, responsible gun owner from purchasing a weapon. Division can yield a broader, more inclusive bill. The fruits can be “juicier”!
By their fruits….
Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes