We have reached a fork in the road. In the words of the poet Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both . . . . I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”
The STATISTICAL battle for gun violence prevention is over. GVP is victorious! With few exceptions, select your statistical source: FBI, CDC, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Everytown, Giffords Law, The Trace, Protect Minnesota, ENGAGE. All point to the positives for stronger GVP laws. For the record, ENGAGE gets its statistics from the above sources. ENGAGE even looks at footnotes and sources of the sources. All states and nations with strong GVP laws are significantly less gun violent. All DO NOT advocate the elimination of all guns. All promote purchase by responsible owners. Evidence is a statistical tsunami in favor of GVP laws.
We are at a fork in the road. Do we desire gun safety? Do we value human life? Do we value good order? Do we give credence to the Biblical witness of nonviolence? Do we value Jesus’ nonviolence ethic? I believe our answer has glaring clarity. YES to all the questions! Out of faith, out of love we say YES!
Yet, we are at a fork in the road to gun safety. One road is STATISTICAL TRUTH informed by faith and love. The other road is INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS buttressed by selfish fear. The other day, a friend and neighbor was told by some family members to buy a gun. He, a Republican, vociferously said “No!” I asked him why he thinks they suggested he buy a gun and why he thinks people are buying guns at a high rate? He said “Fear”. No one is arguing that guns cannot be fun and recreational. No one is arguing that guns are not sometimes necessary for personal and national survival. No one is arguing the Second Amendment does not provide justification for gun ownership. But 40,000 gun deaths a year ought to give us great pause. It is out of selfish fear that we bow to the god of individual rights to justify unabashed, unregulated and careless gun privilege. Clinging to individual rights is killing us.
Peter Marty, in the 3 June 2020 issue of CHRISTIAN CENTURY, pens an article titled “Rights at what expense?” He says, “The language of rights is the language of power.”, quoting conservative political philosopher Harvey Mansfield, “No right is safe unless it can be carried to an extreme.” Legal scholar Mary Ann Glendon calls [rights] “the illusion of absoluteness.” Marty interprets Glendon saying “that when talk of rights turns absolute it inhibits conversation, silences responsibility, and downplays obligation to the common good.” Marty concludes, “Rights are certainly important. But there’s a reason the Bible shows little interest in individual rights. If I see my life primarily as a pre-packaged set of guaranteed rights owed me, instead of as a gift of God, what motivation is there to feel deep obligation towards society’s most vulnerable? . . . . What’s the point of looking outward toward others if I’m chiefly responsible for looking inward and serving the personal rights that are mine? I want a faith that is larger than the US Constitution. . . . fixating on those rights at the expense of love, compassion and mercy contained in the substance of faith is wrong.”
Faithfulness to Jesus and commitment to the Biblical witness, combined with statistical honesty, pulls down the god of individual rights and unites all in a compassionate compact for the common good. We are at a fork in the road.
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)