Last week, Giffords.org hosted a national conversation via Zoom on “Hate, Guns and Democracy”. It featured four presentations by leaders familiar with gun violence, focusing on the January 6 Capitol riots, and how gun violence is connected with hate and democracy. Addressing gun violence must be seen as an outgrowth of a larger American reality. Here are some snippets, followed by a Christian Confession.
REP. ANDY KIM (D-New Jersey): Andy is a combat veteran. The riots were planned and coordinated. There are attempts to weaponize our veterans. Police personnel need to be thoroughly vetted. There is a deep rot in our country. Democracy comes down to respect for one another. You don’t have good government unless you have good people to run it. If Sandy Hook didn’t focus us on GVP, what will? No single bill will solve gun violence.
JOSH HORWITZ ( Coalition to Stop Gun Violence): A permission has been created to hate. It is long past time to disarm hate. The Second Amendment is NOT about protection from the state. We have allowed 2nd Amendment pajama parties! The 2nd Amendment is not geared to address political violence, but to create “a more perfect union.” Heller is about hearth and home and not about political violence.
MARY MCCORD (Georgetown University Law Center): Private militia organizations are not lawful. “Well regulated militia means well regulated by the state.” Militias are for the defense of the government. Congress calls forth the militias. The militias of 6 January pointed to Heller as justifying their individual right to form and act. This appeal was in violation of an 1886 law that states upheld prohibiting private militias. All states prohibit the training of of militias to attack the government. There is too little enforcement of these laws. We need to ask if there should be a federal anti-militia law. (Comment: Founding Father, John Adams, wrote “The fundamental law of the militia is that it is created, directed and commanded by laws.”)
MAX MARKHAM (March for Our Lives): We must address gun glorification. There is a relationship between guns, racism and COVID/19. Trump uses anti-asian phrases which stir hatred. Businesses are the primary discrimimation sites and women are twice times the victims. We must encourage people to share their gun violence stories because people listen to personal stories.
CONFESSION FOR THE FAITHFUL: We are left with the question of how do we as Christians address guns, hate and democracy? Romans 12:14-21 gives us clues, which significantly comes prior to Paul’s directives on governmental character: “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty . . . . Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . . If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all . . . . Beloved, never avenge yourselves . . . . If your enemies are hungry, feed them . . . . overcome evil with good.” Transmitting this first century wisdom to 2021, we can imagine: commitment to nonviolence, commitment to doing good by uniting for equal justice for all. No unfettered license to the use of guns. Commitment to the rule of law, which for the Christian is prioritizing the law of love as the norm for national laws. Insisting that the 2nd Amendment not be the final arbiter for gun rights. Encouraging gun owners to step forward and speak for common sense gun safety laws. Focus gun fascination towards safety. Demanding not agreement, but respect for all, coupled with compromising for the just good. Work for responsible gun laws that respect the right of ownership while providing safeguards for possession. Commit to holding government leadership responsible, urging actions for the common good, to ensure “domestic tranquility”, that “evil can be overcome.” Put aside hatred of the other. Decry violent revolution against governmental leadership, yet insisting on actions that “promote the general welfare.” Demand that individualized/organized militia use of guns for state and national defense be rejected and prosecuted. Provide life sustaining financial and human resources for the needy. Work for giving all people an equal voice and vote as essential to creating a democratic ingenuity for life. The Biblical witness furnishes the furniture and ambience for comity.
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)