The truth is, without guns the United States would not have become a nation. Great Britain was the dominant political and military force in the world. The British Empire was supreme and they were not about to allow this upstart skaggle of ragamuffins to separate from their domination. Hence, the War of Independence ensued, men (mostly) and guns clashed and our freedom was won.
Yes, it can be argued that independence could have been won through nonviolent resistance. But such political strategy at the necessary scale had not been perfected. The Anabaptists and Mennonites were fledgling-minority faith movements with scant political skill and persuasion, and the other Christian denominations were in concert with our rebellion. The ethics of Jesus was dominated by personal love, community care and support for revolution. Instead, history would be the teacher of revolutions. Europe dripped with blood. Nationalism and revolution by gun was the standard.
That was then. Now is now. As we remember our War of Independence, the genocide against the Native American people, our history of slavery, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, Central American ventures, the “Charge up San Juan Hill” in Cuba, the Philippine fiasco, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, and . . . ., it seemed nothing had changed. We still knelt to the mantra of “God is on the side of the biggest battalions!” Certainly, the United Nations aids in keeping a degree of peace. But weapons sales still soar to the highest bidder and corporations make millions and billions to satisfy their stockholders.
It is this history that spreads our national gun culture epidemic. We are as used to guns solving problems as we are to eating apple pie with ice cream and Cool Whip. We can debate the validity of “good wars vs. bad wars”, the need for police to have weapons at the ready, the need for a strong defense to dissuade any aggressor, the right of people to defend their bodies and homes. But we need to up our game. Nearly 40,000 gun deaths a year is a national and human tragedy.
We need a NEW GUN INDEPENDENCE DAY! Independence from gun addiction, independence from gun dependency. How? 1) Confess our captivity to a historic gun epidemic, living off the inertia of a centuries-old weapon fetish; 2) Read the Second Amendment as a compromise to Southern slave states who wanted to protect themselves from slave rebellions, as a means to dominate Native Americans, and as a means to insure order in an untamed wilderness. The amendment was not an unqualified open door to gun usage; 3) Adopt national universal background checks for all licensed and private gun sales; 4) Adopt Red flag Laws to allow concerned family members to have guns removed from homes where there is legitimate danger of gun violence; 5) License and register all guns at point of sale; 6) Mandate gun safety training with all purchases; 7) Disallow straw purchasing of guns under penalty of fine and imprisonment; 8) Shut-down, fine and or imprison gun dealers who sell without checking and recording all gun sales; 9) Ban assault-type weapons. They are weapons of war to be used only on the battlefield; 10) Reform policing policies to include modification of qualified immunity and the right to hold police accountable for unnecessary gun violence.
Acting upon a NEW GUN INDEPENDENCE DAY can mitigate gun violence and move us towards a fuller culture of nonviolence and adherence to the Preamble to our Constitution: ” . . . establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty . . . .” And as Christians, move us to make real Jeremiah’s pronouncement: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, . . . . and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.” (Jeremiah 33:14-18) God’s promises are eternal, spanning centuries and time. God’s grace-filled promises inspire and direct the faithful to demand justice and create a nation of safety. Let’s get it done. For Christ’s sake.
Blessed INDEPENDENCE DAY!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)