Life, God and Guns

While walking this week I saw this on a bumper sticker: “Pro Life. Pro God. Pro Guns.” Well, I also am pro-life. But my guess is the sticker was referring to what some people call “the right to life.” This movement seeks to eliminate the rights of women to make their own choices about their bodies and their lives.

Proponents’ ideas about the right to life (a prohibition against abortion in almost all cases) would have more traction with me if they campaigned as hard for the right of all children to have the highest standard of health care and nutrition from inception to the end of their days; to be reared in safe homes and neighborhoods; and, to attend public schools that are equal in quality throughout the nation, regardless of a state’s or neighborhood’s economic status/tax base.

I believe that a woman should have the legal right to elect an abortion up to a certain period of fetal viability (estimated to be 24 weeks of gestational age), and that this right should be governed only by health and safety concerns for the woman. It should not be a political issue for society, and a person’s choice should not be a theological issue for anyone but her. Personally and theologically, I struggle with this. But while I must try to live my theology, I do not have the right to legislate it.

I, Too, Am Pro God

My belief is that by proclaiming I am “pro God” I am accepting a call to action. It is a call to serve the poor and disenfranchised. The Hebrew prophets were clear about what God expects of us, as Micah said so well in chapter 6:8: “Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.”

In the Christian Testament (Matthew 25), my faith calls me to action on behalf of those who Jesus describes as his “brothers and sisters” who have the “least” in terms of economic resources and equality of opportunity. And we are specifically told “Do not judge others” and to “love your enemies.”  I am cautioned in Matthew 7 to be more concerned about removing the stick in my own eye before criticizing my neighbors for a mere speck in theirs.

To be “pro God” means I should do the work I am called to do.

I Am Anti-Gun

With regard to guns, I am decidedly in the “anti” rather than the “pro” camp. I accept that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives people a right to “keep and bear arms.”  But I believe that the right is conditioned by the first clause: “A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State….” To me, that clause makes it constitutionally necessary to regulate the ownership and use of guns.

Regulation can start with what should be easy stuff: require background checks of all purchasers; limit the number of guns a person can buy in any year; outlaw high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 bullets; and ban all semi-automatic weapons.

I cannot think of a single cogent reason why civilians need assault weapons and ammunition that have only one purpose: kill as many people as fast as possible. And this, in fact, is what is happening. According to the Gun Violence Archive(GVA) there were at least 12 mass shootings in the USA last weekend (May 22-23), with 11 people killed and 69 injured. This week a gunman massacred nine people in San Jose, California. Between January and the end of April, there were 163 mass shooting events in America, and more than 7,500 people died from all forms of gun violence in that four-month span. As Gavin Newsome, California’s governor, asked, “What the hell is wrong with us, and when are we going to come to grips with this?”

Australia Came to Grips With Their Gun Crisis

Many who advocate unregulated ownership of guns say that laws and regulations won’t stop shootings from happening. They must be unaware of Australia’s experience. In 1996 a gunman killed 35 people in a café with military-style weapons. The immediate response was a law banning all semi-automatic rifles and all pump-action shotguns. In the 15 years prior to that ban Australia had 13 mass shootings that resulted in fatalities. In the years since 1996 there haven’t been any. None. Zero.

I say it is past time for political action in America. It won’t be easy, but it must be done.  A May 27 editorial in The San Francisco Chronicle issued this challenge: “Democrats can protect us from gun violence, or they can protect the filibuster. They can’t do both.”  I believe change will come, but how many more must die before that happens?

I understand that my views on abortion, theology and guns are seen by many as extreme. Sadly, in this country it is nearly impossible to have civil discussions in the public square about these and other hot-button topics, let alone get meaningful policy changes. This is largely the fault of elected leaders who choose to enflame their base rather than work together for the common good, and we as voters are their collaborators. We are the ones who put those folks in office, and we are the ones who can retire them.






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