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by Jeff Munroe
Brian Keepers is away today. Jeff Munroe, a former regular at The Twelve, is our guest today. Jeff is the Vice President of Operations and Development at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.
In Donald Trump’s Presidential nomination acceptance speech, he spoke about the injustice caused when our political system has “sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash.” I spoke right back to my TV, saying, “Amen! Start with the National Rifle Association.”
The time has come to break the stranglehold the NRA has on Congress and begin to undo the damage they have done to the United States. I know the Bible says “judge not,” but since Dante says the seventh level of hell is for the violent, the eighth level for the fraudulent, and the ninth for the treacherous, I wonder how God is going to sort this all out for the NRA.
The NRA sees the world in binary fashion. You are either pro-gun or anti-gun, pro-Second Amendment or anti-Second Amendment, pro-America or anti-America. There isn’t room for nuance. As Trump would say, that’s a yuuuuge problem.
I don’t want to take away people’s hunting rifles and, even though I believe the impulse is misguided, I am not lobbying to take away people’s ability to own handguns for personal protection. I cannot understand, however, why we don’t insist the right to bear arms doesn’t mean the right to own assault weapons or armor piercing ammunition, or the right of people identified as terror risks to own weapons, nor can I understand why the Centers for Disease Control is prohibited by an act of Congress from doing research into gun violence as a public health problem.
Recent events displayed the hypocrisy of the NRA in all its pathetic glory. In Minnesota, Philando Castile was shot by a police officer because he had told the police officer he was armed and the police officer overreacted when Castile moved. What has the NRA said about this? Nothing. Now just reimagine the scenario for a moment. Imagine Castile was white, and imagine the officer was not local law enforcement but federal. Imagine a white man legally carrying a weapon shot and killed by an overreacting ATF or FBI agent. The NRA’s outrage would be overwhelming. But when it comes to the right of black citizens to bear arms, the NRA doesn’t have a thing to say. Cynical me believes much of the NRA’s psychological hold comes from white people’s fear of an armed black citizenry.
What did the NRA have to say about the shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge? What can they say? They have fought for the “right” for average people to have access to military style weapons and ammunition. The question needs to be asked, “Whom are they arming themselves to fight?” I don’t think the weapons are for the random elk or stray Muslim that may wander into the back yard. The answer has to be to fight others similarly armed. And who is that? Law enforcement and our own military. (See Ammon Bundy and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for an illustration.)
Every society has its extremes. We’ve decided to allow ours to arm themselves with military weapons. Why?
What is it going to take to have an intelligent conversation about those words found in the Second Amendment of the Constitution that the NRA “protects”? Our nation is the strange, violent peer of only two other countries – Mexico and Guatemala – that have the right to bear arms embedded in a constitution. Because of those words and the NRA’s simplistic, literalist interpretation of them, there are 88 guns for every 100 people in the United States. For a comparison look to Israel – if any country needs a “well-regulated militia” for its security it is Israel – but in Israel there are 7.3 guns for every 100 people.
Literalism kills. Those who read the Bible or Quran literally have killed over and over. Those who read the Constitution simplistically are doing the same thing. It’s time to apply a smidge of common sense and hermeneutical sophistication to the Constitution and state the obvious fact that the Framers never imagined weapons like we have today. As centuries pass, it’s okay to say some words were meant for another time and place. (The other option is to embrace literalism fully and allow everyone unlimited access to every weapon known in the 1780s.)
I’m all for kicking out those who have sold out to a corporate lobbyist for cash. Let’s start by not electing those controlled by the NRA.