Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fighting the Phantom Fringe to End Gun Violence

post I just sent to the Huffington Post ... consider it a "preview."
President Obama made good his promise to address the pressing issue of gun violence reduction in our nation with a press conference that ended with his signature on twenty-three executive orders – and a call for Congress to step up and join him in providing the leadership the country is calling for. And the ink wasn’t dry on those executive orders before the conservative fringe was jumping and down about “the leftist gun grab.”

Never mind that the President specifically said he supports the 2nd Amendment and the right of Americans to “keep and bear arms.” Never mind that in a recent poll 74% of NRA members said they support common sense measures like background checks for gun purchases. (I need to show ID to buy Sudafed but not a gun? Seriously?) And never mind that nobody –let me say that again – NOBODY is talking about “grabbing guns” from anybody. But never letting facts interfere with the story they want to tell, the headline still reads: “Obama Unveils Left’s Long-Held Plan to Grab Guns.”

I know. I know. It’s Rush Limbaugh. Why give him any more “ink?” Why not just “consider the source?” Why pay any attention to him whatsoever? Because other people do. Because if we don’t who will. And because I actually believe John 8:32 got it exactly right: “The truth will set you free.”

 And the truth that will set us free from the scourge of gun violence in our streets and our schools is that a majority of Americans support both the 2nd Amendment AND common sense measures on universal background checks and restrictions on assault weapons.

 The truth is that weapons designed for the theater of war do not belong in our movie theaters – or our classrooms, places of worship or streets.

The truth is the “leftist gun grab” is a figment of the imagination of a reactionary fringe looking for a way to mobilize their increasingly polarized base by giving them something to be more afraid of than they are that their kids will get shot in their classrooms. And what they’ve come up with is that the White House is after their deer rifle. 

Here’s some truth for you – call it “confessions of a bona fide leftist.” I’ve lobbied for a woman’s right to choose, marched for marriage equality, protested against torture at Guantanamo and the war in Iraq, and demonstrated for immigration reform and hotel workers rights. I support Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Healthcare Act and the ACLU. And I not only do not want to grab your deer rifle – I don’t know anybody who does. And trust me -- I know a LOT of liberal, leftist people.

The truth will set us free – but only if we tell it. Over and over. Again and again. In emails, voicemail and snail-mail. On Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and wherever and whenever anybody will listen to us. And even when they won’t.

We’ll just keep talking. We’ll just keep telling the truth.

Because the truth is that enough is enough. The truth is that with rights come responsibilities -- and the responsibility to keep our children safe from assault weapons trumps the right of fear mongers to manufacture a phantom fringe of leftist gun grabbers in order to scare responsible gun owners into rejecting common sense proposals to implement gun violence reduction.

And the truth is that our children are counting on us to tell the truth that will set them free to grow up in a world free of gun violence.  And if that isn’t truth enough to get us moving then the truth is we deserve what we get.


RonF said...

"Gun violence"?

Hm. Using the CDC's figures for 2011, about 350 people were killed that year with rifles (all kinds, not just "assault" rifles). About 500 people were killed that year with hammers. Fewer than 10,000 people that year were killed in a homicide using guns. More than 10,000 were killed in a vehicular homicide (which includes drunk drivers).

Yet, who talks about "hammer violence"? Who talks about "car violence"? It's absurd, right? Because the issue is the killer, not the tool they use. The only use for the term "gun violence" is to demonize guns, to make it look as though guns are the problem.

My own Bishop, Jeffrey Lee of the Diocese of Chicago, spoke about the latest proposals from President Obama. While he is in favor of them, there's solid truth in these words of his:

"While we advocate for these much-needed federal proposals, all of us must face the stark reality that too much urban violence is borne out of the ugly cycles of poverty and racism for which we as a society are accountable. Our city streets cannot become safer for children and young people until all of us who have turned away repent of our neglect and commit ourselves to standing with our children to heal their world and ours."

We have tremendous efforts put into stopping people from driving while drunk and penalizing them when they do. Yet more people are killed by people driving cars than by people using guns. Neither will change until society changes.

RonF said...

"And I not only do not want to grab your deer rifle – I don’t know anybody who does. And trust me -- I know a LOT of liberal, leftist people."

Here's your problem - you're never going to get people to believe you.

For one thing, there ARE people, some quite notable, who have come out against gun ownership. Rosie O'Donnell isn't exactly a deep political thinker, but she gets a lot of press when she speaks, so people see her and people like her as representing the left.

Then there's actions that people take as personal attacks. Consider the New York Post's action in publicizing the names and addresses of local gun permit holders in their area. People see that as an effort to personally demonize them and to put them at risk in order to promote a political agenda. Two of those homes were broken into in the last 2 weeks, and in at least one case the guns themselves were the target of the burglars.

Finally - 10 or 20 years ago nobody took the concept that gay marriage might become legal in their lifetime seriously. Few people knew anyone who seriously advocated it. But look where we are today. People who advocate 2nd Amendment civil rights have taken that as a lesson. They see what's happening now as the start of the very kind of process that the name of this blog describes! And they are determined that history will not repeat itself.

People will only accept things like universal background checks, etc., as reasonable if they think the people proposing them are reasonable - and so far that thought, that perception, does not exist.

RonF said...

"And I not only do not want to grab your deer rifle"

Another thing is that this kind of statement, which I've seen many people make, in turn makes people suspicious. How many people are you talking to when you make this statement? What percentage of people who own guns keep them to hunt - and ONLY to hunt? What do you suppose the rest of the people who hear that statement think? People look to England, where it's perfectly legal to hunt - as long as you keep your gun and your ammunition at the local police station and sign them out when you go hunting.

RonF said...

So, universal background checks sounds reasonable to some people. To others, though, it raises the question "What recent shootings would have been averted by background checks?" And the answer is "none" or "very few". Generally, either the shooter passed a background check when they bought the gun or they got it from the owner in a fashion where background checks won't be involved (e.g., took it out of Mom's closet).

Which then leads to the question, "So if background checks won't avert shootings - and they know this - why are they trying to require background checks?" Which doesn't lead to good answers.