Religion, Gun Rights and Mass Killings

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”

“Due to the necessity of the security of a free state, the right of the people of that state to keep and bear arms under a well-regulated militia is very important and must ne maintained”

“The people shall have unfettered right to keep and bear arms as part of a militia, in order to provide security to a free state”

As you can see, the first quote is the words of the second amendment to the constitution, while the other two are the same Second Amendment re-written in a simplified form. They all have the words right, people, bear, and arms. This sentence has been subject to multiple interpretations by both legal luminaries of both the bar and the bench, and ordinary gun owners with little command of the English language.

Though this piece is not about the NRA, it is necessary to point out that the NRA is not a militia, because its members are scattered all over the fifty states, and they are not regulated as a militia in any of these fifty states, nor are they in the business of keeping peace in any state. So, their argument that the constitution gives individuals the right to bear arms falls flat, regardless of the rulings of the Supreme Court to the various legal challenges.

Now back to the issue for this piece; gun rights, mass killings, and religious beliefs. As we are all well aware, last December, a young shy-looking man walked into an Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and killed 20 pupils, six adults, his mother and himself. The world was in shock, a community was devastated, parents were left wondering where else their children could feel safe, and the nation’s leadership was lost for words. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and voodoo priests all proffered reasons and solutions; gun rights advocates and opponents alike jaw-jawed and hee-hawed, each pointing fingers at the other and offered a myriad of reasons why this happened. The NRA suggested arming students and teachers alike, posting armed guards at every school in the nation, and easing existing restrictions on gun ownership. Opponents advocated outright ban of military-style assault rifles.

On the other side, organizations like the Brady Campaign, police chiefs, grieving parents, religious organizations, and teachers called for tighter controls, background checks, psychiatric evaluations, and outright ban on gun ownership. The Obama administration set up a committee, chaired by the Vice-President to come up with suggestions on how to curb this menace, states joined the fray with pro- and anti-gun legislations, and news media personalities, like Anderson Cooper, brought interest groups together to proffer solutions. Meantime, gun sales shot through the roof in anticipation of government restrictions, and the NRA membership increased by 50 from after Newtown%.

As a nation, would we ever tire of these mass killings? Little Rock, Tucson, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Newtown, New York, Austin, just to name a few. Oklahoma City was a planned terrorist act, and does not belong on this list. The annual death toll from mass shooting in US is more than all the casualties we suffer in terrorist attacks in the same time period; yet, while we scream for blood against the terrorists who kill a handful of our citizens, we appear helpless, or politically unwilling, to stop the same act of terror inflicted on us by our own neighbors and friends. We invest money in
lobbies and ads campaigns to defend a misinterpreted right to bear arms, yet volunteer to go to war against terrorists thousands of miles away. Don’t get me wrong, we reserve the right to retaliate when some foreign entity harms us; just as the government reserves the same right to act domestically to prevent the mass killing of its citizens by any means. The question is: which rights supersede the other?

Just after the 2008 elections, when Sarah Palin, an avid game hunter and former running mate to Sen. John McCain, assumed the image of the Tea party, one of her popular phrase went something like this: “I carry my bible in one hand and my gun in the other.” She preached about family values (which, ironically includes life); railed against abortion; was for God in the center of every family, while defending gun ownership as a constitutional right. She is not alone in these beliefs. However, the seeming cozy relationship between a gun and a bible, as portrayed by the likes of Sarah Palin, is what many like me could not wrap our heads around. Because, throughout the new testament which we all who call ourselves Christians, presently live by – at least, to some extent, there is no mention of guns or rights to bear arms. Yet, many of the same people who would kill to prevent abortion, because it is against biblical teachings – will equally do the same to protect their rights to carry a gun which, ironically, is equally against biblical teachings. Remember Jesus admonishing one of his disciples for cutting off the ears of one of Pilates guardsmen.

One of the proposals on the table for consideration by the government and Congress is conducting serious background checks on gun buyers, and closing the gun show loopholes. According to proponents, this will seriously reduce the incidence of selling guns to a mentally unstable person. Unfortunately, the NRA, and other gun rights advocates are against this; their claim being that it had not worked in the past, and will not likely work in the future. The NRA Board member on a recent Anderson Cooper gun debate went so far as claiming that background checks places undue burden on law-abiding citizens. As Anderson rightly asked; how would one determine a law-abiding citizen without a background check? As expected, there was no answering forthcoming from the NRA Board member.

There is no dismissing the fact that gun ownership has saved a lot of lives –though it has cost some lives of their owners too, and that people die more from such things as motor accidents, cigarette smoking, suicides, and unnecessary wars than do in mass shootings. While all that may be true, the fact remains that one preventable death, by any means, is more valuable than all the rights and privileges vested in a society by its constitution. Because, after all, the primary responsibility of a state is to protect and preserve the lives of its entire people; that is what the forefathers of this land had in mind when the inserted the 2nd Amendment into the constitution.

Today, we have a well regulated militia, the military, both at state and national level; we have a well regulated police force in every state, city and county, and we have a well regulated secret service, as all provided in, and covered by the 2nd Amendment. What we do not need in this country is individuals, mentally stable or unstable, stacking up military-style weapons like Uzis, AK-47 and 49s, M-16s, and the like, under the guise of a constitutional amendment. What we do not need is mass funerals every month, mass hysteria in communities, parents in perpetual mourning, school compounds under lock and key, and police resources diverted to problems that should not exist in the first place.

The gun debate may not be resolved today or tomorrow; it may not be resolved by this administration or the next one, and it may not be resolved by the next mass killing. Like many problems before it in this nation, the solution will come when the citizens –opponents and proponents alike –are repulsed enough by the unnecessary shedding of blood that they can no longer sustain an excuse for the carnage; when gun manufacturers tire of their product being associated with mass murders, and when we come to the realization that guns have no place in a Christian home. Meantime, all and everyone who believes in right of the government to protect the lives of its citizens must support every effort at every level to put an end to what we are going through in this country.  After all, one has to be alive to defend one’s constitutional rights.

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