In Guns We Trust

In 1956, the United States adopted “In God We Trust” as our motto. It’s time for an update, because clearly the overriding sentiment now is, “In Guns We Trust.”

I grew up in the 70s on a farm. We had guns, though we were not really hunters. They came in handy protecting chickens from rats and skunks and the like. Thankfully, I once watched my brother shoot a charging rabid skunk. Guns do have their uses in rural areas. During that time, the NRA was a somewhat benevolent force in the community, offering free gun safety classes to 6th graders. We did live in a world of guns, and it was good to provide basic gun safety education for kids who might not get it from their parents. Things like – always assume a gun is loaded, don’t point guns at people, etc.

According to my research, the NRA changed in 1977 when hardliners took over the organization and began to push an absolutist reading of the 2nd amendment. They overlooked that little part about a “well regulated militia” which made sense in a country yet without a standing army. We needed the citizens to be armed in order to call them to action quickly without the time needed to build an arsenal. Common sense. Instead, the interpretation became that God and the founders wanted every citizen to be armed for self-protection and for protection of an over-reaching government – yeah, like a few rifles and handguns are going to stop drones, missiles, and tanks.

The NRA pushed fear, more people bought guns, and more people joined the NRA. This meant a windfall of money for the NRA. In fact, this happens every time there is a mass shooting. They sell nothing but fear, and Americans gobble it up.

They developed slogans like, “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” despite the fact that nobody was suggesting guns be outlawed, only regulated. Then there was “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” True, but people with guns kill a whole lot more people than people without guns. If you were in that conference room in San Bernardino, would you rather have seen 2 people walk in with assault rifles, or knives? I’d vote for knives. Guaranteed they wouldn’t have killed 12 people. The latest slogan is, “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun. Absolutely not true. When a man had a kalishnikov on a French train, the thing that stopped him was two corageous, unarmed men who acted and tackled the man with the gun. Yet, in 2014, after a couple killed two police officers and retreated to a Walmart store, a good guy with a concealed weapon thought he could be a hero and take out the bad guys. He paid for the overassessment of his skills with his life. Handling a firearm, and dealing with bad guys takes actual training and skill. That’s why people go through intense fire arms training as a police officer or soldier. And because most gun owners aren’t really trained, they have a higher risk of homicide, suicide, or accidental death than people who don’t own guns.

In fact, it’s surprising that people aren’t talking about the role of gun proliferation in police violence. After the North Hollywood shootout, when officers were so outmatched by assault rifles and body armor, an arms race began. Police departments realized that with everything on the street, they needed to be better armed. Their fear of us grew. Then our fear of them grew. It has become an arms and fear race. It’s not really surprising they are quick to protect themselves in a world where more and more people are armed. Welcome to the wild west folks. Thanks to the NRA and the gun culture, we’ve reverted back to might makes right instead of the rule of law.

Another element that adds to the fear that has driven gun sales and NRA membership – Pro-gun advocates have pushed the narrative that Obama is trying to take away our guns. Hopefuly we can all get out of the FEMA camps and escape the death panels in order to get our guns back from Obama when his term ends. Oh wait… in fact, Obama has only signed two gun laws during his presidency and BOTH expanded gun rights. Does he call for new restrictions, yes, but does anything get done by the politicians in the pocket of the NRA? Nope.

In a world saturated with laws, it seems a shame to add more, but there are huge holes in our gun laws. If you go to a retail store, yes, there is a background check and waiting period. But why bother with that? Just go to a gun show and buy them without any questions asked. Or, perhaps find someone who has a gun to sell, and just get it from them. It’s all perfectly legal, and it doesn’t matter if you’re mentally unstable, angry, homicidal, a child, a criminal, drunk, high, or a terrorist. So, closing that loophole would go a long way in preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands.

My idea, though I’m sure the gun nuts would hate it, is to require all guns to be registered, just like a car. You would also need to prove your ability to operate the machinery, just like a car. Once registered, the owner would bear all responsibility for what happened with it. You leave it unsecured and a criminal steals it and commits a crime with it… you are just as resonsible as the criminal because you did not secure a deadly weapon. A child finds it and accidentally shoots someone, you are legally responsible for the results and not securing your gun. Only when ownership is transferred to another registered owner, is your liabity for owning that weapon at an end. Simple.

However, I also believe that even that would not stop this problem until we change our culture. Right now, a great many Americans do believe that it is in guns we trust. Mad? Solve it with a gun. Hurt? Solve it with a gun. Lonely? Solve it with a gun. Afraid? Solve it with a gun. Disenfranchised? Solve it with a gun. Whatever problem you have, the gun is the answer. In Guns We Trust.

Many people have tied guns and God together, yet the Bible teaches that God is in control of all things, provides for the birds of the air and flowers of the field, and instructs in Luke 12:7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” For me the crux of that passage is DON’T BE AFRAID! The King James version of the Bible advises against fear 365 times. Some scholars say it is the over-riding message of the Bible. But guns, unless you are solely a hunter or target shooter, are about protection, which is nothing but fear.

I have no solutions to offer. I don’t know how to change our culture. It has come to my awareness that all actions can be divided into one of two categories – Love or Fear. Love’s actions lead to goodness, but nothing good comes from fear. Right now, our country is running on fear.

So, my final thought is that until you are willing to rely on your prayers to God to lead you, protect you and act in love, then you are not allowed to ask others to rely on your prayers for comfort after a mass shooting. Your prayers mean nothing, because your true faith and your motto is In Guns We Trust and you’re part of this nation’s fear problem.

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Special Edition

This blog is getting an extra post today so that I may express some of my thoughts about yesterday’s ruling on marriage equality. I welcome all respectful comments.

For me, the day was odd. While everyone else was celebrating marriage equality, I had yet to learn of this historic decision, becasue I was watching SkyNews which was focused on the terrorist attack in Tunisia. It wasn’t easy to make the switch to joy when there was so much pain going on elsewhere.

Then when I pulled up Facebook, it was as if a rainbow had exploded everywhere. However, having come from a conservative Christian home and area, there were many FB friends who were conspicuously silent. I celebrated, but kept my response tempered. I didn’t change my profile picture, or post the White House in rainbow colors. I didn’t want this to be a rub-it-in-your-face moment, because I knew the blowback would start shortly. So I posted a couple of mild things, and liked my friend’s posts like crazy.

Having grown up with those beliefs, I understand some of the pain those silent friends are in now.

So let’s talk about that pain.

First, some of this pain comes from the belief that America is a Christian nation, favored by God above all others. They see America as the new Israel. Throughout the old testament, when Israel turns away from God, He turns away from them, and they fall into ruin. So, there is fear in their anger, that God will now turn away from America. However, there have been many times America has had policies that surely broke God’s heart – murdering, kidnapping, beating, torturing, enslaving, and raping Africans was perfectly legal within the United States, and the Bible was used to justify these practices. God did not turn from America and bring it to ruin for that. Instead, the very economic foundation of our nation was built and flourished on slavery. Are two people of the same sex who love each other so much they want to commit their lives to each other, somehow worse than the evil of slavery?

We went straight from slavery to genocide. We tried to wipe out the people who lived on this land for thousands of years. Yet God allowed that, the nation’s borders expanded, and we flourished. Are two people of the same sex in a committed, loving relationship more heinous to God than genocide?

As for the argument that this is a Christian nation, that’s an easy one to deal with. The fact that the nation was founded with the concept of “freedom of religion” at its core seems to say we’re not. Some would argue that those Puritans were being persecuted by other Christians, thus “freedom of religion” really applies to practicing one’s Christian faith freely from the limitations of other Christian faiths. So, going with that, yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling would still be acceptable, because there are many different views on the interpretation of the Bible. Since the government can not establish an official religion, or favor any denomination, then “I believe” is not a strong enough argument to deny someone a basic human right.

Whether you like it or not, the Bible doesn’t have one clear meaning. It was written down years after events, translated many times into many different languages, and you can find highly qualified Christian scholars who, when going back to the oldest texts available, find meanings that are not taught from the pulpit. The Old Testament is STILL being argued about in Jewish temples across the globe, yet the average American Christian is firmly convinced they know the mind and will of God. They believe that what they were taught, is the truth, and what everyone else was taught is a lie from Hell. See the problem here? Because the government isn’t in a position to pick the “right” denomination, they must leave all faith-based opinions out of the decision, and make the one that ensures that all people are treated equally.

You may see homosexuality as a sin. That’s YOUR belief. It’s not mine, or millions of other people’s belief. Why should yours win out? If you answer, “Because I believe it” then move on. You’ve lost the argument.

Let’s take another angle:

When did you decide to be straight (if you are)? If I asked nicely, and assured you it wasn’t a sin, could you change who you are attracted to? What if I legislated that you could only get married if you are homosexual. Would that get you to change that little flutter you feel in your stomach when you see someone you are attracted to? No? Hmmm.

If God doesn’t make mistakes, and millions of people (and even animals) have an innate attraction to the same sex, then it must not be a mistake.

Some argue that they should deny their attractions, get married to someone of the opposite sex, and live in the sanctity of a holy union. Yeah, well, do you want to be the person who marries someone who isn’t attracted to you and longs to be with someone else? I don’t. I want to be with someone who is as passionate about our relationship as I am. An empty, going-through-the-motions kind of marriage, is not the kind of marriage I see written about in the Bible.

Or perhaps they should stay celibate and not engage in sexual behavior their entire life. Yeah, that’s realistic.

Or perhaps we should follow other laws of the Bible and stone them.

Or we could just shame them so much they kill themselves. We’ve been doing that for years.

I’m guessing that those who are so angry, fearful, and hurt by this ruling don’t know any gay people personally. Oh, they may say they do… after all, that checkout guy is pretty flaming, and their hairdresser may be gay and they still go to him… so yes, they DO know gay people. But it’s not the same as caring about someone in your inner circle. It’s amazing (not really) how many politicians change their minds about being gay when their child tearfully comes out. Suddenly they are face to face with the pain their beliefs have caused. Suddenly someone whose heart is intertwined with theirs is in anguish. Suddenly they feel the same pain. When you have friends or family who you’ve watched spend their lives together in a more committed relationship that many straight couples, yet don’t have visitation rights in the hospital, or legal rights after death, and maybe even keep who they are, secret from their judgmental friends and family, it changes your heart. Legislating against gay people doesn’t stop them from being gay, but it does stop them from living full and open lives.

Something else to consider:

If God is in control, he allowed a conservately packed court to make this decision.

Or:

If homosexuality is such a major issue to God, why did Jesus never mention it even once? And why are there 300 verses dealing with caring for the poor, yet the church isn’t screaming out about the immorality of an unregulated capitalist system that creates poverty. Well, one guy in a funny hat is, though it’s pretty bizarre how suddenly he went from the infallible voice of God to a dangerous man who is to be ignored.

Despite my understanding of the beliefs, this is one thing that is a mystery to me. Why is today’s American church so obsessed with homosexuality? Is it because the majority of them find it easy to not be guilty of it. I mean, gluttony is also a sin, but you’d be hard pressed to find a church where everyone has repented of their fatness and takes excellent care of their bodies/temples. Those unrepentant obese Christians are not denied the right to marry or consider themselves Christians. That sin is overlooked, most likely because if the church made a stink about that, there’d be no one left in the pews.

Anyone can believe anything they want. This ruling does not change that. If you sincerely believe homosexuality is a sin, you are still allowed to believe that. Live by your beliefs and do not commit what you consider to be a sin. Nobody’s asking you to get gay married. You might have to face conflict when you don’t attend a homosexual family member’s marriage, but that’s no reason to deny someone their basic rights.

Nobody can say it better than Justice Kennedy:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

This week America took another step towards living up to its ideals. That should make you happy, no matter what your personal religious beliefs.

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