Some years back, I suggested that the answer to the armband WWJC (what would Jesus carry?) might be an Israeli-made Uzi, a lethal, bullet-spewing machine of shocking power and speed.
I said it in jest.
But given the recent news report of a record-setting pre-Christmas shopping single day tally for concealed weapons permits in America (185,000), I may have been out of line. It seems that much of Christian America is convinced that weaponry is the gift of choice for followers of the Prince of Peace. I’d assumed that when Jesus asked his followers to pick up their cross, he wasn’t referring to crossfire. I may have to recheck that translation.
It’s heartbreaking to hear the old saw of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” dragged out repeatedly after what have become daily mass shootings in America. I suppose it holds a kernel of truth in that an empty, locked-away gun doesn’t kill, but the minute it’s loaded with ammunition and readily available it certainly makes it easier to kill people. After all, it is a gun that holds the bullets that kill people, whether accidentally fired or fired in anger, rage, jealousy, despair, hatred, fear or simply by a disturbed or determined individual.
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Sadly, Americans use bullets to kill themselves and others at a nearly 40,000 deaths per year. When that gun has a high-capacity magazine, it’s quite easy to take down many other lives in short order.
It is long past time to clarify and strengthen gun safety laws. If it’s crazy people who kill people, then universal, in-depth background checks for every purchase would be a helpful start. If it’s bullets that kill people, then registering sales of ammunition or engraving each bullet and shotgun shell with a traceable number would help law enforcement track killers more efficiently. If it’s readily available weapons that add to the carnage, then simple laws requiring trigger locks and lockable storage safes could serve to slow the use of guns in anger and rage.
Now that evidence shows a toddler killing another child or parent or themselves every week in America because of an easily-found, loaded weapon, it seems time to make a change in availability. An unsecured loaded weapon is something like 40 times more likely to harm an innocent resident than it is an invader.
At the least, arms dealers should have the right to sell newly designed owner-specific “safe guns” without being threatened with violent retribution.
There was a time, pre-LaPierre chairman-cy, that the NRA stood in favor of background checks, gun safety laws, and limits on high-capacity, rapid-fire weapons in the hands of citizens. A time when it affirmed gun ownership as a right that was, as the Constitution puts it clearly, well-regulated. It’s time for that kind of NRA membership to speak up and act for the well-being of the nation.
And it’s time for the rest of us who say we follow Jesus to do the same.
Kim Latterell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.