In 15 years of writing these weekly columns, I’ve learned that there are three subjects that always get up people’s noses. Anything I write about abortion, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and/or gun control provokes a heated response.
These responses often come from people who don’t subscribe to this newspaper, people who live in Germany, or Brazil, or Indonesia. I assume someone has forwarded my words with a comment like, “Isn’t this SoB outrageous? Tell the author what you think of him!”
Today, this column is about guns. (I can see hackles rising already.)
Guns are not the problem. (I expect the National Rifle Association to forward that assertion all over the world.)
Gun owners are the problem. (I don’t expect the NRA to forward that part.)
Okay, I don’t like guns. I think the world would be a lot place if guns were available only to legitimate law enforcement personnel. In which case, even the police would not need them.
Still, I have no quarrel with people who collect guns. Any more than I do with people who collect stamps, coins, or baseball cards. I can accept that a well-machined, well-maintained gun has a certain beauty -- the same kind of beauty that I see in, say, antique steam engines in London’s Kensington Science Museum.
I also accept that some people hunt for food. I have no sympathy at all for trophy hunters, who kill rare animals for the pleasure of killing.
Personally, I would get no pleasure in shooting a deer or moose. But I would also get no pleasure from slitting a domestic pig’s throat. Or herding cows into a chute where they get bonked on the head before being carved up.
A careful food hunter may be more humane than an industrial abattoir.
But no food hunter needs a rapid-fire automatic assault weapon.
Dissension in the ranks
I gather, from news reports, that some members of the NRA have expressed similar concerns.
Once upon a time, the NRA was an organization of people who liked guns for hunting or recreation. The organization focussed on training for responsible ownership.
Then the NRA became a well-funded lobby group for gun manufacturers.
The US already has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world. There is, roughly, one gun for every American citizen.
But about 60 per cent of Americans do not own a gun at all. Therefore the average gun owner, if there is such a thing, has an arsenal of weapons.
The NRA’s answer to the occasional misuse of that arsenal -- can you name any mass murderer recently who didn’t have more than one weapon? -- is more guns. In the NRA philosophy of life, the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. You can easily identify the good guys -- they all have guns, so that they can shoot the bad guys, who also have guns, while the guys who don’t have guns at all don’t deserve consideration.
Imagine, if you can, the carnage at Sandy Hook school if all the elementary students had been armed and had started shooting back at an unknown attacker. Or if the thousands of concert-goers in Las Vegas had all started shooting anyone they saw with a gun.
By comparison, the OK Corral would look like a Sunday School picnic.
I’m delighted to see the NRA running into opposition. At its annual convention last month, president Oliver North got ousted by his CEO and NRA mouthpiece, Wayne Lapierre.
At the convention, the opposition came from the more responsible gun-owner in its own membership. But, predictably, the conflict was less about NRA politics than about the only thing Americans worship more than guns -- money.
In 2016, an election year, the NRA spent a record $412 million, despite declining membership and revenues. About $40 million of that went to its tame public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen. “Ack-Mac” also created, and operates, the online channel NRATV, which also inveighs on hot-button right-wing issues like immigration and abortion.
And spent $30 million to help Donald Trump get elected.
Ack-Mac refused to provide financial records for its billings.
Now the NRA itself is threatened. New York attorney-general Letitia James has launched an inquiry into the NRA’s tax-exempt status. Because the NRA was chartered in New York, New York can theoretically shut it down -- as it did with the Trump Foundation.
Letitia James has called the NRA “a terrorist organization.”
Finally, someone sees the light.
It couldn’t happen to a more deserving organization.
Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Of course, I borrowed some key thoughts from Mirza Yawar Baig, and then built on them, last week, in the column about violent people trying to force us to think the way they do. Clare Neufeld expressed thanks for both of us: “I especially appreciate the reflections built on your & Baig’s experiences/writings.
“Thanks for adding the voice of some sanity into the bedlam of our daily [media] diet.”
Hanny Kooyman had similar thoughts: “Thank you. Jim, for such wise words.”
Isabel Gibson responded particularly to Baig’s closing anecdote, about the protester at the White House who kept a candle lit, not so that he could change the U.S. administration’s mind, but so that they couldn’t change his mind: “That all seems about right. We have enough on our hands trying not to let ourselves be changed.
“Terry Glavin wrote a good piece on these atrocities, calling it -- correctly I think -- a blood lust that cuts across religious, political, ethnic and national affiliations and differences. ‘No one’ and ‘everyone’ started it.”
Ruth Buzzard pleaded, “Don’t stop writing Sharp and Soft columns and psalm paraphrases. They make me think!”
Thank you – the few that I heard of, anyway – who recommended my columns to friends and associates. Three new people signed up. Unfortunately, to balance that gain, three old addresses ceased to be functional any more, and the mailing list program terminated mailings to them.
Please keep spreading the word. We all know what a steady decline leads to.
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Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8
Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. The website for this project has closed but you can continue to order the DVDs by writing info@woodlake,com
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet