My Last Post About Guns. I’m Out.

flickr: vinothchandar

flickr: vinothchandar

With the recent National Rifle Association’s campaign to bring armed guards into every school in the United States [12/21/12 nra.org], I’m out. Simply put, this posture of thinking and the conversations that have spun out of it, are indicative of a chasm of perspective that I am no longer willing to try and cross via my blog life.

So, NRA, mission accomplished, you win. You and those who would support this plan are scaring the $h!t out of me.

No matter how folks wish to frame recent conversations about guns in the United States, the violence and expected legislation, it is clear to me that the climate is being fueled by fear, self-preservation and an individual’s rights above all others. These are not bad things in themselves, but the problem is that when the debate currency is hyperbole and hypotheticals no one - left, right or in-between - is able to make much headway with the other. We can all quote studies that support our positions, we can all claim the thoughtful approach and we all find plenty of reasons that the other side is delusional and idiotic.

Now normally, I might chalk this political carnival atmosphere up to just another day of politics in the United States, but in this case, I deeply wonder to what end and at what cost? I have seen very few cases – there have been a few – where anyone has changed their mind or had transformative relational experiences with someone from the other “side.” Much like abortion, civil rights and marriage equality I will choose to trust those whom we have elected to office to do what we have tasked them to do: listen to those who sent them there, make decisions for the common good and have the mettle and determination to see those decisions through without feeding the violent rhetoric that take on a very different tone when the issue is guns.

And if they fail, we vote them out of office.

So, I am done blogging about guns because it stresses me out. It stresses out my family and friends who read the comments. And there are simply times when talking about guns – and I think thoughtful gun advocates need to realize this – that when people get pissed off at you when talking about guns and lift up hypothetical violence against you and your family they are scary . . . um, because they have guns and they are pissed. I suspect this is the intent – and some get off on the power and intimidation – but really it’s just not worth it for me to keep poking the internet trolls in the eye. So yeah, fear is playing a role, but my reaction is not to go into lock-down and arm my family, but to walk away and no longer add to the escalation.

The biggest reason that I am dropping out of much of public blogging debate, however, is that I don’t like the way it is makes me feel about other human beings: strangers, acquaintances AND strangers. I strive to always interact with graciousness, try to see the complex beauty with which God has gifted each person and attempt to appreciate those who hold views that are different from mine. But, what I have noticed about my own spirit is that I can feel these interactions eating away at my soul and my ability to truly honor and see the child of God in all people. As a Christian, when I begin to lose the ability to see the other as holy, I become an unhelpful and even destructive voice.

Sometime we must disengage.

But lest you think I am TOTALLY out of the conversation, I am no abdicating my voice and my ability to help connect people and resources. We must each hold our public servants accountable, strive to participate in helpful ways and, even when we are unable to ourselves, instigate and support thoughtful dialogue.  So with this in mind, as I stumble upon good articles and resources, I will be pinning them to  my Support Gun Control Board  via my Pinterest life.

So . . . I’m not shying away from hard conversations, rather, I am striving to be a healthy part of whatever conversations I do choose to have. And right now and for the foreseeable future, it will not be about guns.

See original post on www.reyes-chow.com and/or sign up for my mailing list to stay in touch.

A Few Thoughts on Gun Violence and Liberty

UPDATE: I totally forgot to include a great resource put out by the Presbyterian Church (USA), Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
First please watch this video  . . .

YouTube Preview Image

Now before anyone starts flaming this post and/or does the “What would you do?” taunt, please know that our family has been touched by gun violence, we have lived in neighborhoods where gun violence is very real and we have NEVER felt that the best response for an individual or a community is to have more guns. I am 100% certain that my wife and I will never own a gun . . . NEVER, so that argument with me is a non-starter.

I also know that I am posting this on July 4th knowing that some may deem venturing into the messy conversations about guns and my challenge to how we use and see them in this country is somehow “unpatriotic.” But I would push back and say that one of the ways I understand my own patriotism is to be thankful for this nation-state where we have the freedom to passionately and openly debate the very nature of what it means to be patriotic, so talking about owning guns seems particularly appropriate today.

Two arguments about gun ownership that are often extolled are, “Bad people will always do bad things, so don’t punish the good people” and “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.”  While there are many arguments about gun ownership that I simply do not buy, with these two I very much agree.  Society will always have individuals who will make choices that bring about pain, suffering and violence upon the larger community, so with this in mind we must be vigilant in creating a culture that makes sure handguns cannot so easily be acquired by people who should not have them.  I am not even getting into the debate about rifles and hunting arms, but just handguns that are so easily attained in most states and used in so many murders and suicides.

I am not 2nd Amendment scholar, but I believe that our individual right to bear arms should be challenged if society deems that we do not have the psychological capacity to make good choices about the use of those arms.  Sure, there are those out there that don’t really care about the ramifications of loose gun laws and see any restriction on any form of fire arms is an assault on American liberty, but let me be clear in saying that allowing this kind of blind distribution of guns in our communities is an assault on my liberty and the liberty of my family.

One thing that I hope reasonable people can agree upon is that we must better deal with the ways in which guns are bought and sold.  There is too much evidence of irresponsible gun purchasing for us not to have rigorous background checks in all states.  One way that some communities have responded is to encourage – and pressure when need be – gun dealers to adopt a “10 point voluntary code for firearms retailers” that is being advocated by a groups such as Pennsylvania’s Heeding God’s Call and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Could not reasonable people agree that this is a good idea?  Heck even Walmart has signed on and is part of this movement and, for many folks, you can’t get more “American” than that.  Take a read of the 10 points below . . .

The 10 points of the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership are:

  1. Videotaping the Point of Sale for All Firearms Transactions. Participating retailers will videotape the point-of-sale of all firearms transactions and maintain videos for 6 months to deter illegal purchases and monitor employees.
  2. Computerized Prime Gun Trace Log and Alert System. Mayors Against Illegal Guns will develop a computerized system that participating retailers will implement over time to log crime gun traces relating to the retailer. Once the program is in place, if a customer who has a prior trace at that retailer attempts to purchase a firearm, the sale will be electronically flagged. The retailer would have discretion to proceed with the sale or stop the sale.
  3. Purchaser Declaration. For sales flagged by the trace alert system, participating retailers will ask purchasers to fill out a declaration indicating that they meet the legal requirement to purchase the firearm.
  4. Deterring Fake IDs. Participating retailers will only accept valid federal- or state-issued picture IDs as primary identification. Retailers will utilize additional ID checking mechanisms.
  5. Consistent Visible Signage. Participating retailers will post signage created by the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership to alert customers of their legal responsibilities at the point-of-sale.
  6. Employee Background Checks. Participating retailers will conduct criminal background checks for all employees selling or handling firearms.
  7. Employee Responsibility Training. Participating retailers will participate in an employee responsibility training program focused on deterring illegal purchasers. The Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership will create an online training system based on WalMart´s training program.
  8. Inventory Checking. Participating retailers will conduct daily and quarterly audits. Guidelines will be based on WalMart´s existing audit procedures.
  9. No Sales Without Background Check Results. Participating retailers would prohibit sales based on “default proceeds,” which are permitted by law when background check has not returned a result within 3 days.
  10. Securing Firearms. Participating retailers will maintain firearms kept in customer accessible areas in locked cases or locked racks.

Now I understand that any restrictions or regulations voluntary or otherwise, make some people cringe, but honestly, these seem like pretty reasonable practices and would not be that difficult to enact. Not only would I think any firearms dealer who adopts these would create better relationships with the community, but would also be able to rent knowing that they are helping to prevent death.

Now again, there are many more issues that need to be dealt with around guns and violence in the United States: disproportionate amount of violence in poor and/or communities of color, recent decisions about violent video game accessibility to minors and how society in generally understands the roots causes of conflict and struggle. But this day, it is my hope that many can at least agree when it comes to who is allowed to own handguns in the United States, in order to have liberty and freedom for ALL, those who see that freedom and liberty as a free pass to perpetuate situations of violence and death have perverted the very nature of that liberty.

And finally . . . for individuals, families and communities who daily struggle though living with the impact and pain of violence in their lives, may you find some glimpse of peace and hope this day.


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