Obama Puts Biden in Control of Gun Control Initiative

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama announced today that he has put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of his efforts for reform concerning shootings such as what happened last week at Sandy Hook. Vice President Biden is a long-time supporter of gun control.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York called a press conference in which he pushed the president to use his executive order powers to make a unilateral regulation which would be a de facto form of gun control. President Obama has refused this, at least so far.

Unless President Obama does decide to use his executive order power to make a sweeping change on his own, this process will take quite a while. For one thing, Congress is still embroiled in the “fiscal cliff” debate. If the president allows things to proceed normally, I would expect him to announce more specific changes at the State of Union Address. However, there is nothing written in stone about that assumption.

One question, at least for me, is whether or not anyone in this administration sincerely intends to discuss this problem and look for solutions. Are they just saying this with the intention to concentrate on a single-law answer? I am also concerned about civil liberties generally in this climate and with this president. He has already shown a willingness to trample religious liberties.

Right now, he has the backing of the public. I also expect most of the press to support whatever he does unthinkingly. A lot of people are signing on to vote for and support what he comes up with without having any idea whatsoever what it will be or what it will entail.

As for me, I will continue to urge Public Catholic readers to take a more thoughtful, comprehensive and long-term approach to thinking about this. Use your minds, and don’t let propaganda and emotion carry you away.

The Associated Press article describing President Obama’s new initiative says in part:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is launching an administration-wide effort to curbgun violence, underscoring the growing political consensus over tightening gun restrictions following the horrific massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.

Obama is tasking Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime gun control advocate, with spearheading the effort. In remarks from the White House on Wednesday, Obama will outline a process for pursuing policy changes following the school shooting, though he is not expected to call for specific measures.

The president has vowed to use “whatever power this office holds” to safeguard the nation’s children after Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were killed at the school by a gunman carrying an arsenal of ammunition and a high-powered, military-style rifle.

The White House sees some urgency in formulating a policy response to the shooting, even as Obama and his top aides are consumed with averting the “fiscal cliff” before tax hikes and spending cuts take effect in January. The incident has prompted several congressional gun rights supporters to consider new legislation to control firearms, and there is some fear that their willingness to engage could fade as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown shooting eases.

Many pro-gun lawmakers also have called for a greater focus on mental health issues and the impact of violent entertainment. White House aides say stricter gun laws alone are not the answer.

“It’s a complex problem that requires more than one solution,” White House spokesman Jay Carneysaid Tuesday. “It calls for not only re-examining our gun laws and how well we enforce them, but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions.” (Read the entire article here.)

Whither we are tending …

America has suffered a series of terrible tragedies in the past 20 years.

This is a recent feature of our American history.

We went for over two hundred years without facing the insanity of repetitive mass murders of innocent civilians in public places by socially inept angry young men. There have been incidents of mass violence throughout our history, including at least one school bombing in the 1920s.

But the present-day phenomena of one shooter killing people one after the other for no reason began with the clock tower at the University of Texas back in the 1960s. There was a decades-long lull between that atrocity and the next one. Now, they are occurring at shorter and shorter intervals.

What has changed in our national psychology that we have become a people who are living in fear of mass-murdering social misfits?

That is the first question we need to ask about this problem. It would be a huge mistake to come up with a solution without first working out exactly what the problem is that we are trying to solve.

I don’t want to contribute to the word-salad propagandizing that passes for commentary these days. I honestly think that this behavior on the part of people in the media has contributed to this problem. I believe emphatically that it has contributed to the fractured, unthinking way we respond to things. This needs to stop. We the people need to start thinking things through for ourselves.

I’m going to run through the various questions that have been raised by those who are proposing solutions. I’m also going to add some observations of my own. But what I am not going to do is try to whip you up into a froth of emotion. I also will not tolerate those who try to use the com boxes to do that. I want intelligent discussion, not ugly bizarreness.

This is a Christian blog. It’s purpose is to equip Christians to deal effectively with the challenges we face and to be fruitful witnesses for Jesus. That will be our focus.

This is all I’m going to say about whither we are tending today. We aren’t going to find a solution for this problem in a day. Or a week. Unless the President does something unilateral, it will be a slow and contentious process to get anything done at all. We not only need to spend some time thinking, praying and talking this through; we are required by circumstance to let it sit for a while.

All these pundits who push, push, push at controversial issues are doing it because controversy raises their ratings. This has become such an exaggerated, all-consuming focus with many of them that they focus on controversy at the expense of the facts or of fairness. This harms all of us.

I’m going to begin tomorrow with a discussion of changes in the past quarter century which I feel might have contributed to this problem. I’m really interested to what you think is creating this problem.

Then, I’ll list the various ideas people have for reform in government. However, I am convinced that the solution to this problem is not something we can achieve by just passing laws. We need to look at more than legislative changes.

We are going to take a break for Christmas. And then begin again in the New Year. I will also begin the series I was writing on how government works again after the New Year.

Before we do anything, I think we should all take this to the Lord in prayer. I know that I am going to.

Finding Normal

It’s still Advent.

Christmas is right around the corner.

We have to pull ourselves out of the grief cycle and find normal again. This isn’t easy. It’s never easy. But after a season of repeated tragedies layered on top of a tumultuous political campaign, it’s even harder.

Finding normal is the work in front of us.

Advent is a holy season of self-examination and repentance. Those activities seem especially fitting in this week after Sandy Hook. We need to use these days of prayer to draw closer to our God and seek His comfort and His direction.

At the same time, we have the work of preparing for Christmas. We have presents to wrap, food to buy and houses to clean. If we have little children, it is our responsibility to create Christmas for them. Remember that Christmas is more than presents and feasting. It is the birthday of our Savior.

Once more Americans have to find normal and live normal after a national tragedy has taken normal away from us. We will find normal in everyday things; in the cleaning, wrapping, praying and confessing of real life.

Healing comes from loving and living. It is in the warmth of our friendships and families; the safety of our homes. The dailiness of life will heal us, if we let it. Our resilience is in our faith and our ability to trust that even when things go wrong they are somehow also going right.

It is still Advent.

Christmas is coming.

And America is trying to find normal, once again.

Sisters of Life

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“Legitimate Rape” Senate Candidate Arrested in 1980s Pro Life Protest

Mr Foot-In-Mouth, Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin, just rose in my opinion. 

Remember Todd Akin? He was the senatorial candidate who basically affronted the dignity of everyone with two X chromosomes by making a statement to the effect that if a rape was “legitimate” the woman’s body would protect itself and not allow her to get pregnant. Aside from the garbled way he expressed himself and the fantasy biology he seemed to believe, his apparent attitude toward rape victims was … well … horrible.

His own political party pressured him to withdraw from the race but Akins refused and doggedly campaigned on. He must be doing surprisingly well. The reason I say this is that opposition groups, including People for the American Way have “researched” his past, looking for an embarrassment or two. In my opinion, they might have left well enough alone.

It turns out that Todd Akins was arrested a number of times back in the 1980s for criminal trespass and resisting arrest in front of a St Louis abortion clinic.

According to the St Louis Post-Dispatch archives,

a 37-year-old William Akin from Creve Coeur — whose name and address matches other information about the future lawmaker — was among a group of protesters arrested on March 15, 1985. The newspapers account said: “Nineteen anti-abortion demonstrators who refused to leave the waiting room of an abortion clinic in the Central West End were carried out by St. Louis police officers.”

Three weeks later, another six protesters, including Akin, were arrested at another St. Louis demonstration. “Police had to carry Akin into an elevator,” the story said.
On April 5, 1985, Akin was arrested again as one of 10 protesters who were “attempting to block entrances” at the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Ill., according to the paper. One clinic employee told the paper that the protesters caused minor damage and leveled “verbal abuse” at women entering the clinic.

Akins has confirmed that he was arrested 25-years ago, but won’t give out further details. ”We’re not talking about that at all,” Akin told the AP. “It was 25 years ago, and I think it underlines the fact that I stand up for the things I believe and I’m pro-life, and we’re just leaving it there.”

I think these opposition researchers would have done better to have stayed with the outrage over Akin’s earlier comments. The arrest they discovered seems more like confirmation of his dedicated pro-life stand than a scandal. It sounds as if he was practicing the time-honored tradition of non-violent civil disobedience as a form of protest. It confirms that no matter how bad he is at expressing himself — and he deserves some kind of prize for that — he has a life-time dedicated pro-life stance.

The Child Isn’t The One That Needs Killing

The Child Isn’t The One That Needs Killing.  Rob Roy produced by MGM

We are at a stalemate on the issue of abortion. For forty long years we’ve yelled at one another across the cultural divide. If vitriol was virtue, a good number of us could warp off to heaven like a convoy of Elijahs right now.

Nothing revs up the combatants in this on-going war faster than combining the words “rape” and “abortion” in one sentence. That’s like sounding the bell for a group of race horses lined up at the starting gate.

The foot-in-mouth comments of a Missouri politician brought all this to the fore Monday. Here is what he said:

Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

His comments are so absurd they would be funny if their impact wasn’t tragic. Morally callous biological nonsense coming out of the mouth of a pro-life politician makes pro life people sound like moral ingrates and idiots. His bizarre statement will be bandied about as proof of many of the prejudices that are used to destroy the pro-life movement’s credibility in public debate.

People we might otherwise convert to our cause will be persuaded that we are too heartless for them to listen to us. Every time someone like this exhibits such indifference to women, he makes it harder for the rest of us to convert the culture.

I’ve been fighting the battle to achieve justice for rape victims most of my adult life. I was one of the six founders of the original YWCA Rape Crisis Center here in Oklahoma. I’ve lost count of the number of pieces of legislation I’ve authored to either try to help rape victims or lock up their assailants. Along with the Oklahoma Coalition on Domestic Violence I helped put together the Statewide Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against Women, the first such event that I know of in the country.

I can not contemplate the sheer indifference to the suffering of other people that rape represents. It wounds me when I try.

Despite all this, I have been hammered repeatedly by legal abortion advocates because I won’t kill a baby that is conceived in rape. They have gone so far as to claim that I want women to be beaten and raped, that I hate women.

I believe that the leaders in these attacks know that they are lying. They are, in the parlance of our pro-life movement, truly “pro-abortion” in that their motivations are to promote abortion rather than to help women.

I have never answered them in kind. Even though some pro-life people have criticized me because I won’t fall in line and call pro-choice people names, I refuse to do it. I do not research their histories to try to find ways to attack them. I never answer their ugliness with more ugliness.

I let them have the low road.

I’ve been on both sides of the abortion wars and I know that there are good and sincere people who feel pushed into a pro-choice position simply because they can’t see any other way to help women who are faced with terrible situations. These are the people we have to convert if we want to change the face of our society.

We can’t change the culture by high-five-ing one-another. We’ve got to change minds and hearts. We must convert those who are genuinely pro-choice rather than pro-abortion. We need to do missionary work among those good people who think abortion should be legal because of their concern for the welfare of women. We can not do this without changing some of our tactics.

We need to try to put another face on our movement than that of social bully. We have far too many people who say they are pro-life but who are more interested in winning arguments and dominating discussions than in saving lives. If we want to build a pro-life culture, we need to stop yammering about what terrible people those on the other side of the debate are, and start speaking about the values we believe in.

We believe in the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. We are working to build a culture that honors the value and dignity of every single person, no matter how young, old, sick or disabled. We are trying to teach the world the Sermon on the Mount.

That is a noble cause. We should advance it with noble means.

Our values are not about overpowering those who disagree with us with verbal nastiness. They are also not about enforcing some rigid pro-life political correctness that says we have to denounce those who disagree with us or be attacked by other pro-life people ourselves.

I will go a step further and say that we should never answer their unkindness with unkindness of our own. We need to stay on our great and glorious message of the sanctity of life for all human beings. That, and not name-calling and denouncing people, is what will win the day.

The question of abortion for rape victims is a case in point. We should never make unkind or dismissive statements about the victims of horrible crimes like rape.

Representative Akin is mistaken. Women do get pregnant from rape. And they suffer horribly. Rape is a monstrous, dehumanizing terror that frightens almost all women and can be a kind of psychological death for those who have to survive it. Rape is another of those mortal sins that, if unrepented, can send those who commit it to hell.

None of this affects the fact that it is wrong to kill a baby. From the moment of our conception, we are all unique and precious individuals, children of the living God. A baby is not a terror. A baby is a person.

I think there are a lot of good and compassionate people who honestly favor abortion in the case of rape because they care about the rape victim. I also believe that there are lot of equally good and compassionate people who oppose abortion in the case of rape because they care about the life of the baby.

If we are going to heal our culture and bring the abortion wars to a life-giving conclusion, we have to bring these two groups of good people together. We need to stop focusing on saving the baby OR the mother. We should focus instead on saving the baby AND the mother.

Rape victims need a lot of help recovering from what has been done to them. Above all things, they need Christians to accept them as whole, unblemished people who are worth as much as they were before the rape. If they become pregnant from a rape, they will need a great deal of support. They need our help. Most of all, they need our love.

I get weary of empty-headed politicians and their callous statements. It tires me dealing with them and their indifference to human suffering.

As for rapists, I won’t go so far as Rob Roy and say that they need killing. But I do believe the unspoken sub-text of the statement that the person who should be punished is the rapist. The woman who was raped is innocent. A baby conceived in rape is innocent. The guilt, shame and the full punishment should fall on the one who did this terrible thing, not them.

Survey: Increasing Hostility Toward Religion in USA

In what may be one of the more poignant stories of the week, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council and Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute released a survey Monday that details the rise in hostility toward religion in America.

Just a week ago, a gunman attempted to enter Family Research Council headquarters in Washington DC, wounding a security guard. Law enforcement has treated this as an incident of Domestic Terrorism. That certainly puts an explanation point at the end of yesterday’s press release from the Family Research Council.

According to CNA/EWTN news,

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2012 / 05:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A report examining court cases from recent years has found that hostility towards religion has grown to unprecedented levels in the United States.

The newly-updated Survey of Religious Hostility in America serves as “a testament to the radical shift in our culture’s worldview” on religion, said Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute, and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.

On Aug. 20, Shackelford and Perkins announced the release of the updated analysis, describing “more than 600 recent examples of religious hostility” in the U.S., most occurring in the last decade. Read more here

The full report on the rise of hostility toward religion in the USA can be found here.

My Heart Aches for America

America suffered another tragic shooting today.

The Reverend Billy Graham published a letter to America a few weeks ago that seems almost to speak of it when he says, “My heart aches for America.”  Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote:

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).

I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle. 

Just a few weeks ago in a prominent city in the South, Christian chaplains who serve the police department were ordered to no longer mention the Name of Jesus in prayer. It was reported that during a recent police-sponsored event, the only person allowed to pray was someone who addressed “the being in the room.” Similar scenarios are now commonplace in towns across America. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone—except God.

Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control. 

My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the lone world superpower—wealthy, unconcerned, and self-centered. When the Prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, people heard and repented.

I believe the same thing can happen once again, this time in our nation. 

I believe that Rev Graham is right. Revival can come to our nation. But we need to stop waiting for a politician or a preacher on a white horse to bring it. It’s up to us, Jesus’ followers, no matter who we are or where we live, to do our part in bringing the Kingdom. We know the antidote to evil. It isn’t something we can “give” to other people like a dose of medicine. We have to live it out in front of them so that they will “catch” it from us. 

We can do that by living our faith in the simple dailiness of our lives. We can do it by not cutting corners, not cheating, lying, stealing, hurting others. We can do it by keeping our promises, including the ones we made when we said “I do.” We can do it by being there with our children in the dailiness of their lives.

We can do it by holding our heads up and being proud, not of ourselves, but of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. No American Christian should ever stand idly by while Jesus is insulted and degraded in front of them. Unlike many of our brothers and sisters, we do not face death for standing up for Jesus. We may be ridiculed or lose a few of the people we pal around with, but we won’t be burned alive or beheaded. 

Don’t let anyone bully you into behaving as if you are ashamed of Jesus. Be civil. Be courteous. But also be resolute. Uncomfortable silence in the face of deliberate mockery of Our Lord is a form of assent. 

We bring the Kingdom to those around us when we live it. Make no mistake about it; courage attracts, faithfulness slowly changes mockery into respect, and love heals. We should live our lives in such a way that other people know without being told that Jesus Christ is our Lord. That is our calling. 

Prayers for the Family Research Council: My Comrades in the Culture Wars

I would guess that the person who showed up at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington DC today with Chick-Fil-A materials, ammo, a gun and what appear to be very bad intentions is a hate-filled nut.

Does that about cover it? I hope so. Because I am not going to waste one more virtual word on this person.

I will say that I am very grateful in an almost personal way to the security guard who stepped up and stopped what might very well have been yet another tragic shooting. Bless him. I pray for his full recovery and long happy life.

I have partnered with the Family Research Council on legislation in the past, and I hope to do so again. They are great people who have zero problems crossing the Democrat-Republican divide to help a pro-life Okie pass pro-life legislation. I’m not going to mention any of their names here because I don’t think it would be a kind thing to do under these circumstances.

Another thing I am not going to do is start pointing fingers at everybody from the President of the United States to the doorman at Fox News in an attempt to blame them for something they obviously did not do. These horrible acts of violence against innocent people are tragedies. They are not opportunities for political demagoguery.

My prayers go with my friends at the Family Research Council. I’ve been thinking about you all day. I know that you are going to have trouble sleeping tonight, and that you will re-live this like a tape going in front of your eyes for a while. Just talk it out with your friends, hug your loved ones and say your prayers. It gets better in time.

Also, hug that security guard for me, will you?

He saved your lives. He also saved me and the rest of the world from losing you.