Prevarication Legislation for Gun Safety
Magicians have learned how to fool us. They distract our attention at the very moment they trick us. The United State Congress has learned this magic trick. We see the magic of distraction at work in prevarication legislation for gun safety.
By a vote of 234 to 193, on Friday, June 24, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill previously passed 65 to 33 by the Senate on gun safety. The measure includes $750 million dollars for mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to CNN. It also makes significant changes to the process when someone ages 18 to 21 goes to buy a firearm and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole.
I am not jumping for joy. Why? Because, I fear that this is prevarication legislation, designed to divert our attention away from the real threat before us. “Gun safety” does not mean what we think it should mean.
The successful prevarication is measured by this bill’s substitution of the background-check-debate for the real issue. What’s the real issue? The real issue is that American citizens armed with military assault rifles march into schools, churches, and synagogues and turn our precious children into bloody heaps of unrecognizable arms, legs, and torsos.
The real issue is that, like the Mississippi River overflowing its banks in the spring and flooding the Midwest, the torrent of new and more exciting weapons miraculously inundates civilian life with ever increasing bloodshed. What Washington refuses to do is build a dam. By diverting our vision to background checks, the weapons deluge continues unabated.
So, why would congressional magicians want to keep this real issue regarding gun safety invisible? Because of the profits made from buying and selling the eleven million assault rifles now in non-military hands in this country. Any prevarication legislation must allow for the profits from assault weapon sales to continue to roll in.
The Leading Prevarication: Only Criminals Kill
Gun profiteers divert our vision by repeating a lie decade after decade: only criminals kill people with guns. Why is this a lie? Or, more accurately, a prevarication? Because the purchaser of the AR-15 is not a criminal at the time of purchase. He–mass murderers are almost always male–becomes a criminal only after unloading two magazines of bullets into children in a classroom or worshippers at prayer. Background checks to filter our felons will not protect us from first time murderers. So, with prevarication legislation in hand, the profiteers can still buy and sell their guns.
“Guns don’t kill. People do.” If when I pull the trigger of a hand gun I kill my neighbor next door, that’s one thing. If, alternatively, I spray a school or a night club or a synagogue with a semi-automatic assault rifle, I could not count the bodies. So, does this help us to grasp the gravity our situation regarding gun safety?
The Secondary Prevarication: The Second Amendment is at Stake
The secondary prevarication is this: denying civilians the opportunity to sell and buy military weapons violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As I said in my previous post, “Gun Deaths in Ukraine and the U.S.,” let’s remind ourselves of just what the 2nd Amendment actually says? Here it is.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
One can easily reconstruct the 18th century context. Americans needed a “well regulated militia” with single-shot muskets to shoot at King George of England or any of his red-coated soldiers who would invade American sovereign territory. What a good idea!
It’s also the case that Pennsylvanians were afraid that New Yorkers might invade them and that the federal government might not have the military muscle to defend Pennsylvania. So, a militia on standby offered a sense of security. As it turns out, such militias have not been called upon for this purpose. Even so, it might’ve been a good idea two and a half centuries ago.
Today’s gun possession supporters defend something quite different. Instead of single shot muskets, today NRA supporters defend semi-automatic multi-shot military assault rifles. None of these weapons has been used to shoot the king of England or a red-coat for centuries. Instead, these weapons are used daily to murder children in schools, African Americans in churches, and Jews in synagogues. Is this what the 2nd Amendment protects?
And, of course, one might ask about that so-called “well regulated militia.” Note the slight of hand when you read the NRA interpretation of the 2nd Ammendment.
“In short, the Second Amendment states that as an American citizen, you have the individual right to arm yourself. The amendment also firmly establishes that the government cannot infringe on that right.”
Here is the prevarication: the militia is deleted and the individual is substituted. Individuals make a much bigger market for gun sales than non-existent militias.
Comparing Ukraine at War with U.S. at Peace
What prevarication legislation hides is just how serious the matter of gun violence in America really is. In my previous post, I showed that America in peacetime kills more citizens by a factor of four than Ukraine in wartime. Russian soldiers are less deadly than American gun owners.
|Number of civilian deaths||War in Ukraine||Gun Violence
|Jan – May 2022||4031||17,300|
What’s wrong with a semi-automatic military assault weapon?
The Gifford Law Center explains why military assault weapons in civilian life threaten gun safety.
“Assault weapons are a class of semi-automatic firearm specifically designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently. They are a relatively new class of weapon—during the 1980s, the gun industry sought to reverse a decline in consumer demand for guns by developing and marketing new types of weapons based on high-powered military designs….Wounds caused by assault weapons are more severe and lethal than wounds caused by other firearms, and, particularly when paired with large capacity magazines, assault weapons can injure more people more quickly. Because of this lethality, assault weapons are frequently the guns of choice for individuals who carry out horrific public attacks.
- Assault weapons have been used in the seven deadliest mass shootings in the last decade.
- An analysis of public mass shootings resulting in four or more deaths found that more than 85% of such fatalities were caused by assault rifles.2
- An assailant with an assault rifle is able to hurt and kill twice the number of people compared to an assailant with a non-assault rifle or handgun.3
- A growing body of research demonstrates that banning assault weapons can help to prevent gun violence.
My Proposal: Immediately Prohibit Selling and Buying
My home state is California. Here there has been an attempt to prohibit civilian possession of assault weapons, just as there has been in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia. Minnesota and Virginia regulate such guns, even though they do not ban them.
It is my view that states and even Uncle Sam should prohibit all transfer of existing semi-automatic assault weapons through selling or buying, as well as prohibit the manufacture and sale of any new ones. The same with ammunition. Effective immediately.
Parsing Gun Deaths in the U.S.
This is my gun safety proposal even though I expect a counter-argument, namely, hand guns are statistically more responsible for American deaths. The facts suggest more Americans are murdered by hand guns than by military assault weapons.
How should we interpret gun violence in light of these facts? In addition to the statistics, we note also that semi-automatic rifles have been used with devastating efficacy in the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, where 58 people were killed; the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016, where 49 people were killed; the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, in which 27 people were killed; the 2017 Sutherland Springs shooting in Texas, where 26 people were killed; and the 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting with an AR-15 style rifle in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and 2 teachers lost their lives.
There is something obscene about wannabe soldiers getting a kick out of slaughtering innocent people in America, especially with fellow Americans looking on and celebrating the protection of 2nd Amendment rights. This is an insult to human dignity. It is also an insult to God when we sing, that “God hath shed his grace on thee.”
For a thoughtful analysis of the gun flood by a progressive Christian, look through the grace-colored glasses of Kathryn Shihadah. Jason Mankey reflects further on the obscenity of America as the new “Killing Fields.”
“In America, there is a new Killing Fields. These fields are increasingly soaked with the blood of innocents: women, children, soldiers. The soil that receives the blood is fertilized with hatred, mental illness and fanaticism. The bitter fruit that grows from this soil is division, prejudice, twisted lives and ruined possibilities. To grow such fruit, we must plow under our dreams, our freedoms… and our hopes for a better future.”
Oh, yes, the matter of hand guns needs addressing. Yet, the hand gun concern should not become another magician’s diversion. Assault weapons first. Then, we’ll turn to hand guns. Both while protecting hunters, target shooters, home protectors, and the 2nd Amendment.
Gun Safety Conclusion
Prevarication legislation is to be expected, I guess. Washington D.C. is awash in lies, counter-lies, and the purchase of influence. Yet, watching the dismembered bodies of our children pile up like discarded rubble should so assail our American conscience that we would panic until this obscenity is cleared. Yet, due either to stupidity or callousness, the American audience applauds while the Washington magicians dazzle us with prevarication legislation.
This is my attempt at public theology, and offering a proposal on behalf of the common good. My wisdom is no better than that of the next person, but I feel the need to point out the obvious. In this case, damming the flow of bloodshed seems like such an overwhelming imperative. Yet, Washington is not motivated to build a dam when the flow is so lucrative. So, what we get is a world of pretend through prevarication legislation.
To repeat: it is my view that states and even Uncle Sam should prohibit all transfer of existing semi-automatic assault weapons through selling or buying, as well as prohibit the manufacture and sale of any new ones. The same with ammunition. Effective immediately.
Ted Peters is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus seminary professor. He is author of Short Prayers and The Cosmic Self. His one volume systematic theology is now in its 3rd edition, God—The World’s Future (Fortress 2015). His book, God in Cosmic History, traces the rise of the Axial religions 2500 years ago. He has undertaken a thorough examination of the sin-and-grace dialectic in two works, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society (Eerdmans 1994) and Sin Boldly! (Fortress 2015). Watch for his forthcoming, The Voice of Christian Public Theology (ATF 2022). See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com.
Ted Peters’ fictional series of espionage thrillers features Leona Foxx, a hybrid woman who is both a spy and a parish pastor.