After the Senate refused to take up several gun-control proposals Wednesday, I checked in with faith-based activists on the legislative process. (See my earlier Century article.) Many expressed frustration but also tentative hope for future prospects. "I'm deeply disappointed and very angry at the vise grip the NRA has on this issue," says Katherine Willis Pershey of the #ItIsEnough campaign.
Many activists weren't thrilled with the legislation to begin with.
At a conference on theology and politics at Wheaton College earlier this month, a speaker described a world run by economic elites who pursue their own interests. These elites dominate both political parties in the United States, he noted.
In the question-and-answer period, a student at the evangelical college asked what then should be done, given such an oppressive system. The speaker advised the student not to put much hope in electoral politics.
On July 11, 1804, in Weehawken, New Jersey—just across the Hudson River from Manhattan—two longtime political adversaries faced off in a duel. The result: Vice President Aaron Burr shot and mortally wounded the former secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton. (No, Dick Cheney was not the first vice president to shoot someone!)
Dueling, which Benjamin Franklin characterized as a “murderous practice,” was technically illegal in most states.
The growth in the number of civilians owning military-style guns can be traced back to a deal made in the mid-1980s between Rene Carlos Vos, a gun dealer, and Wayne LaPierre, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. They formed a company called Blue Sky to import from South Korea M-1 rifles that had been used in the Korean War. The legislation that made the project possible was an amendment to a Senate bill offered by Bob Dole, Republican senator from Kansas, which for the first time allowed the importation of U.S. military weapons as long as they were “curios and relics.” LaPierre soon pulled out of Blue Sky when it faced criminal charges, and Vos was killed in a plane crash in 1987, but the company opened a floodgate of guns. By 2012, one million of what gun advocates call “modern sporting rifles” were flooding the U.S. market each year, from both foreign and domestic sources (Washington Post, May 3).