Faith-based gun control advocates on the Senate's failure to act

April 19, 2013

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. Bryan Miller of Heeding God's Call called it "an unimpressive horse-traded bill" that would have expanded background checks but also "would have likely given the gun industry new markets and the pro-gun community new privileges."

J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness, agreed. In a statement released yesterday, he said that "the Manchin-Toomey amendment [to expand background checks]...fails to go far enough toward achieving legislation that will effectively reduce gun violence."

"There comes a time," Nelson's statement continues,

When we have to decide about compromise – is this the best we can do and should we accept it? Well, this may be the best that Congress thinks it can do, but it is not. Barring major and unexpected amendment votes, this bill will not be the bill we need. It is not adequate nor is it justice.

And as often happens after a legislative defeat, advocates are taking stock of strategy and tactics. "I believe it was a major mistake for portions of the faith community to have vigorously supported the Manchin-Toomey [amendment],” Miller argues—because it “included nothing to address the public's wish, and the simple need, for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines.”

Some players seem inclined to take an imperfect bill over none at all. "The compromise is far from perfect,” says Vincent DeMarco of Faiths United to End Gun Violence, “but it will save many lives by expanding background checks far beyond where they are now required." DeMarco remains hopeful that Manchin-Toomey can still be passed at some point. His plan is to "then build on that to enact something like what Maryland just enacted, which New Jersey has had since 1966: fingerprint licensing of handgun purchasers."

Wednesday’s loss may actually have had the paradoxical effect of radicalizing gun-control supporters. President Obama himself sent a clear message that votes against gun legislation would be politically costly, urging voters "to let your representatives in Congress know that you are disappointed, and that if they don’t act this time, you will remember come election time." J. Herbert Nelson had a similar message:

We need common sense gun laws in this nation! We need courageous political leaders! It is time that we begin to hold these elected officials accountable for the promises they make to serve the best interest of the country.

Bryan Miller was more philosophical, but no less determined:

If there was a “good” about yesterday's mess, and I hope there was, it was that it showed people of faith and others that evil clearly abounds in the debate about guns and the violence they produce. That evil is in the sales and profits of the gun industry and its promoters and protectors, who value the income gun sales create, the seeming power that a gun in the hand provides and the petty fear that drives a small, but loud, portion of the American electorate to demand that our political leaders pay them fealty while ignoring the death and destruction that happens periodically in mass shootings and daily in communities of color.

There's no telling when—or if—gun control legislation will make it through Congress. But it doesn't look like the activists are going anywhere. "I've been waiting for 25 years for this to happen," DeMarco told a columnist about his success in Maryland.

Nobody considers yesterday's defeat to be the end of the story. "It was a setback, but I think we will prevail," DeMarco told me. "The president and majority leader are not giving up, and neither are we!" Katherine Willis Pershey echoed the sentiment:

Attending several rallies and vigils this year, including Crosswalk, I've heard many family members who have lost loved ones speak. I am humbled by their grief and commitment. I am particularly thinking of the man whose son was shot and killed in 1997, and has stood up at countless events, year after year, to beg for common sense reforms. Year after year after year.


Hi,Luke 22:35-38 (NIV)35 Then


Luke 22:35-38 (NIV)

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[a]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

Thus, Scriptures tell us we can defend ourselves. Then, we need to determine what is the most effective means for self defense.

Boston Marathon Bombers had no gun licenses but obtained guns.

In Watertown, MA the police told citizens to stay in their homes and lock their doors before they captured the second bomber. Translation: The police said to the citizens this is a YOYO moment, i.e. You're On Your Own. What would the Watertown, MA citizens have wished to defend themselves a pistol with a seven round magazine against people armed with assault rifles that fired over 80 rounds at police or an assalut rifle themselves?

I find it troubling that The Christian Century has articles but fails to cite the Scriptures. Do you believe in Christ?

Screaming Eagles

Want Scripture?

  "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 

Luk 6:27-37

  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mat 5:39-48
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:1-2, 17-21
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.Jas 3:17-18
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. James 4:1-4
  Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation--if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. 
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 1Pe 2:1-3,12-17, 17-21
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Perhaps your interpretation of Luke 22:35-38 (NIV) is a little faulty considering that it doesn't accord with the bulk of Christian Scripture. You also left out the part where Jesus puts a stop to the use of the sword after a servant gets his ear cut off, and Jesus heals him.

The scripture also condemns lying-in-wait for unsuspecting people. Though an intruder may not  fall into that category, if one has only a gun to wait for an intruder, rather than getting a secured system that will deter someone from unauthorized entry, isn't that lying-in-wait when less violent means of protection are available?