Fighting Gun Violence: A Top Priority

by Jim Atwood

PPF works in two spheres to fight gun violence.

The first is education. As is true in the perpetuation of so many of our national calamities, Americans are prone to believe the rhetoric of those who holler the loudest, and intentionally misuse and exploit the concepts and language of "freedom." Nowhere is this phenomenon more at play than in the gun lobby's proclamation that all Americans in all places and at all times have "the right to keep and bear arms." Most Americans regret the fact that there are so many guns in our country, but believe there is nothing we can do about them, because of the Second Amendment. Against all common sense, we have listened to the Constitution as interpreted by those who have never seen a gun they didn't like. In this sphere the old flint lock rifle of the Minutemen and the semi automatic AK-47 are treated the same.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, supporting the policy of our denomination, The Presbyterian Church, USA, understands our first priority to work to educate the American people that the Second Amendment is a collective state's right, similar to that of a National Guard, and not an individual's right. The Supreme Court has never ruled otherwise. The second amendment states: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

We must be aware that both the Congress and the American people are the victims of an intentional, sinister effort by the U.S. gun lobby to have "a totally unregulated militia" (however militia may be defined.) If an unregulated militia cannot be achieved, the lobby works with legislators to have a "poorly regulated militia." e.g. Congress has often voted to cut funding for the National Center for Health Statistics, which is charged with keeping records of gun deaths and injuries. They have stripped bare the funding and personnel of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The BATF is given the task of enforcing nationwide what meager laws we have with less than 2,000 people. Congress has specified that the BATF can make only one visit a year to any Gun Store to check for illicit sales.

Today, in spite of the lessons of Columbine and dozens of shootings in other schools, government and law offices, churches, courtrooms, and the reports of shootings detailed in your morning paper, Congress lacks the courage to stand up to a constituency which wants even more handguns and assault weapons available on main street USA, and total immunity from any lawsuits, even when irresponsibility and illegal activity can be demonstrated.

The second responsibility of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is not only to educate the American people of the extent of our gun problem, but, to serve as advocates for common sense laws which will prevent death and injury from guns.

We seek to rally the 70%+ of the vast majority of our citizens, to find their voices and come together in support of gun law reform, which would take away no one's right to hunt, or even have a gun.

Such measures may include licensing and registration of all firearms, the inauguration of "ballistic fingerprinting", keeping gun sale records to trace criminals and terrorists, a reinstitution of a ban on all assault weapons (Military issue guns), etc., universal background checks on all sales.

Other nations employ such strategies to prevent gun deaths and injuries. Their statistics, only a fraction of ours, reveal that they work. The cost of such measures would also be a fraction of what we are now paying, because we have let America become a shooting gallery.

In the 60's, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fighting our nation's scourge of racism, wrote from a Birmingham Jail, "More than I fear the police dogs and the fire hoses of Bull Connor (The Police Chief of Birmingham Alabama) I fear the silence of the churches."

We too fear the silence of the churches today whenever justice is lacking. We contend that justice is surely lacking when 10 of our children die every day from guns. We fear the silence from pulpits. We fear silence in church school classes. We fear silence in our communities. The silence means that the silent majority will permit the deaths and injuries to continue. Our opponents will call that "the basis of our freedom".

The Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship encourage you to become an advocate and join us in working for the blessed community which Jesus would have us build wherein people do not hurt or destroy one another. Join us as we acknowledge before the whole nation, and speak the truth to power that "handguns and assault rifles serve no socially redeemable purpose". Join us as we demand that all of our leaders give us the laws which will help build a more just and peaceable society.