Next week the Tallahassee Democrat and the Village Square will host a discussion on school safety and gun control. I have been asked to be on the panel. Why, I am not sure. It’s certainly not because I am a neutral party. Most of my adult life I have been in favor of gun control. As a Christian I regard the proliferation of guns in our culture a moral evil. As a citizen I resent the bullying and fear tactics employed by the gun lobby.
It’s a truism that “God, Guns, and Country” are closely associated with a certain strain of Christianity. While I respect Christian brothers and sisters who disagree, I find it very hard to conceive of Jesus endorsing the NRA’s position. The song “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” was a hit back in 1942 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but these days that sentiment makes me cringe. “WWJP” (What Would Jesus Pack)? The answer is not found in the text of the Second Amendment.
Even though I have strong convictions about this issue, I hope that the discussion does not end up generating more heat than light. One of the goals of the Village Square is to provide a model of thoughtful, reasonable discussion of controversial matters. I’m open to perspectives different from mine and am willing to be persuaded. I don’t want the discussion to disintegrate into ad hominem attacks and slogan slinging.
Maybe the planners thought a guy wearing a clerical collar would be a calming influence. If so, they obviously don’t know me well. Nevertheless, I will strive to treat my interlocutors as I would like to be treated. I’m sure Jesus would approve of that.
I received an e-mail from a grandmother in Pensacola who is passionate about this issue. She wants elected officials to:
1) ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds,
2) require background checks for all gun purchasers,
3) report the sale of large quantities of ammunition to the ATF,
4) limit the scope of concealed weapons laws at the state level.
I don’t see anything on that agenda about banning all guns. I do see what look to me like common sense approaches to a serious problem. Actions like this will not eliminate the gunlust that plagues our culture, but they might be steps in the right direction.
At any rate, the discussion on February 28 at 6:00 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church ought to be interesting. I just hope all the salvos will be rhetorical.