Out of the mouths of babes

Screenshot 2018-02-21 17.02.19

Photo by Allison Tant Richard

Today I stood on the steps of Florida’s Old State Capitol with fellow clergy and watched thousands — most of them young — restore my faith in democracy.  It’s hard to express how moving it was to see such determined, articulate young people speak the truth to power with zeal, determination and courage.

The children from Majory Stoneman Douglas High School were not dupes of the left or actors flown in to impersonate real life youngsters.  They were the flesh-and-blood human beings whose friends were slaughtered and whose lives have been scarred forever by a troubled contemporary yielding a weapon meant for the battlefield.

I would not like to be the legislator who has to look those grieving young people in the eye and tell them that he or she does not support curtailing the availability and proliferation of all guns – especially those designed for military use.
I am beyond anger at lawmakers who say, “We don’t ban cars when someone uses a car to kill people; why should we ban guns?” That analogy is not only specious, it’s insulting to the memory of the 17 who died last week. There’s a difference between a machine meant for transportation and a machine built for slaughter. In fact, we do regulate cars. We regulate who can drive them and where, and how fast. We license drivers who have to pass a test. We insist on safety standards and even recall vehicles that don’t meet the standards

Not so with guns. Guns are for killing.

Nor am I persuaded that “mental health” is the prime issue. It is the height of hypocrisy that a legislature that refuses to expand health coverage to its low income citizens would suddenly call for more money for “mental health.” Clearly, the shooter at Parkland was deeply disturbed, and “the system” failed to give him the care he needed. But in fact, the incidence of mental illness is no higher for the United States than other rich industrialized nations, and people who are mentally ill are seldom violent toward others on a mass scale. Nikolas Cruz was an “outlier” among those suffering from mental illness. “Mental health” is not the primary issue.

The primary issue is the easy availability and proliferation of guns – especially hand guns and guns designed to fire many rounds rapidly.

Speaking of mental illness, it is beyond insane that a 18-year-old can walk into a store, fill out some papers, wait a few minutes, and walk out with an AR-15 rifle. In five of the six deadliest mass shootings of the past six years in the United States, the gunman had an AR- 15-style semiautomatic rifle. You have to be 21 to buy a handgun nationwide, but in many Florida counties you can buy an AR-15 at age 18 without a 3-day waiting period.

That’s my definition of madness.

The writers of the second amendment could not have dreamed that there would come a time in America when a person, barely an adult himself, could slaughter children with a weapon sanctioned by law. In their wildest nightmares, they could not have imagined that the “right to bear arms” would come to this.

But today I witnessed what I pray will be a tipping point in the struggle for common sense gun control.  These young people won’t give up, nor are they likely to excuse us adults who have failed so miserably to protect them.

Shame on us and Bravo to them.

” . . . and a little child shall lead them.”

About Brant Copeland

I was born in Brownsville, Texas, grew up in San Antonio and in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I'm the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, Florida.
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13 Responses to Out of the mouths of babes

  1. John Gladney says:

    Thank you Brant


  2. Oh, Brant! I am so, so proud of you for what you are saying and your support of these young people! I cannot imagine how many of these young people you know and worship with you! Thank you for being there, for standing with them and for writing this blog! You are definitely Dick and Betty’s son and learned compassion from them!

  3. David Custis says:

    Thanks Brant, Dave and Joan


  4. Rose Gladney says:

    Excellent, Brant. Thanks.

  5. ramblings says:

    Well said. As you know, Europeans find America’s love affair with guns incomprehensible. There is some deep social psychic trauma here. I have a couple of former students who are clear and thoughtful thinkers, but when it comes to defending gun ownership they suddenly become like high school debaters scoring points and ignoring inconsistencies.

  6. Larry Lacy says:

    Brant, excellent analysis and argument done with appropriate passion. Larry Lacy

  7. David says:

    We need our own advocacy group. A organization that quietly hires unemployed lawyers around the country to do pro bono civil litigation against any entity which can be linked to a gun used against a human. One could argue that laws protect manufacturers, gun shops, and individuals from such suits. Maybe, but even if you win a suit it is financially and psychologically stressful. Let’s make the business of selling guns financially untenable.

  8. Niall Martin says:

    Well argued.

  9. Ben Jacobson says:

    Thanks for representing me on the capitol steps. Had I been in town, I would have stood with you. Those young men and women represent the best in our nation, and they have made the A+ rating of the NRS a badge of dishonor. The midterm election is only nine months away. Scott cannot hide even when he ditches his red MAGA cap for a blue Navy hat. When I watched those students confront Rudio, I was as proud as if they were my own grandchildren. Our job is to support and protect them from all the social media trash. Ben

  10. Durl E Odom says:

    Brant, while I’ve always admired your views on LIFE, I now have a new admiration for you….keep up the good work.

  11. Anita Parish says:

    Brant, thank you for your post. I was there and agree with everything you said.

  12. Jan G. Rogers says:

    Well said, Pastor, but I would suggest other measures: A required waiver of HPPA confidentiality reference mental health to buy a fire arm, including gunshots and private sales, a tight control on ammunition requiring it be signed for, along with the components used to make it, obviously a waiting period and no exceptions. Legitimate sportsmen can live with this, it passes the Second Amendment argument and it deals with the fact that the country is gun-soaked.

    • Jan, what you propose makes perfect sense to me. Of course, in their utter intransigence, the NRA will oppose even these reasonable provisions.

      “Mental health” covers a multitude of pathologies. I question the mental health of those who are so paranoid that they think the tiniest restriction will send the nation down a slippery slope toward “European-style socialism.” Our children are paying in blood to enable that form of paranoia.

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