Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gun Violence as the 10 Plagues

I feel like the Vizzini character in the movie “The Princess Bride.” 

[Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up a steep cliff]
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Just over a year since the Sandy Hook Massacre where Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adult staff members, 70 laws have been passed to loosen gun restrictions.   Inconceivable.  As I write this a bill expanding how people can buy, carry, and use guns in Georgia is now waiting for the governor’s expected signature. It reduces licensing requirements and provides Georgians with a stronger “Stand Your Ground Defense.  This bill will allow people to carry loaded guns in more places than ever before, including bars.  Aren’t there enough fights in an overheated alcohol induced state already without guns being present? Inconceivable.  They may also be carried in unsecured areas of airports. Even toting a gun in secured areas will merely be a misdemeanor in Georgia as long as you did it by mistake. After all, who among us has not had the embarrassing experience of forgetting they were carrying their Glock semiautomatic through airport security? (From the New York Times editorials of March 25 and 26, 2014)

The Republicans wanted to include allowing guns on college campuses and in Houses of Worship.  Inconceivable!  Thank God, at least these measures failed.  I am gratified to learn that the lawmakers continued the ban in government buildings with security checkpoints, like the Capital where they work.  Of course guns are welcomed in any unsecured government building.  Inconceivable.

Now President Obama’s nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, to become the next Surgeon General is getting fierce push back from the NRA and their paid-off friends in Congress, because he tweeted: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue. #debatehealth” Even some Democrats who are up for re-election this year are feeling the heat from the NRA and are leaning to veto this excellently qualified doctor from Harvard to the post of Surgeon General.  Gun violence is a health care issue here in America.  The number of people murdered and seriously injured due to guns violence has only increased each and every year now. I guess job security is more important that doing what is right.  Inconceivable.

Maybe the word doesn’t mean what I think it does.

On Passover we remove a drop of wine each time we recite one of the 10 plagues. We diminish our cup of joy because our redemption came on the back of other people’s suffering.  The Egyptians had to bear each and every one of those plagues.  I have written a new set of 10 plagues based upon the scourge of gun violence in our midst. Perhaps we should further diminish our cup of joy this year as we recite these new 10 plagues with our prayer that the inconceivable laws to reduce gun violence become conceivable.

Gun violence’s 10 Plagues
1.      In most states, a person can buy and own a gun without knowing how to use it and there are no requirements that gun owners are trained in the safe operation of guns.

2.  More than 50% of guns acquired at crime scenes come from only 1% of gun dealers.  The ATF knows who the rogue dealers are, but present law blocks the agency from publicizing their activities or putting them out of business.

3.   Some gun owners have turned their guns into idols for they
a.      Nurture deep emotional attachments to instruments that are made to kill.
b.      Grow threaten and angry when gun values are questioned and refuse honest dialogue about the place of guns in society.
c.       Support no preventive measures to stop gun violence, only punishment.
d.      Show little or no grief for society’s gun victims.
e.      Vigorous oppose any law to restrict sales to the most dangerous members of society.
f.        Claim an absolute, unrestricted, unregulated constitutional right to use their guns against our government if they consider it tyrannical.
g.      Claim the blessing of a loving God on weapons that kill.
h.      Believe the solution to gun violence is to have more guns.

4.       We cultivate a language of a gun culture when we use such common phrases as
a.      Big shot
b.      Hot shot
c.       My aim was off
d.      The smoking gun
e.      Trigger happy
f.        Stick to your guns
g.      Go off half –cocked
h.      Shoot from the hip
i.        He is a straight shooter
j.        Take a shot in the dark
k.       I’ll be a son of a gun especially when my father is a pistol
l.        Gun shy
m.    Shot down
n.      You call the shots
o.      Don’t shoot the messenger.
p.      How many more expressions can you think of?

5. The soaring medical cost caring for the victims of  gun violence
a.      A report, “Gun Violence Among School-Age Youth in Chicago” calculated the annual cost of gun violence at $2.5 billion, or $2,500 per Chicago household 
b.      This is just for Chicago.  Dare we do the math for the entire country?

6.  Guns manufacturers are advertising women and children “friendly” fire arms.
a.      Most women that purchase handguns do so to make themselves safer, but do they have that effect? The Violence Policy Center took a look at the 2011 homicide data and found that the opposite was true. Not only does having a gun in the home greatly increase a woman’s risk of intimate partner homicide, it provides no protection against homicide. Children are not only at risk to die a gun death themselves, they are also at high risk to losing their mother to a gun

7.  Too many loopholes allowing people to get around background checks like at gun shows.
a.      The Brady Bill, which went into effect in 1994, instituted federal background checks on firearm purchases to prevent prohibited people from owning guns. Mayors Against Illegal Guns studied the efficacy of these background checks in preventing violent crimes, and their results were astounding. 16 states and the District of Columbia also require background checks on private sales, and those states are consistently safer. The data shows that background checks do work.

8. Congress has failed to ban semi-automatic assault weapons and limit the number of rounds in a magazine.
a.      There have been nearly 2 mass shootings a month during the last four years, 93 total. Mayors Against Illegal Guns used FBI data to survey every incident where at least 4 people were murdered with a gun. They noted that use of assault weapons and/or high capacity magazines resulted in 151% more people shot and 63% more people killed. No more than 15% of mass shootings took place in “gun – free zones”. Learn the truth about mass shootings, and what can prevent the next one.

9.  Stand your Ground laws
a.    The killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis brought national attention to the prevalent “shoot first” laws. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence studied the impact of these laws and found that they increase, not decrease, violence. They also learned that “shoot first” laws combined with lax concealed carry laws combine to create a license to kill.

 10.  Over 32,000 American’s are killed by guns every year.
a.      This is an epidemic. In 2010 15,576 children and teens were injured or killed by guns. More children and teens are losing their lives to guns now than they are to cancer. Our national gun violence problem has become such an epidemic that pediatricians now see guns “as much of a threat as bacteria and viruses.”

All facts for the plagues of gun violence come from either America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose by James E. Altwood or Moms Demand Action at