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Years ago I remember folks debating whether John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism disqualified him to be president. After all, the argument went, if he is a good man, then he must take his religion seriously and defer to the dictates of the Pope on policy issues. Did we really want to surender control of the country to il Papa?
We all know how that came out and the revisited arguments seem quaint. Today, however, we have another “Pope” who demands the allegiance of politicians. And to man, most Republicans and, sadly, some Democrats offer it up unthinkingly. I’m speaking of Mr. Wayne LaPierre, President of the NRA.
Even GOP politicians I suspect know better tread softly around the gun lobby, whose main representative Mr. LaPierre is. Take, for instance, Senator Roy Blunt. In the aftermath of Newtown Blunt was quick to genuflect in the direction of the NRA. His response to the tragedy? Shift the conversation to the issue of mental illness, a variation on the time-honored NRA refrain of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Easy, of course, to overlook the fact that guns make it soooooo much easier for people to kill other people.
A week or so after the tragedy and just after Mr. LaPierre’s formal statement on the Newtown shootings, an hilarious recitation of the full range of time-honored NRA crap, the true believers began to crawl out from under the rocks where they had been hiding, waiting for the righteous dudgeon aroused by the shooting of little children to abate. Their remedy for gun violence? Counter bad people with guns with good people with guns.
But who are the good people? Missouri legislators think they know. They quickly announced their intention to introduce legislation that would arm teachers. At about the same time a somewhat disturbing story hit the news. Remember the Vermont teacher who turned in his bushmaster semiautomatic rifle and requested a mental health evaluation? But according to one lawmaker, Republican Rep. Stanley Cox, of Sedalia, people “might think twice about attacking schools if they knew that teachers or administrators could be carrying guns.” That’ll be a real deterrent to a suicide minded shooter for sure, not to mention fantasy-addled schizophrenics. It’s hard to see the upside of turning our schools into the wild West.
A recent guest commentary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch attempted to justify the American “gun culture” by claiming that it had been intended by the founding fathers to insure that citizens would always have the option of revolution against oppressive government. Put aside the fact that folks who manage to get a right to armed revolution (a right to treason?) out of the second amendment’s mention of a well-regulated militia might be the victims of their own overactive imagination (and, what, out of idle curiosity, do they make of the words “well-regulated”). It’s enough to just think for a minute abut those types on the fringe right who are convinced that the Affordable Health Care Act is the last word in oppressive dictatorship, designed to institute death panels and take their Medicare away. Do we want these ignorant and volatile individuals armed with military weapons and hot to march on Washington?
One of the halllmarks of a civilized nation is the ability of citizens to leave their homes without fear of random violence – and without arming themselves to fend off, for instance, angry old men who think that “stand your ground” legislation means you can shoot teenagers who play their music too loud. We are not a vigilante nation, but a nation of laws. We depend on laws and equip police and other agencies to enforce them so that we can enjoy a peaceful life. If this system fails to meet our needs, we examine our laws, our policing and our courts and make reforms as necessary. Second amendment rights are not exempt from those laws and appropriate regulation, nor should they be. All of which means that it would be a shame if the quasi-religious allegiance that the GOP and some weak-spined Democratic politicians offer to the money-bags of the gun lobby allows our country to become an anything goes, every man for himself, gun-toting hell-hole.