Tag Archives: assault weapons

Thoughts and Prayers but No Action…

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am at loss for words when I hear members of Congress, the media, and others react to yet another massacre by men using military grade killing machines with the words “praying for the victims” or expressing their thoughts and sympathy for them while refusing to take any action I grow weary. Mind you, I do pray but I am reminded of how many times that the prophets of the Old Testament condemned people who prayed but did nothing about injustice, or the injustices that they themselves condoned, abetted, and took part in. Likewise, I am reminded of the words of James in his epistle that “faith without works is dead.”

Speaking of dead there are another seventeen people, including 14 children dead in Parkland, Florida, just the latest casualties in a speaking epidemic of gun violence where the perpetrators used various models of the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, including weapons modified to fire on full automatic, and the vast majority of these crimes have been committed by Americans with no connection to Muslim terrorists. Targets have included schools, churches and other places of worship, movie theaters, concert venues, and businesses.

The number of attacks, their frequency, and their deadliness are all increasing, and all that happens in response from the politicians whose pockets are lined by the National Rifle Association, is to offer thoughts and prayers while loosening existing restrictions on gun ownership and weapon types, ammunition, and magazines. Likewise, the same politicians who turn the issue from guns to the mental health of the shooters are the same men and women who seek to reduce access to mental health care. The same politicians, pundits, and preachers that blame the crisis on the breakdown of American families are the ones who support economic policies that force both parents to have to work. The ones who,lay the blame on the educational system are those that reduce funding and eliminate the programs like music, art, literature, as well as vocational classes, and after school programs that broadened the minds and hopes of students.

All we get is thoughts and prayers coupled with an idolatrous worship of the Second Amendment which has been so twisted by its current supporters in ways that the men who wrote it would be appalled. Conservative columnist Brett Stephens recommended repealing the Second Amendment because of how the advances in weapons, and the difference between the situation of our country in 1787 versus today make it obsolete in its current form and interpretation.

Now I am not against guns nor gun ownership. I actually plan on getting my wife and I bolt-action carbines at some point for target shooting. That being said having served in the military for over 36 years and have qualified or familiarized on almost all of the personal or crew served weapons up to the .50 caliber machine gun the LAW, or Light Anti-Tank Weapon; of course that includes the M-16 and M-4 variants of the AR-15. I’m actually pretty good with them. Likewise, as a trauma department chaplain in two U.S. trauma centers, including Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, and having seen the wounded in Iraq, I know the killing power of these weapons; I have seen the dead and mutilated bodies of adults and children. These weapons turn bones into dust and internal organs into jelly. The wounds created by the .223 caliber bullets of the AR 15 and its clones are ghastly. I have seen them up close and personal.

I fully agree with novelist Stephen King who remarked:

“Semi-automatics have only two purposes. One is so owners can take them to the shooting range once in awhile, yell yeehaw, and get all horny at the rapid fire and the burning vapor spurting from the end of the barrel. Their other use – their only other use – is to kill people”

I fully agree, I love shooting them on a rifle range and I love the smell of freshly expended 5.57 or .223 rounds. I like disassembling them, cleaning out the carbon, and putting them back together. When I was going through pre-deployment training on the way to Iraq I had no weapon because I was a chaplain, but I spent my time teaching other Navy and Air Force officers how to use and maintain their weapons. My assistant, who was dual armed on my suggestion with a pistol and an M-16 and I had an agreement when we were in country: if we got into a close combat situation he would pass me the pistol and get credit for anything I hit. Thankfully it never came to that but there were a number of situations in country where we both thought it might happen. Admittedly in our situation it would have been in self-defense but I don’t know if I could live with killing another human being, and yes we were shot at from a distance, on the ground and in the air, and when I was a teenager I was held up at gunpoint.

A lot of people are focusing on the AR-15 or the Russian AK47 or AK-74 assault rifles, but there are a lot of other weapons with similar capabilities that don’t look nearly as threatening which should be banned from civilian use or restricted to 5-10 round magazines rather than the 30-50 round magazines that are frequently used in mass killings, after all anyone using such weapons for anything than killing mass numbers of people shouldn’t need a bigger magazine. That includes personal defense, hunting, and target shooting.

Please do not forget that President Ronald Reagan supported the ban on assault weapons in 1992, after which the NRA led a decade long campaign against the “Jack booted government thugs who were coming to get our weapons.” That campaign succeeded in making sure that Congress decided to not renew the ban. Since then the NRA has done whatever it could to oppose or repeal common sense gun laws that would make it harder to own a weapon; make them less capable of mass killing by restricting magazine sizes and outlawing “bump stocks”; or keeping convicted criminals, the mentally ill, and even people linked to terrorist groups from acquiring such weapons.

Since 2016 such weapons have killed 169 people and wounded more than 500 others in mass shootings alone. That does not count the many times they are used in individual killings or ambushes targeting police officers.

The problem is not just the number of rounds that can be fired quickly from such weapons but the intended effects of their ammunition on human beings. This type of weapon was designed as a military weapon intended to inflict massive damage on enemy soldiers. People armed with them outgun the average patrol officer in any given situation making them perfect weapons for cop killers.

But even so despite the carnage, despite everything, the NRA, gun advocates, gun manufacturers, their lobbyists, and their bought and paid for political representatives fight any strengthening of gun laws.

For me this is a pro-life issue mostly driven by my faith and the practical experience of seeing exactly what happens to people when shot with this type of weapon. I saw an article today posted by a friend on Facebook about a Sheriff in Washington State who claimed that guns haven’t changed but society has in its glorification of violence. In a way he is correct, society has glorified violence, and that includes people who are vicariously living their lives as military heroes in very violent video games. But the fact is that the guns available to civilians have changed, they are far more lethal and available than they were in the overly mythologized days of the 1950s. When the AR-15 became available to civilians in the 1960s it was a game changer, it’s a inexpensive, lightweight, killing machine which enterprising individuals can convert to a fully automatic weapon using commercially available off the shelf kits.

In my opinion prayers are fine, provided that those who pray are willing to do the hard things required to stop the killing; and the first of those is either outlawing or severely restricting the ownership of weapons that have such capabilities.

Honestly I really don’t think that things will change until people of my generation and older who are the most ardent supporters of the NRA are gone from the scene and the young people who have been so often victimized by these weapons attain significant political power and put a stop the bullshit.

I know that I have friends and other readers that will disagree with me, but I can find no place in civilian society for these weapons other than on a shooting range.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crime, faith, laws and legislation, News and current events, Political Commentary

God and Gun Violence: Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer Mock the Gospel in Comments about the Newtown Massacre

newtown-town

I am still trying to comprehend the massacre in Newtown Connecticut. It seems to be an evil committed by a young man who was quite possibly mentally ill. He used an arsenal of weapons kept by his mother, a woman who ensured that he was able to handle weapons, and who he killed before he went on his rampage. He may have been evil. He may have been mentally ill. He may very well have been both, but more importantly he was well trained in the use of firearms and very well armed.

This is not an article about gun control. However after seeing the effects of these types of weapons on civilians in this country and US military personnel and Iraqi civilians in Iraq I wonder about the wisdom of allowing just anyone to own a military grade assault weapon and enough ammunition to lay waste to a town. No, this is my criticism of fellow “Christian” ministers that attempt to reduce all the ills of our society and crimes of individuals to the lack of government enforcement of their religious views in public schools.

In the wake of the massacre certain religious-political leaders on the political right. Former Arkansas Governor and current Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee, who dropped out of the seminary that I graduated made this comment:

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools…Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

Not to be outdone failed former pastor Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said on his radio program:

“The question is going to come up, where was God? I though God cared about the little children. God protects the little children. Where was God when all this went down. Here’s the bottom line, God is not going to go where he is not wanted….God would say to us, ‘Hey, I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve got to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentlemen.”

Personally I think that the comments by both men do a grave disservice to God and God’s people. Men like these and their political hack allies use such language to attempt to blame everyone but the culture of death that their worldview helps promote. A culture that makes it easier and cheaper to obtain a military grade assault weapon than health care, that glorifies a perplexing blend of vigilantism and militarism mixed with apocalyptic religious views is not healthy. It is not Christian. It is not Pro-life. Of course the people of Newtown will also have to deal with the cultists of radical hate, Westboro Baptist Church as those professional religious hate spewers attempt to protest the funerals of the victims.

The fact is that there is little linkage to what these men preach and the facts. If there was such a direct correlation one would think that the liberal-secular humanist countries of Western Europe would have astronomically high rates of gun violence. You would think that the same would be true of other countries as well. But the fact is that the United States has one of the highest gun violence and deaths per 100,000 of any country in the world. In fact our rates of death by guns dwarf those of any Western European countries, most Asian countries and are only exceeded by countries of Central America that are wracked by drug violence, much of which is enabled by the consumption of drugs by Americans, or countries wracked by full scale civil war. The fact is that in most instances you seldom see school shoots and mass murder on a scale seen in this country in Western Europe, most of Eastern Europe, Japan, Korea or other industrialized societies, most of which are far more secular than the United States.

If we want to look at history we can find that in almost any era, even in the days where American Christians dominated the political and moral landscape of the country that we were a country in love with guns and enamored with gun violence. The big difference now is the amount of firepower easily available to anyone that can afford it, or in the case of the latest maniac took from the mother that he murdered with her own weapons.

To be so crass as the seminary dropout turned political hack Huckabee and the professional hate monger Fischer to blame this on the lack of prayer in schools, or that “God will not go where he is not wanted” is nothing more than worst kind of religious abuse. It is shameful and it makes a mockery of the Gospel. God goes exactly where he is not wanted, and died on a Cross for it. In the midst of Good Friday and for that matter all Good Friday experiences, especially that horrible Friday in Newtown, God is there, not in power but in suffering, his name Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion, traumatic national events