Holding Our Leaders Accountable: An Addendum

Thus far the debate surrounding the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen others in Tucson last weekend has been robust and, on the whole, very healthy for our nation. However, I am greatly disturbed by a recent assertion being made in the context of this debate that is dangerous, irresponsible, and factually bogus: namely, that if more people at the scene of the Tucson tragedy had been armed, the scope of the tragedy would have been reduced because the shooter would have been taken out. Some proponents of decreased gun regulation (and therefore increased gun proliferation) are even arguing that an armed citizenry would have prevented the shootings altogether. Equally troubling is that I have yet to hear anyone in the media challenge the presumptions behind such a speculation–which are many.

For those of us who are followers of Christ, the teachings of our Lord and the Apostles in the New Testament (Romans 12.9-21 comes to mind) ought to be all the encouragement we need to disavow and oppose such assertions and advocate instead for nonviolent, peaceful responses to this bloodshed–and bloodshed of any kind.  The deathly, smokey silence that follows a gun battle does not constitute peace.

Unfortunately, history has demonstrated on numerous occasions that the teachings of Scripture are not enough. The Christian theology of the American church in many quarters has long been infected (if not outright confused) with the God and Guns ideology of the NRA.  So, for the record, I’d like to challenge Rep. Franks of Arizona, Alan Korwin, and others who think more guns is a sensible answer (much less a Christian answer!) to the disturbing question posed by Jared Loughner’s actions. Three observations:

1. Rep. Giffords was shot at point blank range with a semi-automatic hand gun. Given the fast discharge rate of such a weapon and the surprise factor of the shooting, she and a several other victims would have been on the ground bleeding before anyone else with a gun realized what was happening.

2. Congressman Frank and Mr. Korwin assume that when these armed, neo-cowboy citizens drew their weapons in such a panicked, chaotic, and highly-charged situation, they would have the skill and poise to correctly identify the shooter and hit him without firing any stray shots–an unlikely event, especially in a state with gun regulations as lax as Arizona’s. That state would hardly require you to receive training if it doen’t even require you to have a permit to carry. Owning a gun and knowing how to use it are two different things.

3. The police–who ARE trained professionals and who DO know how to use fire arms– are trained to do exactly the opposite of what the Congressman and Mr. Korwin are suggesting an armed citizenry should do when a deranged killer, such as Jared Loughner, opens fire –especially in a crowded area such as a shopping center, where the Tucson shooting took place. Police do not start or jump into shootouts for the simple reason that in a shootout MORE innocent bystanders will be injured, not fewer, because there are more bullets flying through the air.

Sadly, this last point was proven only a month ago in California when a gun fight broke out at a Sacramento barber shop. The apparently untrained participants had a difficult time actually shooting each other, with disastrous consequences.

The tragedy in Tucson has served as a blunt reminder of what we (should) hold dear as Americans: ideas, aspirations, and values that we’ve gotten away from that we need to return to.   However, the mythic bravado of the Wild West should not be counted among them.

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