Yes, People Do Cling To Guns And Religion

In April 2008, then Senator Barack Obama got into a bit of political trouble. Referring to working-class voters, the presidential hopeful said, “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” This statement caused an immediate and lasting backlash. Ultimately he got past it, won the Democratic primary and then the presidency. And to this day, the common wisdom is that Obama was wrong when he made this statement. But was he?

Gun Sale for God - church gun sale - photo by Mike LichtYou can’t get much more American than guns and religion. It’s not that we hold the exclusive rights to either, but this country is steeped in both gun ownership and spiritual piety. So when times are tough, when people are struggling, would it be a surprise if they clung to the things they hold most dear? It might have been a stupid political move, but Obama was not wrong.

Fast-forward to 2013, and the aftermath of the deadly Newtown, CT school shooting and the question of the hour is: Will congress muster the courage to pass meaningful gun control legislation or will it cave to pressure from those clinging to their guns?

Let’s just say it: America has a problem. We have a gun culture problem. Too many times we back down when the National Rifle Association (NRA) or gun rights advocates start raising their voices. Too many times we have tragic events like Aurora or Sandy Hook and we do not respond by pushing back against these Second Amendment fundamentalists.

The constitution was written at a time when personal liberty and guns were like bread and butter, but times have changed. “Now here’s the thing, this is a huge philosophical debate, I detest big government, but I would note that since 1787, the world has moved along,” said David Stockman (former Reagan administration budget director) on Real Time with Bill Maher. “People who believe in liberty, like I do, we are up against a 21st century state equipped with drones, hundreds of satellites in the sky, watching everything we do, and why would you believe an 18th century citizen militia equipped with the equivalent of muskets has anything to do with liberty?”

Of course, the NRA’s response might be to equip every citizen with a Bushmaster, and that is my point. We need to stop feeding the monster. We need to stop deferring to the people who fuel American’s gun culture. It is not virtuous or honorable to own and carry a firearm. Yes, it is your legal right, but it does not make you special or moral, and it’s certainly not something to celebrate or pass down to your children as some time-honored tradition. And owning a firearm doesn’t even make you a safe human being. And it certainly doesn’t guarantee your liberty.

America, in part, was formed by gun violence, but now our democracy exists, with laws and processes in place for a civil society. We don’t need more violence, we need less. We don’t need more guns, we need less. In 2013, we can no longer allow our problems to be solved at the end of a barrel.

photo by Mike Licht

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Sensible Gun Safety

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