Greetings Fellow Fighters:
On Saturday morning, you are invited to join us for a train trip downtown and a walk to Union Park (1501 W. Randolph) to participate in the March for Our Lives, a demonstration in favor of gun control. (See the announcement following this column for details.)
I realize the flawless logic that “guns do not kill people, people kill people,” but I suggest we should seriously reflect on the relationship between people and guns.
As one who has delighted in a friend’s venison sausage, the produce of a clean kill in the forest, I would be a hypocrite to denounce the hunter’s craft. Likewise, to toss my rhetorical skill in front of the adorable woodland creature would beg for quick betrayal by my affection for a well-marbled fillet or the masterfully marinated London broil.
In 2004, when the NRA successfully lobbied to defeat the renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, my friend with the fantastic venison sausage tore up his NRA membership card and mailed his patches back to the association with a note telling them they were nuts. I realized then that not all gun owners are created equal.
I, too, am disinterested in the ridiculous defense of a bump-stock enhanced, assault semi-automatic or the private possession of any high-velocity, large-bore weapon. Firearms purchased for the purpose of maximum kill are not for the defense of hearth and home. The intentional protection of any bulk assassination machine seems to me so absurd as to warrant no application of Christianly rebuke. Those who defend their purchase as merely cool toys have stepped out of the confines of any Constitutional argument. While there’s a certain gee-whiz reaction to cruise missiles and napalm too, few are suggesting the Second Amendment exists to protect the adrenaline rush.
No, my concern is for the owner of the nightstand sidearm—the pistol purchased for private protection—and the internal conversation necessitated by its ownership. For me, to walk into a gun dealer’s store and select a weapon for the protection of my property and people would require my first having decided, under the right circumstances, to kill another human being. All intermediate purposes of intimidation could equally be accomplished by other means—an alarm system, a menacing dog—these are equally powerful tools of dissuasion. No, a gun for protection requires a pre-determined decision to blow someone away. Mere brandishing, or wounding, could have catastrophic consequences, reversing the intended outcome of protection-gun ownership.
The selection of the tool would have to match the tool’s purpose. Its craftsmanship would require durability and reliability through infrequent use. Its design would need to be so intuitive that an amateur could accomplish the task with little thought or effort. The trigger-pull of a semi-automatic would be most appropriate for the circumstances of use; all other options would be cumbersome, even dangerous.
The narrative necessary for the purchase would be my decision, in split-second timing, that the person in front of me deserved to die. It’s a narrative I would need to rehearse every time I cleaned the mechanism, at every firing range practice, at every occasion I felt the cold steel reaching deeper for a pair of socks, during every visit in which the grandchildren played upstairs unsupervised. The narrative of protection would preclude leaving it unloaded; no bloodthirsty criminal would indulge the time necessary to slip into the closet for ammo.
The story I would need to tell myself would be about an individual who needed to die, simply because they were in my home without invitation. Such circumstances do not include the luxury of conversation regarding intent, circumstance, mitigation. I would have decided in advance that I could live with the outcome, regardless of the backstory. “Pastor Kills Intruder” would be a headline referred to in my obituary, no matter how many years in the future; and regardless of the age, life-experience or character of my intruder, my decision to buy my gun would be a pre-determined consequence with which I would choose to live.
It’s a story, I believe, that would change me. A required playing of the “he had it coming” scenario is the only way I would keep my skill and courage to make the firearm purchase reasonable. Even our best trained, most vigilant citizens, our law enforcement officers, who repeatedly practice and drill, make mistakes. I’m not sure I possess the hubris to suggest I could live with the odds of my successful performance. The risks of failure—a depressed friend visiting and asking to use the upstairs washroom, the curious kid visiting my grandkids, my practicing safety-removal when my wife walks in—all these risks are determined irrelevant as I stand at the counter and weigh the options of my protective instrument of choice.
Yes, guns do not kill people, people kill people, but I am extremely concerned about the kind of person I would need to become to justify my ownership of a gun.
So, you’re invited to join me and others from our congregation and community to express your interest in gun control.
Shooting from the hip, I remain,