Okay, NRA, what’s the plan?

Posted: October 20, 2015 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church

By Matt Horannra-logo

It’s happened once again.  A person with a gun walks into a crowded school and begins shooting people, and then kills themselves.  We spend a few hours piecing together the details, watching police chiefs and sheriffs nervously giving (sometimes their first ever) press conferences, and watch live footage of families waiting for word on the safety of their children so we can catch the moment live when someone receives the horrible news and collapses in shrieking agony and grief.  A day or two later we review the names and hear the stories of what we’ve lost.

A little later on, when several news cycles have passed, the latest school shooting becomes one more on a growing list.  It will fade from the front page, and assume it’s place on Wikipedia.  You see, we’ll need it there, because, sadly, there have been too many of these now for us to be able to recall them all.  We will need to bring them all up when the debates ensue about gun control, so there they stay, ready to be Googled when needed by either side.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  It was put in place for the same reason several others were put there–to limit the power of the government.  If the government were to somehow cease to operate as a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and begin to gather power at the expense of the liberty of the people–as governments historically are prone to do–the Constitution was there to clarify its boundaries and make it step back inside them.  The founders there present when the Constitution was taking shape had just presided over a bloody conflict with a government that had demanded their unquestioned allegiance–that they recognize the King of England as their divinely appointed sovereign and do as they were told and pay as they were taxed without protest.  They vowed that they would not ever find themselves in that situation again.

The Constitution is a work of unparalleled political wisdom and skill.  Aware of the human tendency to serve ourselves, they set up intentional conflicting forces that would serve to keep each other in check, and thus the United States of America holds the record for the longest succession of peaceful turnovers of executive power in the history of the world.

The Constitution is a work that demonstrates a keen understanding of human history and it’s patterns.  Aware that oppressive governments became and remained so by removing citizens’ ability to organize and resist, it put protections in place to allow people to speak freely, assemble freely, to own firearms, to operate a news medium free from government censorship, and to be free from requirements to house soldiers in their homes, to name a few.

Over two centuries later, the Constitution continues to protect these freedoms.  However, the right to bear arms has come under new scrutiny as, one after another, mentally ill individuals have walked into schools full of defenseless students and staff members, killed as many as possible, and then killed themselves.  (As mentally ill and confused as they might have been, each knew that they would not want to answer for what they were about to do, and thus made sure to reserve a bullet for themselves.)

Critics of the Second Amendment right to bear arms argue that this protection was meant for a different time, when the loss of friends and family members to British muskets was a very recent memory, the pain kept fresh by the places still empty at dinner tables across each of the thirteen colonies.  Oppressive government was the only kind they’d ever known before this experimental republic was planted in the in the New World, and so they kept an eye open for oppression’s return.  Their muskets were kept hidden but nearby, and young boys–if not the whole family–were trained to use them as soon as they were able.

However, that was before the Constitution’s 200th birthday.  That was before this fledgling republic took root and became a giant tree that gives shelter in various forms to much of the world.  Storing away guns in the event that the government oversteps and begins stealing away Constitutional freedoms seems, on one hand, unnecessary, and on the other, unlikely to work against a government that has the most powerful military in the world at its disposal.  So the argument goes, anyway.

The other side of this debate is a post guarded by the National Rifle Association with support from the full roster of conservative talk radio hosts and a legion of elected officials.  They warn that we shouldn’t be too quick to take our eye off of the tendency of governments to creep more and more in to the sacred spaces of their citizens’ lives, especially these days in which President Barack Obama is so frequently at odds with Congress and does not hide his willingness to just “go around them” if they won’t cooperate.

After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 14 kindergarteners, six first graders, and six staff members, NRA vice-president Wayne LaPierre argued against those calling for gun control, saying “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  He proposed more armed guards in more places, because school shooters choose places with the maximum number of defenseless people.  Since schools are “gun free zones,” they are easy targets.

I have friends and family members who are responsible gun owners.  They take every precaution to store them safely, and make sure that everyone who touches them is educated on how to handle them safely as well.  I regret that this debate has pulled these responsible people into the angry and often insulting maelstrom that has ensued from both sides, lumping them in somehow as people who don’t care about Columbine or Sandy Hook or other school shootings.

To be fair, I struggle with what to do with the arguments against gun control.  There are other democratic countries that have gun control laws far more strict than ours, and those countries tend to have significantly fewer gun-related deaths.  As a person who does not want to see any more school shootings, I wonder if there isn’t a reasonable way ahead that we can all agree on, since we surely all agree that people being shot to death is bad, and that having it happen less often would be good.  We can agree on that, right?  As a parent of kids who attend school, I can’t imagine the frustration I would feel with the politicians and lobbyists who fight over this if one of my kids were the victim of a school shooting–how many times does it need to happen before we get out best people on this to make it stop?

It would help me have a little more patience for the NRA’s work if I understood their plan.  I see them very effectively lobbying to defeat the various attempts at curbing access to firearms that have arisen in the aftermath of these tragedies, so they clearly have an effective plan for that.  However, if the solution is “more good guys with guns,” then will NRA volunteers begin showing up to take shifts standing in front of schools and churches to stand between the next shooter and their victims?  Are they going to train people on how to intervene and shoot accurately if they have to use their gun at a school?  Perhaps the NRA’s plan for preventing school (or church) shootings is something entirely different.  If so, I’m eager to hear it.

So far, I’m afraid the NRA is saying it’s their job to keep guns available, but someone else’s job to prevent this availability from leading to the massacre of more kids.

So far, I’m afraid the NRA is saying that these massacres are just the price we have to pay to keep guns available in the event we have to defend ourselves or our property, or resist government expansion.

Further, it would help to know the plan for resisting government expansion.  What does that look like?  If I’m a gun owner and I feel that the government is reaching out farther than the constitution allows, and if I feel that it is taking away liberties that the constitution guarantees me, and the Constitutional  system of checks and balances is not working, when is it time to start shooting?  I hope it’s a last resort, but if that’s what the guns are for, then how is someone to know when the time is right to take a gun out and push back the tyranny by force?

I think I hear the NRA’s reasons for keeping guns accessible.  I don’t understand the plan for using them to stop the bad guys with guns in our schools, I don’t understand the plan for using them to resist government tyranny, and I don’t understand why Columbine, Santana, Red Lake, Orange, Platte Canyon, West Nickel Mines Amish, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, Chardon, Seattle Pacific, Florida State, Umpqua Community College, and Sandy Hook are acceptable losses for keeping guns accessible.  Help me out, NRA.  What’s the plan?

  1. In nearly all the shootings, the guns used were “legal”. I join you in not wanting any more violence. I would propose that even so called responsible gun owners with whom had their guns used by another person crazy or otherwise be held responsible. There are existing laws that many times are not enforced. I would propose owners of guns be held responsible if their firearms are not kept secure and found to be used in a crime because of their lacadzial storage. Gun ownership is a right but when your right enfringes on that of another there is a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan Clouse says:

    Dear Matt,

    I bet you never imagined I would be responding to you on this topic, but here goes. At all of the schools you mention, fewer – or possibly – no lives would have been lost had there been a responsible gun owner with a concealed carry permit in the area willing to shoot the bad guy. Perhaps a teacher, perhaps a guard, perhaps a fellow student (at the colleges). Your list didn’t include those shootings in other gun-free zones, like movie theaters and churches(!), but the same response applies.

    Responsible gun owners are always aware of their surroundings and have thought through in advance when they might be called upon to protect their life and the lives of those around them. It comes with the responsibility. This is not to say that everyone should carry a gun. Not everyone is comfortable with it, not everybody needs to. But the bad guys don’t know who has a gun and who doesn’t. In gun-free zones, even the most mentally unstable bad guys can be pretty confident that no one will be shooting back. Responsible gun owners follow the law.

    You seem to want the NRA to come up with a plan, but actually the plan has to be developed in your home, your church and your community – by you. How do you protect your children when they are with you and in your home? What plans does your church have to protect the children and the whole congregation? Have you talked to your elected school board members about what you would like to see them do? Have you talked to your elected city and county officials?

    The responsibility to protect yourself and your family is yours, Matt. The freedom to do that is what the Second Amendment is all about. It is not up to the NRA. You may want the police to protect us, and they do to a great extent. They are a necessary part of a stable society, but honestly, they are the second responders, not the first. You are.

    You also asked about using arms to resist government tyranny. I don’t know that any of us can image what that would look like in America, but the Jews in Germany didn’t imagine it was possible either. Check out the history of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. Here is one source (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/uprising1.html)

    They had 17 guns to defend over 50,000 people and were able to hold back the Nazis for awhile. They had already watched hundreds of thousands of friends and family being herded into ghettos and then taken to death camps. In retrospect, some now say that more guns wouldn’t have made a difference in the long run, they would have died anyway. I find that rather arrogant because I believe it would have made a difference to those who fought and would have given hope to those they tried to protect. Wouldn’t you rather have the right to protect your family and lose, than simply hand them over to those who would harm or murder them?

    I hope this gave you some more to think about….

    Blessings on your family and ministry,
    Susan Schrier Clouse


    • Matt Horan says:

      Thanks Susan. Forgive me in advance if this response oversteps, because I need to confess from the outset that I’m angry now.

      I’m disappointed if I have given the impression to anybody that I’m trying to shirk responsibility for protecting my family. Hopefully, Susan, you don’t think that, but are rather using the example of my protecting my wife and children as a rhetorical device to make your point more jarring, and thus convincing, to me.

      I find both entrenched sides of this argument to be flawed because they can’t talk to each other with respect. I don’t find the emotionally manipulative tactics that both use particularly helpful, because we keep using them, yet school shootings keep happening. The NRA can’t seem to convince everybody to go buy a gun, and the gun-control side can’t seem to convince everybody to not buy a gun. So I think we need to stop pretending that it’s all the other sides fault. We need to stop being condescending. We need to solve this. We need to stop talking about each other, and talk to each other. And frankly, until one side takes the high road and invites the other over to actually converse, it’s awfully hard for me to stop thinking that no number of bodies piling up in schools and churches across the country will ever make either side actually give a shit. I’m saying it–both sides care more about winning PR points than preventing the next shooting. What they’re doing isn’t working, but they keep doing it. What else am I left to think than that solutions don’t matter? Shame on us all.


    • Susan Clouse says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more about finding new ways to talk about this issue. Isn’t the bigger issue about how to keep American’s safe? So how do we find common ground?I would like to back the conversation up to discuss the sources of anger and violence, and how to intervene into the lives of these troubled men. Guns are their tool, but not the cause of their anger. Guns also protect people. It would be nice to have a leader to reshape our conversation on this and so many other issues that divide us.The only presidential candidate I’ve heard talk about looking at this problem from a perspective other than being pro/anti gun is Ben Carson. He would like us to study the lives of the shooters to see what common traits they might have, and work on ways to identify and deal with anger before it explodes into violence. There is a process in our legal system to adjudicate someone incompetent and take away their right to own guns. Why aren’t we using it more? I also think some gun education for the general population would be a good thing. Back in the day, the NRA came to my elementary school and taught us about gun safety. Can you imagine that now? I have written an article about gun education that is on Red State – here is the link. http://www.redstate.com/diary/preachergirl/2015/10/08/gun-education-gun-control/

      As to your first observation, I admit I intended to get folks (and even perhaps you) to think about what is sacrificed if we can’t defend ourselves. Your response was what I would hope everyone’s would be, even if you were angry with me. I’m afraid there are many who feel that the right to protect ourselves and our families is not important. You obviously do.

      Keep up the good fight. Things will only be changed when folks like you and me, and the folks who disagree with us, get involved and communicate not only with each other, but with our elected officials, especially local ones. Blessings on you and your ministry!



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