My remarks for the “Responsible Gun Control” Rally

March 23, 2013

This morning, I spoke at a rally sponsored by the Palouse Peace Coalition on responsible gun control.  Here is a draft of my remarks.  Let me know what you think!

Remarks for the Rally Against Gun Violence

March 23, 2013


Good morning.  Thank you to the Palouse Peace Coalition for organizing the event.  Thank you to the people who took time out of their day to be here and reflect on this important issue.

On Sunday, July 27, 2008, a man named Jim David Adkisson walked into the Tennessee Valley UU Church (a church not that different than the church I serve, right up the street).  He carried a twelve-gauge shot gun in a guitar case, and partway through the service, he pulled it out and started shooting.  Why? In a statement to police, Adkisson said he had targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country.  Out of work and out of luck, he blamed the Democrats, asserting that they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of major media outlets.   Members of the congregation immediately responded by tackling Adkisson and taking his weapon away.  Two people were killed, and another six were injured. 

It was a horrible tragedy.  But it might have been much, much worse.  The service that day was a play put on by the children.  If Adkisson had been carrying an assault weapon, like, for example, a Bushmaster AR-15, the gun used in Sandy Hook this December, who knows how many casualties there would have been?

Gun control is a hot topic here in Idaho and across the nation.  Less than two weeks ago, the Idaho House of Representatives passed a law making it a crime for state and local police to enforce new federal firearms restrictions.  (The senate has tabled it.)  There’s a paranoid fiction that the government is going to come and ‘take people’s guns away.’  Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

The current conversation on gun control offers a golden opportunity for people to come together and address this complicated issue.  Together, we can find some common sense measures that will make our country safer.  

This is a state chock-full of responsible gun owners.  I know a number of people who hunt, who like to go target shooting or skeet shooting.  I know people who carry guns for protection.  They are law abiding citizens.  It is already a crime, here in Idaho, to carry a weapon ‘with intent to assault another.”  It’s also against the law to carry a concealed weapon while intoxicated or on school property.  The gun owners I know have no problem abiding by these laws.  None of the additional gun control measures we are proposing here today would interfere with responsible gun ownership.  They are designed simply to make it harder to perpetrate a mass shooting.

15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place here in the United States.  In second place was Finland, with 2.  Even one mass killing is too many.  We know that in our bones.

While it is true that guns don’t kill people…people kill people… guns do change how people kill people.  Guns make it a lot easier, and that is not a good thing.  The choice to aim a gun at a human being and pull a trigger might need to be made quickly, but it should never be made lightly.  Human life is sacred. 

Reinstating the ban on military style assault rifles and ammunition magazines with more than ten rounds would make our country safer.  Both of these proposals enjoy wide-spread support, including among responsible gun owners.  Let’s be honest:  short of military combat or a zombie apocalypse, can any of us come up with a scenario where one person would need to pull that trigger more than ten times in a row in self-defense?

Polls show that the third proposal, universal background checks, is supported by 80% of the people in this country.  These days, can you think of any other issue that 80% of us can agree on?  Other ideas that have been proposed include safe storage laws, requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance (similar to car ownership.)  “Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence” (a group of 24 different national religious bodies) recommends that in addition to the restrictions on high capacity weapons and ammunition magazines and background check, gun trafficking be made a federal offense.

The power of the democratic process is that it allows everyone a voice.  I can’t figure out on my own which measures will make the biggest difference.  But together…that’s another story.  Harvard ethicist Arthur Dyck, in analyzing both law and morality, emphasizes the relationship of rights and responsibilities.  For every right we have…including the right to bear arms…we must be willing to accept responsibility.  The freedom to bear arms carries with it the responsibility to make sure that those arms are not used to harm innocent people.

The shooting in Tennessee Valley UU Church in 2008 was a tragedy; no one wants anything like that to happen here.  The shooting in Sandy Hook in December was an even greater tragedy, in part because of the kind of weapon the shooter used.   We owe it to the victims and families of the fallen to do everything in power to keep this conversation open and moving forward.  We owe it to the victims and their families to make this country a safer place for our children and our children’s children.  Thank you.


6 Responses to “My remarks for the “Responsible Gun Control” Rally”

  1. Joan Webb Says:

    Those are really excellent remarks, Elizabeth. Thank you. But while we are on the topic of gun tragedies, ask someone to tell you the story of the Moscow tragedy a few years ago, where a gunman held up in the Presbyterian church and started shooting at everyone in sight. He killed a man in the church, a police officer, and wounded a couple other officers. It was a standoff that went on for hours. It really hit Moscow hard. Joan

    On Sat, Mar 23, 2013 at 2:22 PM, revehstevens

  2. Donal Wilkinson Says:

    I disagree about assualt weapons, and so do most people, otherwise Harry Reid would not have dropped it from the legislation. I am not going to go into why on your blog but would be happy to to talk to you or anyone about it in person. The logic that more people would have died is that UU church with an ar-15, I would question. For a short distance, like inside a chuch, a shotgun is a far more lethal weapon. An “assualt” weapons ban (which by the way includes some of my WWII collectors items) was in affect for the Columbine shooting. The problem is hate, and a leck of compassion in our society, not guns.

    • Hi, Donal. I agree with you about hate and lack of compassion being the underlying issue, and I’ll bow to your expertise. I really know very little about guns, never having used or even touched one. But the statistics I saw showed that the majority of people do support the assault weapons ban…at least in public opinion polls. For you as a collector is it enough to have the weapon, or is there value in being able to load and shoot it?

      • Donal Wilkinson Says:

        My fear is that if an “assault” weapons bill were to pass (they only had 38 votes in the senate) that folks would pat themselves on the back and do what Americans are sooo good at, being content to treat the symptom and then forget about the problem. I don’t feel it is fair to the 99% of gun owners such as myself who have to pay the consequences for the 1% who could care less what is legal or what is not legal. I have been target shooting since I was 6 years old in the 4H, then on the All Navy rifle and pistol team, and since then in high power rifle competitions, using my WWII rifles as well as my Vietnam era AR-15. So yes, being able to shoot my guns is no different than someone going to play golf. People like to knock our gun culture, but without that culture, understanding, respect, and marksmanship it is a question of whether our country would even exist, whether we’d have a king or a dictator, or how comfortable another country would feel about invading us. After being a spy in our couties military I can tell you straight out that I do not trust our govvernment. In my short lifetime I have seen one president steal an election and another have one handed to him by the supreme court. It is probably only a matter of time before someone decides that it is in the best interest of the multi-national corporations who really run our government to have a dictator instead of a president. This would be a much more difficult proposition with an armed populace. As a history teacher I am keenly aware of how history repeats itself. Having said all that, I think that the NRA (of which I am NOT a member of) missed a great opportunity to stand up and do the right thing. I think that universal and stonger background checks are essential. I think mandatory training should be required for anyone who purchases a gun (the OR and CT shooting would have both been avoided, as well as many others, if those guns were locked up).

  3. Lisa Ashley Says:

    I greatly appreciate your comments, Elizabeth, and agree that we need to have reasonable conversations in order to come to an understanding of what people feel and how we could best work to reduce the amount of violence done against one another especially that done with guns. I was deeply disappointed by the action in the Senate this past week and will continue to dialogue with others, write to my legislators, and pray, that assault weapons are eventually banned, large ammunition magazines are not allowed and that universal background checks be made law in all states before purchasing a weapon. As a volunteer chaplain with incarcerated youth, I am often deeply saddened by the stories that youth share with me of the violence and trauma in their lives. I am deeply concerned by the number of youth who have more than one gun and have easy access to getting a gun. I know the proposed legislation may not solve that problem, as there are deeper systemic issues behind why youth in the US have guns in the first place, but I hope that we can become more aware of the many issues that foster a gun culture and make inroads towards fostering a culture of peace,compassion for our neighbors and deeper trust in one another so that we can all live in security and with respect for one another. I appreciate that you spoke on my behalf.

  4. Ignoring the problem allows it to drift into deeper, dangerous waters. Treating only symptoms is a stop-gap measure, like treading water which you can do for only so long. Paranoia sinks genuine efforts to resolve issues. There must be an environment for open, sensible conversation. Then there is an opportunity for proactive response. Thank you for speaking out and well, for sharing the democratic process. No easy, quick fixes here—that’s why we need to try hard for something better. This country could lead instead of entrench. Surely there is a way to come together; after all, we all want a saner, safer environment in which to thrive and not drown in the violence.

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