Gun Control: Do Your Homework!


Everyone is up in arms (pun intended) over gun control, almost completely polarized, because it’s such intensely emotional issue. Gun control might not seem puzzling to most people, but it is topics like this that people tend to obstreperously voice their opinions about, and inevitably this makes the problem worse. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves how harmful it is to disrespect other people’s values. By not listening  and considering the other side’s values and beliefs with calmness and care, politicians increasingly contribute to the out-of-control rage we have going on in this country about gun violence and its solutions. They aren’t the only ones who need to calm down and think – we do too.

When we don’t think things through carefully enough, we can cause dangerous consequences. Case in point: The Journal News, which recently published the names and addresses of gun owners in two counties in New York. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the paper thought the residents in these counties would like to know what type of guns their neighbors were keeping in their homes. Before reading the article, I hazarded a guess that it was intended to show people that even neighbors they thought they knew well might be harboring weapons designed for military use. Then I read the piece, and discovered it’s not just about what types of guns a person owns, but how many. What may have sparked the idea for the article wasn’t just Sandy Hook, however; it was the shooting of a woman on the street by a mentally-ill man who had “amassed a cache of weapons — including two unregistered handguns and a large amount of ammunition — without any neighbors knowing.”

If you were living in a quiet little suburban town in upstate New York, for example, and had your bucolic, provincial peace shattered by such a terrible event, you too might want to know what else the neighbors might be hiding other than affairs, drinking problems, strange cult followings, or boredom. You might think that not only is it possible your kids aren’t safe it at school, but you can’t even walk down the street without worrying about getting shot in the head. I mean, this isn’t 8 Mile, for crying out loud.  I can see why the reporter or the staff of The Journal News came up with the idea, and in fact they printed a similar piece back in 2006, but I do not believe it was as detailed as their latest publication.

However, had the newspaper staff considered the idea further, they might have come up with the following objections to printing it:

  1. Some of those gun owners were retired police officials who had put criminals away. Said officers have the worry that some of these criminals would retaliate once they were released, and now those officials, who served the very public now publishing gun ownership information about them, were in even more peril of being hurt or killed by these criminals.
  2. Women with restraining orders against spouses, former spouses or boyfriends for domestic violence were now not only easier to locate, but said men targeting them and/or their children now knew they were armed and how, leaving them wide-open for attack using more dangerous weapons.
  3. Gun owners with expensive weapons, or those often sold as “hot” on the street, were now easy picking for burglars.

I confess I didn’t come up with these ideas; I heard them in an NPR interview this past Sunday. A reporter, who does not work for The Journal News, brought up the second amendment, which is a nice segue into the main reason for this blog post, which is the question: have you done your homework?

If you have, you will know exactly what the second amendment states about gun ownership, and I quote: “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.”

Here is what the second amendment does not say – that we the people have the right to bear military weaponry. It does not say we have the right to bear those huge ammo belts seen in Hollywood movies. Is this amendment open to interpretation? Perhaps. Some could say that in order to form a “well-regulated militia” civilian citizens would need military weapons and a large capacity of ammunition. But at the time the Constitution was written, the need for a militia was in existence to overthrow the British government; to expel it from this country. For those of you who believe it’s time to do that, surely you understand that having a machine gun isn’t going to help?

Many believe the Constitution absolutely is open to interpretation, which begs the question: is any kind of weapon what the framers had in mind? I personally doubt that because these weapons were not in existence at the time, nor were mass shootings like Columbine or Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook a part of their lives. This is not to say that the framers did not live in politically and racially-charged times. Indians massacred pioneers and vice-versa, for example. Some people might call that senseless violence, but it was very different in nature from some deranged person shooting into a crowd of people just because of sheer lunacy.

The next homework question is this: do you even know what Obama said in his initiatives? Good! Because I am going to list them for you below. Uh-huh – all 23. And by the way, at no point in this whole affair did he state he was proposing a plan that would keep Americans from buying the normal weapons they currently are allowed to purchase. So if that’s what you’re hearing, politely remind those around you to get their facts checked.  Just because it’s a cutesy photo on Facebook doesn’t make it true!

  1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
  11. Nominate an ATF director.
  12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
  13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
  15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
  22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

These initiatives were found on pbs.org and included the following: “The president also proposed universal background checks, a ban on military type assault rifles, a ten round limit for ammunition magazines and eliminating armor piercing bullets. It’s up to Congress to act on these measures.”

So you can keep your Glock-9, your rifle, your shotgun – but you would be banned from purchasing an Ak-47. This seems like extreme…common sense to me! After all, why would a civilian American citizen need an assault rifle and unlimited ammunition rounds? No one I have asked has been able to give me an answer except to say that they don’t like their “rights” being taken away. Some people are appalled by Obama’s restrictions but have no desire to buy a gun.

I think the reason many Americans – barring those who plan on taking down the federal government in a suicidal stand-off, holed up in some mountain cabin – have heated feelings towards what the President did because they believe that he erred in his method. To them, I ask the following question: why would he have done this if he had enough support from Congress to pass his plan? If the only reason you’re against what he did is because of how he did it, then ask yourself yet another question: does the end justify the means? If it helps keep mentally-ill people from showering a crowd of children with bullets, ending their beautiful lives, can you honestly say it isn’t worth it? Of course not. If it prevents people who don’t need machine guns from buying them and hosing down someone for no reason, why is it not worth it?

There is one other reason some Americans are against Obama’s initiatives, which is that they don’t want “big brother” having even more control over their information. The NRA, I believe, is also of this opinion. Again, though, if it saves lives, it seems advantageous. However, being one of those Americans who resents government control over so much of our lives, I can understand their position. The truth is, in my opinion, that this is yet another classic example of choosing the lesser of two evils.

In fact, an ABC News poll shows that most Americans support the President on this one. Which begs my last question: how should the American public, the President, and Congress handle this? I propose by using the democratic principals this country was founded on. How? By Congress voting what their constituents want, in a transparent way. The winners win and the losers lose. However, in the meantime, how it is handled, at least by the President and Congress, is not tricky at all: simply listen to each other with respect. Don’t shout at each other. Don’t threaten or make demands. Just publicly get your points across. Pick someone from each party to address Congress, as well as the President, and give all three the same amount of time in which to speak. Do not let Congress members or the President fire off heated, intense epithets in front of cameras or in print. Grow up. Because this is an issue that needs to be settled, and Americans deserve to be safer than we are. And then let the American public decide.

In fact, I may be on to something. How nice it would be if American officials could behave like this about all the issues that come up. What would this country look like if most (because I am not deliriously naive) Americans behaved this way as well?What do you think?

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Life in Mayberry: The Slow Lane


Technology was supposed to be the answer. Computers and cell phones were designed to save time and cut labor costs. I’m reminded of an episode of Lark Rise to Candleford when an invention was created to cut the time and manual labor of men in the fields. The residents of Lark Rise and Candleford had mixed emotions. On the one hand, it was amazing and efficient. Yet, it would cost countless jobs of poor men who had no other skills and no way to earn them.

All the things that man has made to save time or money, such as cars or computers or plastic – have done their jobs, but in return we get pollution, non-biodegradable landfill fillers, and people sitting in a chair staring at a screen that hurts their eyes, keeps them from sleeping because they’re all over our homes, and the use of the mouse causes carpel tunnel. There are consequences to everything.

I heard a sermon Sunday about hurrying up in this fast-paced world, and how technology has created more hurry, not less. How many times have you been stuck waiting somewhere and have been madly typing a Facebook update when something malfunctioned for a moment on your smartphone and you went absolutely berserk? The same is true during your day at the office. E-mails have replaced lovely letters. No one north of the Mason-Dixon cares much about thank-y0u notes, and even this time-honored Southern tradition is fading. I’ve actually been told not to write these notes.  Why? Because we don’t want to take the time to read them, or because the reader assumes we don’t want to take the time to write them? Since when did expressing thanks take up too much of our time?

According to Dr. Mike Long, head pastor at RUMC, here is what hurrying up in a hurry-up world has done to us:

  • We don’t see clearly. Our days are full of things that are really not that important, but even if we are doing godly work, we don’t even pay true attention to it.
  • We don’t listen carefully. That’s for you people out there who carry your cell phones to the dinner table. We can’t even eat, much less listen to those around us. Whether it’s status updates, e-mails, or television, we don’t take the time to listen to others.
  • We don’t think deeply. We don’t reflect. For some reason, we assume that we don’t have time to do it. Here’s my thought on this, not Dr. Mike’s: it’s not that we don’t have the time. It’s that our priorities are totally out of whack. I hate it when Christians say that we can even learn about the word of God in just a few minutes. Just read one chapter a day! When we were in college, did we just study and read for a few minutes a day, expecting to get a reward for that? Then why do we relegate the word of God to a few minutes a day or only on Sundays? Isn’t the Word much more important than anything else? This principle of thinking deeply applies to other areas of our lives, as well. We need to think more deeply about the people and situations going on around us, and not lead shallow lives.
  • We don’t take time to celebrate! We don’t savor life fully and take time for fun, laughter, and friends.

What is the solution to all this hurrying up? It’s amazing how we think this fast-paced stuff is only part of the world we know, but even back in the day,  God knew He needed to give us an out. As a matter of fact, read your Genesis. God Himself needed an out! That’s what the Sabbath was for! As Dr. Mike told us, it’s there for us to use to recharge and renew ourselves. I love those words. They sound so peaceful to me, but they may be energizing to you. We also need the Sabbath to worship! We Christians have moved it to Sundays, but all that matters is that you pick a day where you do no work (try minimal at first!) and rest in the arms of the Lord. It sounds divine to me! It will likely take some practice and work for those of you who are thinking, “I would go BONKERS!”

 

The Sabbath gives us rhythm. If I don’t go to church on Sunday, I feel off at the start of my week. Worship gives me a very comforting sense of peace. If I don’t do my quiet time with God every day, I feel off as well. My rhythm is gone. It’s important, also, to remember that we may think we are indispensable, but we are not! We try so super hard to do that at work. We do not want to lose our jobs. We try that as mothers and wives. But the truth is, the world will keep turning for most people on this Earth if we are down for the count. Remember that we are allowed to rest, and that if we do not, we are not performing at peak capacity.

What does the Sabbath look like? Is it sitting in a corner reading a book all day? Sure. For you. For someone else it could mowing the yard, taking a walk, singing, a trip. What relaxes and refreshes one person does not work for another, so you need to make sure your motives for doing whatever it is are purely about Sabbath rest. Spend your day in reflection. You may have already set goals and resolutions for the year, Dr. Mike said. But will they add to your hurry or take it away? Adam Hamilton said, and I’m paraphrasing, that we should look for one or two things to stop doing to get out of hurrying up.

Find something that energizes you. That excites you about your walk with Christ. You will have to work at it. Anything that becomes a habit takes a conscientious  decision and work. But oh, how God will bless that day! When you make Sabbath a habit, it becomes more than restful and restorative – it becomes holy!

What Does God Think of Us?


Some say they can talk to God at any time, like an Old Testament prophet, and He will answer them. Others say they talk to God all the time but  He doesn’t always answer. I think those particular people actually mean He doesn’t give them the “yes” they were hoping for.

I personally believe that if you want to talk to God, you can do so at any time. I also think that if you listen, you will receive an answer, and not just a “yes” or “no.” Joyce Meyer puts it to us in an interesting way, and I think she’s right because I have seen the fruit of it in my own life.

She says that you pose your question to God (or Jesus, or the Spirit – whomever is on your heart at the time – and this is from me, not her) and you wait for Him to answer. When He does, the answer the is actually coming  from one of three places:

  1. God Himself;
  2. Satan (telling you what you want to hear, or telling you a lie about whatever you’ve asked God about);
  3. Yourself (telling yourself what you want to hear!)

So how do you know which one it is? Well, I have had to figure that out myself, and it isn’t hard. Ask Him again. And this time, see how you feel when you get  your answer. Are you at peace with it? Then it certainly isn’t what Satan wants. Is it Biblical? Scriptural? Then it is what God wants.

All of this is a preamble to what I really wanted to write about today, which is what God thinks of us, today, as human beings – not as Christians. That, I’m afraid, is a topic for, perhaps, another day.

Christians will tell you that God loves you, which is true. Christians purporting the so-called “prosperity gospel” believe, in part, that if you pray hard enough and have enough faith,  God will bless you with whatever you want. Murky, eh? A little hard to believe? Well, that’s because the rest of us don’t believe it!

The rest of us know that God loves everyone on this planet – even the worst sinners are welcomed into His arms if they so choose. We know that God blesses everyone in different ways, and even though it may seem indiscriminate at times, and even totally unfair, given that He blesses evil people, He does all this for His own purposes.

We know that sometimes,  He punishes us for our own good – to help us learn. But that most of the time, it isn’t God punishing us; it’s the consequences for the actions we have taken, and we deserve them. If we’re lucky, we will realize when He cuts those short in His extreme mercy, and if we truly want to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, we will extend that mercy to someone else who has hurt us.

If you were to ask God what He thinks about the people He created, I think He would say this. Actually, this is what I am being led, or called, to write about today by Him. But He would also tell us that He is sad about the people He created, because so many of them know Him and still do not place their faith and trust in Him. It would be difficult to go to most areas of this Earth and find a person who has not heard of God. Global missions have introduced Him to just about every place on the planet.

Still, we do nothing. Still, we cast our cares into alcohol, drugs, or sex. Shopping or food or sleeping. Television or movies. We cast our cares into the hearts and minds of our friends because, if we are Christians, we don’t want to face God with it. We know He will ask us to give them up. To lay them at His feet. And even though we desperately want healing from them, we also know that He will ask us to change. And we’d rather not, thank you very much.

We blame other people for the havoc we create, and we’ve done it so often we barely feel a twinge of guilt and shame, if any. The rotten and miserable parts of us have either been accepted as proper into mainstream society or we hide them, buried deep and only visible to a few people.

What does He want for us instead? He just wants us to say “yes.” When He comes knocking on the doors of our hearts, He just wants us to say “yes” and to let Him in. He wants to have hope for us. For us to have hope for ourselves!

When Running from the Rules is a Bad Idea


We all love stories of inspiration. Despite the bad news we see every day, there is at least one story of amazing resourcefulness on just about any morning television show. Bev Kearney, coach at the University of Texas, was a great inspiration to many. She isn’t anymore.

Apparently, she suffered a horrific car crash that left her paralyzed and unable to walk. She later made it into the Hall of Fame. And, due to an inappropriate affair with a former student, she is being asked to leave the school.

The salacious details (of which there are none in the linked article) don’t interest me. What interests me is the lengths we will go to in order to protect the sins or mistakes of those we love. Kearney was a great coach, and a strong person to have survived and then thrived after her troubles. Some would say she deserves to catch a break for this one. And it’s easy to see why.

Why is it that we make excuses or flat-out deny the wrongdoings of those we love? I think it’s because there are some things that only we know; these are the things that we have done, said, or thought about, and no one else in the whole words knows about it. We feel shame and guilt over these things, and so when someone we love or admire does something awful, we tend to shift the blame and responsibility off that person.

Kearney shouldn’t be given a free pass because she caught some tough breaks. In fact, the tough breaks should have made her even more thankful for what she had before she ruined it with someone she’s not even with anymore. But that isn’t how we work, is it? Whether it’s our spouse, our parent, our friend, or our kid, we tend to excuse, at least publicly, the foibles of others.

What is the harm in that? Well, we learn just about everything outside the classroom by example. I applaud the university for publicly stating and recognizing how wonderful a coach she was, because this mistake does not entirely define her or her career. But it does define who she is, in part, and it definitely defines how the school handles those who break the rules.

And before you go sympathizing too much with her, because it would be easy, let’s all think back to revered coach Paterno. His tendency to overlook sins created problems that generations of families will have to deal with.

What is the right way to handle a situation in which someone we love has made a terrible mistake? Well, who says we can’t treat that person with the same love we always have? Even if we were hurt by what the person said or did, eventually that passes, and we tend to forgive. That is exactly what we should do. But how do we cope with the immediate problem, which is handling what was said or done the way God would want us to? The answer isn’t anything that will make you jump out of your chair in surprise as you read this. You already know. Stop making excuses for the people in your life who do the wrong thing and either don’t take accountability for it, or don’t take responsibility for it with you.