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We must do better

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew, 6:24.

This is an easy choice for a number of our lawmakers. They choose money, every time. The National Rifle Association puts a down payment on the same people who call themselves public servants, who respond to massacres like that in Florida. Like Marco Rubio, they urge us not to mention gun control until we have “all” the facts. Like Marco Rubio, they say that laws regulating guns would not prevent crimes committed with guns. Like Marco Rubio, they tweet out their thoughts and prayers.

What is so galling, so incomprehensible, is the invertebrate cowardice of those who toss out Christian pity but do not act in Christian practice. According to Politico, Rubio self-describes as “fully, theologically, doctrinally aligned with the Roman Catholic Church.” Take it on my authority as a practicing Catholic, and on the authority of “The Catechism of the Catholic Church," paragraphs 1913 to 1917: a Catholic knows that those with the power and ability to act for the good are duty-bound to do so. Rubio quoted Amos 5:15, urging us to “let justice prevail.” I wonder if Rubio and other tweet-happy lawmakers have read 1 John 3:18, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” Christ had a name for those who speak loudly and do little: hypocrites.

And on the topic of hypocrisy, what do we say to casual gun control activists, who choose what’s easy over what’s right? I speak now from anecdotal experience. There are people with a way of caring that is not caring at all. They express their horror by a script so manicured as to be cliché: outrage, sorrow, explanation, apathy, ad nauseam. They post one article, they sign one petition and wait for the next massacre to care again. What do we hope to achieve if our interest in change fades after a few news cycles? The purity of your principles and nobility of your intentions are empty without action. Think of every great protest movement, of the suffragettes and civil rights marchers: progress demands commitment.

And on the topic of commitment: what price for commitment, even commitment to principle, is too steep? Law-abiding gun owners cannot be silent at times such as these. I have no doubt that they are as shocked and as disgusted by these murders as are the rest of us. They want the right to bear arms. Parents want their children to be safe. The Second Amendment allows us to bear arms. The First Amendment exhorts us to hear opinions that are not our own. I would hear anyone out, if it meant we could stop punctuating the school week with slaughter.

But not everyone will be so open-minded. Let’s not forget everyman Wayne LaPierre, the NRA Executive Vice President who stands ready to fight the liberal gun-hating elites. Believe Wayne when he says that the NRA will fight to take the country back. There is a battle in America. Its strategists are cowards of the worst kind. Their fight is so perverse that it defies humanity. Children shed their blood to protect the liberty of those who bear arms. Set what price you will on liberty. Know that liberty’s price, today, is life.

NRA leadership might meet efforts to reform gun policy with such words as these, from Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Never mind that Franklin was speaking years before the Revolution, about tax policy—such a line carries the ring of ’76 and pretends to pure intentions. How long can you shout “Don’t Tread on Me,” when the real violence is done to children, to their teachers? How many deaths will break your apathy, if not these latest 17? Whose deaths, if not these children's and teachers’?

I do not pretend to know the solution to gun violence. I was not raised shooting, nor have I suffered the loss of a loved one to gun violence. My point, and all I know on the issue, is this: we must have the conversation on reforming gun policy, now. This is a national problem, and all of us are tied up in it: lawmakers, activists on both sides, and the gun lobby elite. We must actually  come together and determine how to have a Second Amendment without so much slaughter.

This is something that we can and we ought to do. For what happens, if we fail to act again? "Stand-With" hashtags will trend; CNN will give the jeremiads for gun control and Fox the jeremiads against; and we'll have our catharsis and forget about the problem until it happens again. This conversation will be difficult. A whole nexus of issues—Constitutional rights, mental health policy, government surveillance—are swept up in this one question. Yet for all the discomfort this will cause us, for all the anguish of having the debates that people in democracies are supposed to have, four children are shot dead each day. How small and silly and stupid are “discomfort” and “inconvenience” against the death of a child. Shame on us, if we sit on our hands and do nothing.

Tim Kowalczyk is a Trinity junior. His column runs on alternate Mondays.


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