Hearing and Lobbying
I attended the hearing of two gun violence prevention (GVP) bills today. The room was packed with gun support folks wearing their maroon T-shirts and many GVP folks wearing orange. One difference this year was there were no pro-gun supporters brandishing firearms. They had gotten bad press so they toned it down. The hearing was billed as "informational," meaning no votes were to be taken.
The hearing was chaired by Senator Ron Latz who had introduced two bills: S.F. 2493 which advocated requiring criminal background checks for all gun purchases, including private sales. Presently, Minnesota requires BGCs only for guns purchased from a licensed dealer. Guns sold person to person, on line or from out of a car trunk are not regulated. This is the "gun show loophole."
The other bill was S.F. 2980, legalizing a gun violence protective order. This bill would legalize a temporary restraint on a person undergoing stress from purchasing a weapon. It is a "petition for relief that the respondent poses a significant danger of bodily injury to self or other person by possessing a firearm."
Both sides of each bill were given equal time to present their case. Several speakers addressed the senators and audience. In addition, speakers pro and con were selected at random to also speak. The conversation was civil. Fairness was observed. It was "respectful conversation."
Gun bills bring out the people! It was clear that the pro-gun folks were defensive about protecting their right to bear arms because they needed to protect themselves from the possibility the government (Obama) would come and take their guns. This is another step towards tyranny. One speaker spoke of Hitler confiscating guns. They opposed both bills and shared statistics that proved in their minds the bills were not necessary. They adhered to the NRA mantra of "never give and inch" because to do so is to allow the government to creep closer to confiscating their weapons and becoming dictatorial. Suspicion and fear were dominant underlying influences for the pro-gun folks. Their arguments were ideological and statistical.
On the other hand, the GVP folks were articulate story tellers as well as statistical hounds. Their message was more personal and tragic, each relating the circumstances which resulted in the gun deaths of family or parishioners. Fear surfaced because of the threat of being shot rather than of the government or Obama coming to tyrannize. The issue was one of personal protection.
There were contrasting views of government: birther of tyranny vs. protector, fear vs. safety, enemy vs. friend.
I was chosen to speak in favor of the bills. I said the bills were "pro-life" in the good sense. I related the bills as being consistent with the Biblical witness of creation as God creating humankind in God's Image, that the foundational ethic of Jesus was nonviolence, and the Holy Spirit yielded the fruits of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity and self-control." I spoke of the Columbine and Charleston shooters as probably not being able to access guns if they had been required to undergo a background check. They got their guns through straw purchases.
The next step for the bills is to get them to committees for vote and then to the floor for debate and vote. This will be next year, hopefully. I say hopefully because it depends on who controls the Senate and House. Now the power is split and little gets done. The Republicans will certainly prevent any of these bills from seeing the floor this year. Republicans are the most protective of gun rights, whereas the Dems tend to be considerably more open to GVP laws. I do believe GVP forces are growing in Minnesota and throughout the country. Too many deaths. The facts are too brazen to ignore. Also, more GVP people are showing up and speaking up. The pro-gun folks are not intimidating anymore. Not wearing their guns is a signal that they are facing strong opposition. Hope is in the air!
This GVP debate surfaces the purpose of government. Indeed, government does have a legitimate purpose. I studied Romans 13:1-7 to understand the duty of government: to insure good conduct, to be a servant for the good of the people, and to punish the wrongdoer. Furthermore, these verses are book ended by the injunction to "love." The Preamble ot the Constitution speaks of the government "insuring domestic tranquility." The permission and call for government to do its duty is clear. Can we do it? We must for the sake of obedience to God and the care for human life.
Let the lobbying begin!
Let the lobbying begin!