This report at the public hearing May 29th on The Responsible Gun Bill, Senate #104)was written in by Bob Graf in the style of a meditation by St. Ignatius of Loyoloa, fouder of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits, in his book The Spiritual Exercises.)
Meditation on Two Leaders, Two Strategies
At the public hearing on The Responsible Gun Bill last Tuesday before a State Senate committee there were definitely two leaders and two strategies in action.
On one side they’re the Mothers Against Gun Violence (MAGV).
On the other side was the National Rife Association (NRA).
The bill in consideration at the hearing would require background checks for the transfers of all handguns in the State of Wisconsin. Presently only handguns sold by registered firearms dealers require a background check.
The three soft-spoken African American mothers who co founded MAGV spoke first. They described how their three sons were shot and killed outside a bar by a person who never would have passed a background check to purchase the handgun. The person who sold him the gun had told them he would never have sold the person the gun if he would have known of the persons criminal background, that would have been revealed in a background check. They spoke with love and compassion for all victims of gun violence speaking how this bill would close the loophole in the present state law and slow down the availability of handguns to those who cannot legally purchase one. They told how they were not trying to take away the use of handguns from responsible citizens or deny anyone their second amendment rights.
Their support of the bill was backed my numerous speakers, including the Mayor of Milwaukee, the Deputy Police Chief speaking for the Milwaukee Police and numerous other organizations and individuals. They spoke to the facts and passion of this situation how this bill could help slow down the rising homicide and suicide rate in the State of Wisconsin by not making handguns easily available to youth, convicted criminals and others who are forbidden by law to own a handgun. They spoke how the “common good” of Wisconsin residents would be served by closing this present loophole in State Law.
Speakers for the bill were a diverse group: Hispanic, gun owners, African Americans, young, old and white.
The NRA with National and State representatives spoke of how this bill would take guns always from responsible citizens, misrepresented the facts on gun violence, twisted and distorted the understanding of the bill and their role in previous gun legislation. They talked about the financial cost of the bill, how it would not make any difference and about how it would trample individual and second amendment rights.
Their supporters, also opposing the bill, supported their position and made numerous discriminatory remarks, about black persons, persons who had been classified as “criminals” at the same time portraying themselves as responsible citizens. However, when Senator Coggs, chairman of the committee and author of the bill, repeatedly asked them if they would knowingly sell a handgun to persons forbidden by law to own a gun they said no, but that they were still against making that stance a law. It was clear that individual rights to own guns surpassed any laws and regulations designed for the common good.
Speakers for the NRA position were mostly elderly white males.
In terms of content the MAGV side definitely had facts and common sense. In terms of number, the NRA supporters were the winners. In terms of show, both sides were dramatic. I doubt if anyone changed his or her mind on the issue of closing the loophole in state law because of the hearing. It was mainly a chance for both sides to reflect their values and strategies to reduce violence. One NRA supporter said the best way to reduce gun violence is to arm everyone. Another stated that we should not ever release convicted felons. One MAGV supporter mentioned how the NRA repeatedly saying that his bill was a form of “gun control” or took away 2nd amendment rights did not make it true. Another youth spoke of the friends she has lost to gun violence, most of it committed by illegal guns in hands of persons who could not purchase a handgun from a firearms dealer.
Like St. Ignatius who makes Jesus Christ and Lucifer the two leaders, I do not present this reflection as a objective choice of what leader, MAGV or NRA, to choose. But like St. Ignatius I present the two sides to reveal the strategy behind each. The NRA strategy is clear: individual rights to bear arms trumps the government’s right to pass laws about handguns for the common good. MAGV speaks out of compassion for youth, no matter their race or status in society. NRA speaks out of fear that only what they considered “responsible citizens” obey the law and thus new laws closing this loophole are not needed. It was clear the NRA fears the young black male who are most often the victims and perpetuators of gun violence. The Mothers have an unconditional love for their sons and other young men caught up in this circle of gun violence.
NRA was grounded in areas outside of the city; MAGV supporters were grounded in the city of Milwaukee. NRA supporters talked about the inconvenience of background checks for transfer of handguns, although almost all of them had done it themselves when they purchased a gun from a firearms dealer. The MAGV was ready to sacrifice time, energy and money to protect the community. The NRA was ready to spend time, money and energy to fight this law enforcing background checks for all transfers of handguns.
If MAGV is going to win this issue, they must be willing to absorb all the insults, name calling and stigmas placed on them by the NRA and come back to fight in nonviolent ways to pass this law.
If you are interested in supporting the Mothers Against Gun Violence in any way possible please check their web site: www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/MothersAgainstGunViolence/HomePage. If you are interested in the National Rifle Association position on this matter you probably are not receiving this essay and already support the NRA.
There are definitely two leaders and two strategies in play. The choice for most of us is not what side we chose but how we will act on our convictions — by allowing open transfers of handguns to protect individual rights or by means of creative nonviolence to support the common good.