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Dumb guns

On our website now, E. J. Dionne Jr. on Georgia’s new “guns everywhere” legislation that expressly allows people to bring their weapons to church, among other places:

Nothing better reveals the utter irrationality of our politics for the whole world to see than this madness about guns -- and no issue better demonstrates how deeply divided our nation is by region, ideology, and party…. Nowhere else in the world do the laws on firearms become the playthings of politicians and lobbyists intent on manufacturing cultural conflict. Nowhere else do elected officials turn the matter of taking a gun to church into a searing ideological question. But then, guns are not a religion in most countries.

Dionne’s latest comes on the heels of the National Rifle Association’s “Stand and Fight” rally, held in Indianapolis over the weekend, where Sarah Palin with Christian motherly charm declared that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” And she demonstrated glancing acquaintance with transitive logic in getting to the red-meat portion of her remarks: “If you control oil, you control an economy. If you control money, you control commerce. But if you control arms, you control the people, and that is what they’re trying to do.” [Applause]

They, being the Obama administration, which at last check had taken action on gun reform off the legislative docket. But faith of course is famously resistant to fact and reason.

Carrying a concealed weapon is legal in all fifty states, and if anything, a universal gun law—reciprocity among states—is much closer to reality than further restrictions at either the national or state levels (where, as Dionne and others note, more than seventy laws loosening restrictions on guns were enacted in the year following the Sandy Hook massacre). Reciprocity has the backing of Republicans in the U.S. Senate, which according to some polling could tilt their way this fall. And it has behind it the treasure and talent for propaganda of the NRA and other gun groups, which are casting it as a way to fight back against crime, although the national rate of violent crime declined steadily from 1993 to 2001 and again from 2008 through 2013.

Casting itself as a counterbalance to the gun lobby is Every Town for Gun Safety, which funded with $50 million from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing for stricter, more uniform background checks and a review of the role weapons play in domestic violence and suicide. Those are pretty innocuous and eminently reasonable aims, but reason doesn’t wash with zero-summers like Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. You can hear him on this recent NPR OnPoint segment (starting at about the 15:10 mark), but these excerpts are representative: “[M]ass killings are an abstract notion and don’t particularly upset the gun owners who can protect themselves.” “The whole effort of gun control is transparent: they [‘the elite types,’ as Pratt calls them] are coming for the guns.” “Background checks don’t work…. The only thing a background check does is allow the government to compile a list of names… we don’t want that information getting in the hands of a government that’s out of control.” 

Efforts to manufacture and market smart guns are being met with a similarly unhinged response; today’s New York Times has a story on Belinda Padilla, whose firm Armatix is trying to sell “a new .22-caliber handgun that uses a radio frequency-enabled stopwatch to identify the authorized user so no one else can fire it.” Padilla has received threatening phone calls for daring to help this new company get off the ground, while photos of where she keeps a post office box have been posted online. When the reasonable and supportive president of a local gun club said the Armatix weapon “could revolutionize the gun industry,” gun activists went into overdrive:

They took to, a forum for gun owners, and called for vigilante-style investigations of Ms. Padilla and Armatix. They seized on her appearance before a United Nations panel to testify on gun safety and her purported association with a group once led by a protégé of George Soros.

“I have no qualms with the idea of personally and professionally leveling the life of someone who has attempted to profit from disarming me and my fellow Americans,” one commenter wrote.

Dionne begins his column by asking: “Have we gone stark raving mad?” Some obviously have. Others, like the reasonable people in groups like Every Town for Gun Safety, show signs of sanity.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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There is something pretty intimidating about arguing with gun nuts.

They usually descend like harpies on articles like these.  I'm waiting.

stricter, more uniform background checks and a review of the role weapons play in domestic violence and suicide. Those are pretty innocuous and eminently reasonable aims

Sure.  But innocuous and reasonable doesn't seem to drive contemporary politics.



Laws like the Georgia law infuriate me. Can we have our spaces free of instruments of death?

Jim Pauwels - The problem is that the ones who can least handle the power of life and death are the ones who most desperately want it.

"Carrying a concealed weapon is legal in all fifty states"

I'm in favor of reasonable weapons regulattion, but this is simply not true. Reciprocity, whatever that means, does not exist.

There should be restrictions on the number of weapons possessed by a single individual and th number of rounds that can be loaaded ina single weapon at one time.  There are a number of other reasonable measurs that can be undertaken.



Joe - reciprocity does not exist (yet), that is true; what is true is that carrying a concealed weapon is legal in all fifty states. Rules on where one can carry a weapon vary by state; in Illinois, for instance, you can take it into church but not into a park; in Georgia, you can take it into church and a park, which this guy did in Forsyth County last Thursday, "stalking the park," as it was described, much to the discomfort of parents and children attending a Little League game. More than twenty calls were made to 911, but sheriffs said they couldn't do anything because the man with the gun was acting within his rights.

I grew up around hunting rifles and a small town where hunting was part of the culture but I really don't see how anything good can happen from the proliferation of handguns in the US. And concealed carry permits?! What could possibly go wrong

And there is this from Fr. Z (this is completely off the charts even for him which is saying something!)

About carrying a handgun while saying Mass… I am neutral on that point.

He is neutral about carrying a handgun while saying mass!

Finally, maybe it would be a good idea for all priest and bishops to obtain concealed carry weapon licenses.

So there you have it. Fr. Z is packing heat! Scary thought!

Scary indeed. Now turn to your neighbor, complement him on his Glock .40 and nice shoulder holster, and say, "Peace be with you." 

Concealed carry is not legal in NYC, where I live, unless you have a permit.  The average law abiding citizen cannot get a permit. So to say it is legal everywhere is misleading. In Georgia you may NOT take the gun into church if the church does not permit it. reasonable minds can differ about the nature of restrictions on guns.  Why people in NYC should be upset about what they do in Ga. is not clear to me.  On the other hand Ga. style permissiveness would not fly in a city of 8 million people where noon time crowds can literally force you off the sidewalk, and milions of transients pass through daily.  Hysterical tirades like Dionne's persuade nobody.  People who disagree with you will listen to reason if addressed in a reasonable tone.  If you address the with the complete contempt that Mr. donne does you won't get anywhere.

How does this grab you:  "About carrying a handgun while saying Mass… I am neutral on that point."

Who else but the inimitable Fr. Z would think such a thing.  Sigh.  

 QUAERITUR: Are priests allowed to carry handguns? | Fr. Z's Blog

I know Ann and couple that with a siege mentality when it comes the the Church, a general feeling that we are in an inter-ecclesial "war", an agressive temperment (at least as reflected in online comments), and questions can and should be asked by relevant authorities why he feels the need to have weapons. As someone in a position of leadership (at least somewhat I don't think he has a parish or ministers to actual, real people but still..), his comments are irresponsible and should be reported at least to the bishop.

As I said, I grew up around hunting rifles and this was in the day when they were propped up in the closet, in their case, with the shells right on the top shelf (even before the subsequent laws around proper at home storage, etc) so am not hyper-allergic to weapons.

But, I would certainly not feel safe in a church of all places with a priest without training or experience having a handgun. It just creates a general aura of fear that is not psychologically healthy and disproportionate to any actual threat he might experience. 

Seriously.....very concerning....

Is this really something you worry about?  Do you really think anyone is going to be shot in Church by a second amendment activist? Do you live in Georgia? Is it legal to carry a gun into Church where you live? You are aware that even in Georgia if the pastor says no guns then they are not permitted.  I cannot think of any priest I have ever met that would carry a gun in Church.  The idea is ludicrous. It's the hysterical tone of articles like this that are aimed at creating the "general aura of fear . .  disproportionate to any actual threat"  that you bemoan.

Is this really something you worry about?

Yes it is. I live in Canada and have seen unbalanced people use firerams to threaten their family. Not a lot but enough to make me concerned about ensuring that weapons are used responsibly by responsible people. And proliferation of these weapons simply cannot be good for public safety.

Do you really think anyone is going to be shot in Church by a second amendment activist?


 Is it legal to carry a gun into Church where you live?



I cannot think of any priest I have ever met that would carry a gun in Church.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf is a likely candidate and has written about in his blog. And apparently, according to him, he has quite the following and is influential in some Catholic circles.


The idea is ludicrous.

Not according to Fr. Z.

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