The State of Wisconsin has been debating a provision to allow citizens to carry concealed guns. The arguments have raged in the local paper here, and my eyes perked up quickly when I saw Lutherans joining the fight.
What follows are two opinion pieces printed recently. The first, but Rev. Sue Moline Larson, a full-time lobbyist for the ELCA. She is for gun control. The second, from Keith Deschler a local Libertarian and an ELCA member, who is against gun control.
Whether you are for or against this particular measure, hopefully you agree with me that Mr. Deschler nails Larson with a wonderful understanding of Lutheran two-kingdom theology, and the proper role of Christian clergy. Particularly good are Mr. Deschler's last three paragraphs.
Can legislators be educated about gun violence in U.S.?
By the Rev. Sue Moline Larson
A generation ago, religious educator Morton Kelsey authored a book, "Can Christians Be Educated?" Thirty years later, Wisconsin residents are asking a similar question about state legislators. Can elected leaders hear sound information and be educated on issues of public safety? We hope a decisive majority of legislators can listen and will not press to overturn 135 years of sound government in order to promote the carrying of concealed weapons.
The argument that legalizing concealed weapons will increase personal protection has not been convincing in Wisconsin. In April 2003, the Public Policy Forum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization in Milwaukee, found that only 27 percent of Wisconsinites supported allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. Likewise, the Badger Poll asked if the state should allow "people who can legally own handguns to carry concealed weapons in most public places." Nearly 60 percent of men and a resounding 80 percent of women, who would supposedly benefit from putting a pistol in their purse, said "No!" A Gallup poll last year found that even a majority of gun owners oppose concealed weapons, and this year CNN/Gallup found that just a third of Americans feel safer in a public place where concealed weapons are legal.
Any change in our gun laws that increases ownership endangers us all while providing a false sense of security to many gun owners. The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence released chilling information that three-fourths of people who used a firearm to kill their current or former partner would have passed the test proposed to get a concealed weapons permit. So shouldn't women have guns in their possession to protect themselves?
To the contrary, the Annals of Emergency Medicine journal found that "purchasing a handgun provides no protection against homicide among women and is associated with an increase in their risk for intimate partner homicide." In fact, most battered women in Wisconsin who shoot their partner in self-defense are convicted of homicide or related crimes.So why do concealed carry proponents keep going against the will and common sense of the general public?
The answer is not surprising - there is profit to be made! Despite contracts of $19 million for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, $4 million to supply pistols to our Coast Guard, and $24 million for the Dept. of Homeland Security, gun manufacturers want to boost their business even further. By cleverly creating an ideology of myths and propaganda, they have succeeded in passing pseudo "personal protection" bills throughout the nation to sell more guns.
Their rosy market returns disguise the tragic consequences: more than 30,000 gun deaths in the U.S. Where among 17,000 suicides, and nearly 12,000 homicides are stories of the heroes confronting criminals? Only 300 were legal interventions, many by off-duty police officers carrying their guns.Police officers file reports on the dreadful details of gun violence, but clergy carry the burden of loss with the survivors. Long after tragic experiences become anonymous statistics in a state registry, we minister to the guilt, pain, and anger that linger and haunt.
Among the most tragic deaths are youth. Recently my husband sat with middle school students from his summer Bible Camp discussion group at the funeral of their 14-year-old friend who, in a moment of despondency, used a handgun to kill himself. This fall, a grandmother shared with him the anguish a neighbor, a dairy farmer, who was not able to wrest the handgun from his honor student daughter's hands before she shot and killed herself. Earlier in the year, he conducted the funeral of a father of three teenagers who used a handgun to take his life.
Even though thirty years have passed since my brother committed suicide, the stories are still compelling. I am drawn to read obituary columns and pray for the survivors of family members whose cause of death (`died unexpectedly at home') infers another suicide.
Guided by Lutheran doctrine and its Biblical foundations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has affirmed that "Government is responsible under God for the protection of its citizens and the maintenance of justice and public order." Too many legislators are committed to cutting the resources of government, including police, courts, and prevention programs, and replacing them with licensed self-appointed vigilantes who supposedly would maintain the peace. The ELCA National Church Council's 1994 "Message on Community Violence" directs that "As citizens in a democracy, we have the responsibility to join with others to hold government accountable for protecting society and ensuring justice for all."
We must all send a stronger signal to legislators pushing for legalizing concealed weapons that this ludicrous proposal is bad public policy.
The Rev. Sue Moline Larson is director of the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin, ELCA., Madison.
Radical church activism
As a Libertarian and as an ELCA Lutheran, I am quite dismayed that my church benevolence, along with that of 750 ELCA churches statewide, pays or the blatantly partisan, left-liberal political activism of Rev. Sue Moline Larson and her agency, the Lutheran Office of Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW).They not only support federal licensing of all firearms, and oppose concealed carry.
They also favor full federal/state funding of social services (instead of more private charity); an "efficient, singly administered state health plan (socialized medicine, with its bureaucracy, rationed care, and higher prices); tax reform with "targeted revenue increases" ( tax hikes on small businesses and average-income citizens); increasing the minimum wage (raise business costs, and reduce jobs for entry-level workers); and the defeat of a Colorado-style Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR, a modest limit on the growth of state government).
This radical socialist agenda is impractical, and has been proven a failure over the years. I deeply resent the fact that my religious denomination wishes to act as a partisan political entity.
If Rev. Larson and the LOPPW want to be involved in such activities, fine. However, they should be independent of any formal affiliation with a Christian church denomination, since the purpose of Christ's church is to nurture the spiritual life of its members, without regard to their political views and affiliations.
As for Rev. Larson, she should remember why she was ordained into the holy ministry in the first place - to preach the Gospel of Christ, to teach God's Word, to administer the sacraments, and to nurture spiritual growth in the lives of Christian believers.
If she doesn't see that as her primary purpose, then she should resign her ordination, and instead work full-time as a lobbyist for the Howard Dean/Ted Kennedy wing of the Democratic Party.Christians of whatever denomination should trust that the money placed in the collection plate is used to further God's Kingdom, and not Caesar's.
Keith R. Deschler,
3224½ Meachem Road, Racine