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Columbia Missourian

DAVID ROSMAN: Politicians turn gun ownership into religious issue

By David Rosman
January 16, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

I wish to talk about federal and Missouri legislators who insist on pushing religion upon the public through the legislative process. And there is a lot to write about, such as how these moves are causing a dangerous imbalance of the power between the two and the possibility of the United States being dominated by one religious entity over all others, including atheism.

One of the major points is the obvious violation of the First Amendment by those pushing agendas of permitting organized prayer in schools, anti-abortion legislation, marriage equality opposition and an unquestioned, God-given right to bear arms. These arguments being advanced by the religious right, or being politically incorrect, the Christian conservative political movement, appear to have the same bottom line — that the Bible or God justify these positions.

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In fact, the demonization of those who wish a separation or even a balance between our secular and sectarian authorities has become very clear since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Prominent political leaders, Newt Gingrich and Gov. Rick Perry, to name two, are blaming the loss of God in our education systems as the reason for mass murders.

Attempting to find such proposed legislation on the Missouri legislative docket is not an easy job, mostly because the titles and keywords offered are limited.

Rep. Mark Parkinson, R- St. Peters, introduced HCR8, which opens with; “… ‘First Law of Nature’ [is] the natural and fundamental right of all persons to ‘self preservation’, ‘self-defense’, and a ‘right of revolution’ against any and all dangers to life, liberty, and property…” That is not quite what Thomas Hobbes said in “Leviathan.”

This is not to say that religion is wrong or itself demonized. Christian leaders are, in part, responsible for pushing the gun control discussion front and center. The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein tells her readers that the “Rev. Larry Snyder, the head of the Catholic Church’s social service arm; National Association of Evangelicals' Leith Anderson; and mainline leaders from the Episcopal and Lutheran churches” have signed a communique calling for better gun control legislation. The communique includes that:

  1. Every person who buys a gun should pass a criminal background check.
  2. High-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines should not be available to civilians.
  3. Gun trafficking should be a federal crime.

As powerful a voice is in the secular community, with the National Atheist Party stating that, “The NAP is calling for stricter federal and state gun control laws and the reinstatement of the assault rifle ban.”

The problem is that others within the religious communities are arguing that owning a gun is a God-given right. Charles Dickinson, writing a letter to the Reno Gazette-Journal, is very typical of the sentiment. He wrote, “I don’t consider the Second Amendment to be my 'right' to own a gun. My right comes from God and cannot be legislated away. The Second Amendment only restricts the government from infringing on these rights.”

Author John S. Winter of Ontario, Canada, writes in a promotion for his upcoming book, "The Bible and Gun Control," that “Christ encourages his disciples to sell a coat and ‘buy a sword’ for self-defense. (See Luke 22:35-38.)”

Blogger Japete, in her “Common Gunsense,” blog, talks about her pastor friend who coined the term "Gundamentalism" defining those who believe “that gun rights are God-given rights that cannot be limited at all. This belief in divinely given gun rights lifts gun rights above all others in the Constitution.”

Why are we making gun ownership and limitations on handguns, shotguns and long rifles, or the restriction on magazine capacity, like currently proposed in New York state, a religious issue? And if gun ownership is considered an issue addressed by the Christian scriptures, then would the lack of any gun control legislation in itself be a violation of the First Amendment?

Worse, why do the Gundamentalists use their God to instill fear? What is the ultimate fear being instilled upon each of us by using biblical verse to justify the unlimited ownership of firearms and ammunition?

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.