Time to ban assault weapons

Miguel De La Torre is professor of social ethics and Latino/a studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver and an ordained Baptist minister.  When I first read this piece a couple of days ago, I was shocked by its emotional tone and wondered why the horrific events in Aurora CO were affecting this guy so much more deeply than they affected me.  Was he a bit thin-skinned, or was I emotionally retarded?

When I realized that Dr. De La Torre’s children lost friends in the Aurora shooting everything snapped into focus.  This opinion piece originally was originally published by the Associated Baptist Press.  AGB

Time to ban assault weapons

By Miguel De La Torre

It has been a horrific day, and as I type these words the day is not yet over. I have shed tears. I have hugged my daughter closer. I have yelled and cursed God. I am emotionally spent. Still, I must capture this moment in words. Where the hell was God while innocent lambs were being slaughtered?

I don’t know, and, honestly, no response is satisfactory. Rhetorical Christian clichés and unexamined romanticized eschatological hope fall short. Maybe God simply was occupying the same space while God’s only begotten Son hung from a cross.

Selfishly I’m thankful that my kids are safe. But what does that say about those who senselessly lost loved ones. Were they any less precious in the eyes of the Creator?

Three family members of my daughter’s friends lay dead in a movie theater that she patrons and where a close friend works. A theater to which she wanted to go and watch the premier summer blockbuster if it wasn’t for the fact that she is bed-ridden overcoming a minor illness. My son, who is interning in Wyoming, is concerned because he hasn’t yet heard from a close friend. He fears the worst.

At this moment of questioning, I wish I could simply walk away from my God and faith, but where would I go? Only in the depths of hopelessness have I found life, meaning and purpose. Only within this cosmic paradox can I truly understand what it means to hope against all hope. Mine is not a faith with rigid and clear-cut answers; rather, it is a faith of doubting and probing questions.

Although I don’t understand, I remain a man of faith. I believe in a God of love; a God who reveals love via justice. I believe that even in this dark night of the soul, union with the light of the Creator remains possible. I believe in the day when all will stand before eternity and give account for the consequences of their actions, more so for the sins of omission than the sins of commission.

And on that day, the man who pulled the trigger in that crowded theater will be held accountable. Not just him, but all of us who allowed him to walk into that theater with weapons of mass destruction. We have been complicit in arming him.

According to AMC (the theater where the massacre occurred), face-concealing masks and fake weapons are now banned. What about real weapons? Why does civilized society allow anyone to carry fully automatic assault weapons? Weapons whose purpose is not hunting or defensive, but whose sole function is to kill as many people as possible within a short period of time

We once banned such weapons, but the Federal Assault Rifle Ban expired in 2004. Many spineless liberals have remained silent on gun control because of the lobby power of the NRA. Many bought conservatives remain in the NRA’s pockets. And for some who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, Jesus is perceived as driving a pick-up truck with a gun rack.

Nevertheless, those lawmakers in the pockets of the NRA are now claiming — before a full 24 hours has passed — that the death toll could have been minimized if gun owners with concealed-weapon permits were allowed to bring their weapons to the theater.

One in particular, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, said it best: “You know with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying that could’ve stopped this guy more quickly?” Really? But, then again, he also blames the shooting on deterioration of Judeo-Christian values within the United States. Evidently in his mind having assault weapons whose only function is mass killing is a Judeo-Christian value. God have mercy.

Both the President and his opponent spoke eloquently concerning this tragedy. Their impromptu speeches were well choreographed. But words alone, no matter how heart-felt, are meaningless. It should not be surprising that neither candidate said a word about banning assault rifles. The NRA gods cannot be offended, even at a time like this.

Words — like faith — without works, are dead. What we the public — especially those of us who claim to follow the God of life — must do is to put an end to the instruments that bring death. We can begin by holding politicians responsible.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama called for reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons, but once elected has done nothing. In 2010, the Brady Campaign gave Obama an “F” for his “lack of leadership” on gun control. Mitt Romney did sign a ban on assault weapons while governor of Massachusetts but now bills himself as the candidate who will protect the rights of gun owners.

Yes, I believe in the great and dreadful Day of Judgment. And on that day mass murderers using assault rifles will be held eternally accountable. But so will those who made assault rifles available to them: the NRA, the politicians they bought, the politicians that cowered and the Christians who fused and confused the Word of God with the Second Amendment.