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Stand up and fight, just like the NRA says

By: Marybeth Beitzel (mbeitz2@uic.edu), Copy Editor

Illinois is no longer the nation’s misfit. A December ruling in a federal appeals court declared it unconstitutional to outlaw concealed carry, forcing Illinois, the last state in the nation with no concealed carry law, to draft new legislation. With some finesse, Governor Quinn managed to stretch his deadline until July 9th, granting extra time for a bill appropriate for Illinois and Chicago to be drafted and signed or appealed.

The discussion centralized on guns tends to arouse heightened emotion. Gun-rights activists feel gun control is an infringement on their rights and threat to their personal safety, whereas gun-control activists insist that an increase in guns will also lead to increase in injury. Though, it seems the gun-rights folks are winning out, with the concealed carry tally now 50-0. As a Chicago resident awaiting Quinn’s response it seemed appropriate to familiarize myself with some gun-rights ideologies.

The NRA is the nation’s largest and most politically powerful pro-gun organization, reaching membership of five million people, and heavily influencing gun legislation. The NRA’s annual convention commenced May 2-5 this year in Houston, Texas. Glenn Beck, CEO and Founder of Mercury Radio Arts, was keynote speaker of this year’s meeting. Beck presented a case of a “sick” and spiritually decrepit nation in need of saving, an over-bearing government in need of resisting, an incompetent president and media, and grand appreciation for all the “responsible” gun owners who allow for our “mothers and sisters to walk home unmolested”.

Coated with fear-inducing rhetoric masked in nationalistic comradery, Beck’s words led his audience somersaulting from one hoop to the next: history lesson to political berate to sermon. Know your audience: Texas- and, cue Jesus, which he indeed did. Beck’s speech concerned itself greatly with spirituality, specifically the Christian God, whom Beck made reference to several times throughout the duration of his talk. Finding no contradiction in his declaration that the NRA represented America as a whole, while imploring God as evidence for how government should be. In reference to the “elites in Washington” and the control-hungry government Beck remarked, “May I humbly remind them that God himself does not make decisions for the collective?” I’m not sure about God’s relevance in this venue, and in this political discussion. For one deeply concerned with honoring the Constitution there seems no equal concern with maintaining the separation of church and state. What of all the other freedoms the Constitution aims to protect? “We fight against those who deny the Creator, His power and then have the audacity to grant to themselves the collective power which even God denies himself,” said Beck.

Politics aside, Beck’s theology seems off. Not only did Jesus preach a message of peace, of turning the other cheek, of loving your enemies, he and his disciples practiced non-violence. The early followers of Jesus chronicled in the Christian Bible not once retaliated against those stoning them, insulting them, imprisoning, or killing them. Still, even without God, the logic seems flawed. First, the government has placed restriction on all potentially dangerous entities, and has done so without being accused of becoming tyrannical. No one, for example, seems too upset about speed limits or strict drunk driving laws. Where’s the justice in that? Is it not our right, as Americans, to be free, to drive how we want, where we want, when we want? Further, Beck, insisting guns aren’t the problem said, “A gun’s power— for good or for evil— is merely a reflection of the hands that holds it.” Then why are Beck and the NRA counting the federal background check legislation that recently died in Senate a victory? Beck, I’m confused.

Though it is no secret that our government has endorsed some of the most atrocious acts. Slavery and the Japanese internment camps were a few of the examples Beck used to remind his listeners of the government’s unfortunate capabilities. Beck explained that African Americans could have obtained freedom and resisted the KKK had they the right to bear arms. Even after slavery was abolished, Beck remembers Jim Crow laws that unofficially continued to strip African Americans of their human rights and says that this is why Martin Luther King Jr marched and fought for civil rights. It is this history that Beck rationalizes our need for guns to resist. The KKK also felt their American rights and Christian values were threatened when talk of equality for all races began; so, they banned together to, “reestablish Protestant Christian values in America by any means possible.” By any means possible. Beck does not address the KKK’s Christian roots or the endorsement of slavery by many professed Christians. Was slavery not ardently justified by drones of people insisting that owning slaves was honoring God’s word, that the burning cross blazing on the lawns of families beaten, raped, killed, meant to “show the light”? Though Beck does express the dire need to, “wear [Christianity] as a badge of honor, it is the only thing that can save us now”, isn’t it just as plausible that if the government’s past reminds us of all they’re capable of, then the same history also reminds us of all that Christians are capable of? But what is it? Forgive those Christians for their hate? Forget that they were Christians? Wear “the C-word as a badge of honor”?

To clear the air, I do not hold Christianity responsible for the harrowing scars our nation bears. Rather, I am leery of the utilization of God as endorser for this cause. Proclaiming His stamp of approval is appealing to Beck’s southern audience, I understand; though, it is not grounded and it is not consistent. Lastly, Beck’s mention of MLK is interestingly done. Is MLK, the non-violent civil rights leader, the best example for a gun-rights cause? He, who in the face of extreme opposition and angst, refused to respond with the same tactics. Could this man possibly agree with the NRA’s stance to fight fire with fire, that the only way to stop a guy with a gun is another “responsible” guy with a gun? I say not and I say let us consider the alternatives, and yes, please, let us remember MLK and his words, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

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