The National Rifle Association was not always a morally bankrupt organization. For most of its long history, the NRA focused on gun safety, hunting, and sportsmanship. As a boy, I proudly displayed the NRA marksmanship patches that I earned at the shooting range at scout camp. Back in that era, the organization often supported reasonable gun control legislation.
But over the course of my adult life, the NRA has devolved into something else — a bloody pox on the American body politic. Even amidst a rising tide of horrific gun violence, the NRA has consistently opposed even the mildest efforts to regulate firearms, insisting that we treat deadly weapons with far less gravity than we apply to driving a car or buying a pack of Sudafed. As a result of this criminal negligence, they bear enormous bloodguilt for the death and wounding of countless Americans gunned down in their homes and on the streets.
Here in Idaho, the NRA has ignorantly and maliciously gutted regulations on concealed carry permits and pushed for guns on college campuses — against the wishes of the police chiefs and university presidents vested with responsibility for our security — thereby making all Idahoans less safe. The NRA is, in short, a hazard to public health — and they own the vast majority of our state’s lawmakers and elected officials.
But there is hope. Many responsible gun owners now recognize that the NRA does not share their values. Former president George H. W. Bush resigned his lifetime NRA membership in 1995, noting that the organization’s positions had come to offend his “own sense of decency and honor.” Others have realized that the NRA has become the tool of amoral gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than good and decent gun owners.
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A gun-owning member of my congregation, who is an honored army veteran, recently wrote me: “I used to argue gun rights and the like. No longer. The NRA and too many firearm advocates now argue only from extremism. They refuse to negotiate or even consider anything unless it loosens restrictions. There are no standards being upheld, and they have argued themselves away from a place at the debate table.”
Undoubtedly, NRA advocates will respond as they always do: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” What nonsense. People kill people with terrible efficiency — because they have automatic and semi-automatic weapons that allow them to shoot off round after round. As Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Rodricks lamented last week: “Guns have presented us with today’s national nightmare. Guns give hatred its full, bloody force. Guns make the unspeakable real.”
In that spirit, I conclude with a prayer written by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, the founder and chair of Rabbis Against Gun Violence:
“God, we know we must act,
and we know that, in order to act,
we must feel the urgency — Your Urgency.
We must channel Your pain
at the deaths of Your children
and remind our lawmakers to choose life.
We’ve been too quiet,
mistaking status updates and reactionary prayers
for true repentance for the worship of a weapon.
Our nation has endured
the epidemic of Gun Violence
for far too long.
We pray to You for renewal
as we spread our protective wings over one another again,
running to justice,
and choosing life.
May we sing louder than weapons and merit to see You in each other’s eyes,
sanctifying Your Name
by standing together
by rising up again,
this time rebuilding Your World
by saving each other.”
Dan Fink is the rabbi for the Ahavath Beth Israel congregation.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.