LISTEN: 85% of the guns owned in the US are NOT semi-automatics–we don’t want them banned!

The fear-mongers are doing a full court press.  Those of us who seek a ban on possession of semi-automatic weapons need to be clear: we don’t want all guns banned!  W just want a ban on the 15% of guns that are death-dealing semi-automatic weapons.  This post from Salon crystallizes the need for everyone to focus on the real issue and not go off half-cocked!

Mitch McConnell email: They're coming for your guns

Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In an email to supporters, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pledged to oppose gun control legislation and warned his supporters that Democrats “want take your guns.”

“You and I are literally surrounded,” the email says, according to The Hill. “The gun-grabbers in the Senate are about to launch an all-out-assault on the Second Amendment. On your rights. On your freedom.”

The email, signed by McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton, lays out which measures the Senate could take:

-The Feinstein Gun Ban, which will criminalize firearms by how they look.
-A thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme hidden under the guise of “background checks” to ensure federal government minders gain every bureaucratic tool they need for full-scale confiscation.
-An outright BAN on magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
-And that’s not even close to the end of it.

23 new Executive Orders.

It is almost hard to believe the sheer breadth and brazenness of this attempt to gut our Constitution.

Well, Mitch McConnell is not going to stand aside.

“It is almost hard to believe the sheer breadth and brazenness of this attempt to gut our Constitution,” the email says, asking supporters to sign a ”Defense of the Second Amendment pledge.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

Sowing Seeds of Hope Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

Sowing Seeds of Hope                                                                                                                                                                              Susan Lea Smith                                                                                                                                                                                  Cedar Hills United Church of Christ                                                                                                                                                 January 20, 2013 (as preached on the occasion of Martin Luther King Sunday)

Today we remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who loved God and his neighbors with all his heart,might, soul and mind,  who picked up his cross on his people’s behalf and behalf of all of us, and who sought to follow Jesus until the day he was struck down by an assassin’s bullet.

Dr. King led the civil rights movement throughout the 1950s and 60s and taking Gandhi’s approach of non-violent resistance to evil, he led boycotts, marches, sit-ins and protest of every sort.  But he was more than a civil rights leader. He was a tireless advocate for peace, nuclear disarmament and an end to the war in Vietnam.  And he fought for economic justice at every turn.  Indeed, Dr. King was in Memphis fighting for economic justice, supporting the city’s garbage collectors strike when he was shot dead on that sad day in April.

Dr. King was not only an activist: he  inspired us through his remarkable speeches and sermons.  He was indeed a modern day prophet and an absolutely consummate preacher!  Now prophets have two unique tasks.  The first is speaking the truth in love – diagnosing the true ills of a people and then prescribing a cure even if that requires telling them uncomfortable and inconvenient truths. The second is sowing hope that these difficulties will be overcome.  The emphasis prophets give each task depends upon the circumstances of their time and place: they proclaim what the people need to hear

In today’s Scripture, Isaiah, a prophet of long ago, spoke at a time when his people most needed hope.  He spoke at a time of hardship, confusion, and despair.  He assured them that by remaining true to the inclusive message of liberation and compassionate justice, their loving God would bring them honor among nations and prosperity. Through these words, Isaiah did his best to sow seeds of hope.

Likewise, Dr. King’s clarion call to justice and his hope-filled vision of the future gave courage and hope to those of us who fought beside him, facing arrest, fire hoses, police dogs, cross burnings and death.   But he supplied hope not just to those who struggled along with him: he offered an inclusive hope of racial equality, peace, and economic justice for all.  And he promised that one day we would achieve those dreams, we would indeed reach that mountaintop.  And from that mountaintop, our whole society would see the gospel vision, the Kingdom of God that, with God’s help, would come to pass on earth.  Quite simply, Dr. King sowed seeds of hope—far and wide.

Since the morning of December 14th, 2012, when I spent hours praying in this sanctuary…since December 14th,  a day that like Pearl Harbor day will live in infamy, I’ve considered how Dr. King would have responded to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and the larger problem of gun violence.

Dr. King abhorred violence in any form and, like Gandhi, was sorely disappointed on those occasions when his followers succumbed to that terrible…terrible temptation to use violence against evil.  So there is no doubt in my mind that Dr. King would have been at the forefront of the battle against gun violence.  But I am less certain which strategies he would have used to counter the power of the NRA with Congress and an antagonistic Supreme Court.

Perhaps Dr. King would have simply urged us to keep pressure on our legislators, writing letters, attending town meetings and talking to them at the legislature.  I have it on impeachable authority that this strategy is very important right now.

Perhaps Dr. King would have led us in marching on Washington (and the state capitols of our great nation) to demand effective regulation of such weapons.

Perhaps Dr. King might even have urged us to commit non-violent civil disobedience, to do radical, risky things—things that I fear I lack the courage to do.  I can imagine that he and his closest followers might have stormed into gun shows where semi-automatic weapons are sold to convicted felons and people suffering from dangerous mental illnesses – and, like Jesus, upset the tables of the merchants of death.  But I think he would have refrained because, however tempting, that sort of action would exacerbate fear.

Though I am not certain about his strategies for direct action, I am certain he would have shared another dream – a dream that not one, single more American child will die by bullets from the barrel of a semi-automatic weaponHe would have shared that dream.

He also would have sought to sow seeds of hope for all Americans, seeking to create an inclusive vision even for those who grasp most tightly onto their semi-automatic weapons – suspicious of humanity and afraid of their government.  For you see, the job of a prophet is more than telling people what they are doing is wrong or what they ought to be doing.  A prophet must illuminate a vision of the kingdom of God and reassure us that we, with the help of God, can bring that kingdom to earth.

Forces of darkness are telling Americans that we need semi-automatic weapons to resist foreign invasion, crime, governmental tyranny, and social disorder when the apocalypse comes. They bombard our friends and neighbors with a message that our country is on its way to ruin and our government is somehow responsible for that ruin.  They seek to have us desperately worship the false idol of those weapons, trusting in firepower, rather than our God.  They truly are engaged in a battle for the American soul.

Sadly, Dr. King is not here to fight the battle against gun violence.  Only you and I can fight this battle.  But the same Spirit of loving compassion and justice that nurtured, called and guided Dr. King, the voice of God that spoke so clearly and strongly to him, remains.  That Spirit now calls us to do our part to assure America is no longer a society where deeply disturbed people have ready access to weapons of mass destruction.

In her sermons over the last few months, beginning with the one before Sandy Hook when she read a list of recent mass shootings, the Rev. Mary Sue Evers has provided a prophetic voice about gun violence.  Have we been listening?  Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear?  I hope and believe we do.

But today I ask even more of you, of us, than she has asked.  For we must address not just the symptoms, but the disease that makes people hold onto their guns so tightly: their profound fear of our society and our government. Dr. King taught us that the antidotes to fear are self-awareness, courage, love, and faith. So, to combat the disease of fear that grips those who cling onto semi-automatic rifles, to help them fight their fear– each of us must serve as a prophetic voice, intentionally, consciously, sowing seeds of love, of faith, of hope among our friends and neighbors.

To be such a voice, we must be careful about how we address the various flaws of our society.  Whenever we talk about problems in apocalyptic terms, whenever we use rhetoric more extreme than our positions, and whenever we blame the flaws of our society on corrupt government and mindless bureaucrats, we play into the hands of darkness and we foster more fear, cynicism, and despair.

I confess that I’ve said such things, I’ve used that sort of dark rhetoric— and I suspect that many of you have as well.  We ought to be more careful.

We ought to take care not to feed apocalyptic nightmares by suggesting that somehow the sky is falling: the global economy poised on the brink of collapse or that any other problem from nukes in Iran to global warming is about to destroy life as we know it.

We ought to take care not to act, or overstate our position, in ways that create more fear instead of less.  If we moderate our actions and our rhetoric, we can foster dialogue: if our issue is with death-dealing semi-automatic weapons, it is good to reassure owners of ordinary hunting rifles that we do not support banning their weapons.

We ought to take care not to foster contempt for our government by suggesting that our democratically-elected government is somehow illegitimate.  Each time we engage in such dark rhetoric, we reinforce the darkness. Leave the darkness to the darkness.

So, what should we say?  What might Isaiah or Dr. King say in these confusing and troubling times.  Preach the good news and sow seeds of Gospel faith: trust in God’s abundance, mercy, and justice, and foster that trust in others. Lift up the victories and sow seeds of hope—celebrate the states that are acting on this issue and celebrate that our President is prepared to lead the battle against gun violence even through it carries political risks.  Tell stories of compassion, justice, and love.  Let me share just one little story—an almost unbelievable story—right now.

In my last sermon, I recounted how directly experiencing God, the Spirit that is love, during my stay in India has led me to experience the same exquisite joy whenever I serve as a conduit of that love to others.  I gave one small example – my Wal-Mart moment, when the Spirit moved me to pay the bill of a woman at the checkout counter at Wal-Mart who had her credit card declined.  Her plight flooded me with compassion in part because I’m sure her teenage daughter was absolutely mortified!!!  My Wal-Mart moment indeed freed me to share God’s abundance with others whether they just need an ear to listen, money for gas or groceries, or a hot home-made meal.

 Well, today I’d like to finish that story.  About two years ago, I found the tables turned.  One night, I was standing at the Safeway checkout counter with my son Nathanial, who had just returned from college.  He still eats like a teenager –those of you who have had teenagers can imagine what my grocery bills are like when he’s home! That night, when I zipped my debit card through and punched in my PIN, the system declined it.  I was embarrassed and anxious about Nathanial finding out how tight money was.  As I turned to talk with him, the woman behind me in line just handed her card to the clerk and paid my bill – more than $240.  When I asked where to send the money to repay her, she smiled and told me not to worry about that – she had enough money. That woman’s loving act was a simple, vivid illustration of how God’s love indeed fills the entire world and how trust in God enlivens, enriches, and simplifies one’s life.

The truth that we can proclaim to our friends and neighbors is that amazing things happen when we act out of loving compassion and when we trust in God’s abundance, mercy and justice.  If Dr. King were here today, I believe he’d remind us that we are all called to act with loving compassion.  We are all called, in whatever way we can find, to light a candle, to be a force of light chasing away the darkness.  Quite simply, we are all called to be prophets and to take on the task of sowing seeds of hope.  I pray that each of us will respond to that call. Amen.

Obama’s gun proposals supported by the majority of Americans

Polls show Obama’s proposals are supported by the majority.  Visit our polls page

What do you think?

Obama’s Gun Violence Proposal

Brad Plummer of the Washington Post reports that President Obama has 10 major strategies to address gun violence::

* Require criminal background checks for all gun sales.
* Take four executive actions to ensure information on dangerous individuals is available to the background check system.
* Reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban.
* Restore the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.
* Protect police by finishing the job of getting rid of armor-piercing bullets.
* Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime.
* End the freeze on gun violence research.
* Make our schools safer with more school resource officers and school counselors, safer climates, and better emergency response plans.
* Help ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need.
* Ensure health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.

Some strategies require Congressional action, but the White House announced that President Obama will sign 23 executive orders on guns and gun violence immediately:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Mass Shootings in 2012

You may notice a theme to the 2012 mass shootings: they tend to involve the use of semi-automatic rifles and handguns.  To the extent that I have not listed the specific weapon used, it does not mean a different type of weapon was used: it means that the police have not released that detail or I have not yet found mention of the type of weapon used.  

Feb. 21: Norcross, Ga.
4 killed, plus shooter
A man who had been asked to leave his family’s business returned and killed his sisters and their husbands before shooting himself. The man had a history of violence, but had purchased the gun legally. Why could someone with a history of violence purchase a gun legally?

Feb. 27: Chardon, Ohio
3 killed, 2 injured
A sophomore at another area school walked into the Chardon High School cafeteria and fired 10 shots at four students sitting at a table. He used a Ruger MK III Target .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun, reportedly stolen from his uncle. 

March 8: Pittsburgh
1 killed, plus shooter, 7 injured
A former Duquesne University teaching assistant barred from campus began shooting using two semi-automatic handguns in a psychiatric hospital. He was shot dead by police. Police said at least one gun was stolen.

April 2: Oakland
7 killed, 3 injured
A former nursing student who had dropped out returned to the school, pulled an administrator into a nursing classroom, lined up students against the wall and began shooting them.  He purchased the  .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun legally.

April 6: Tulsa
3 killed, 2 injured
Two men  targeted random black men in four locations as they drove around town in an Easter weekend shooting spree.  The weapon has not been identified.

May 30: Seattle
5 killed, plus shooter, 1 injured
The shooter who had a history of mental and behavioral problems was asked by a barista to leave a coffee shop.  He stood up and opened fire using two .45 caliber semi-automatic handguns.  The guns were purchased legally and Stawicki had a concealed weapons permit.  Why would someone with a history of mental and behavioral problems be able to obtain a concealed weapons permit?

July 20: Aurora, Colo.
12 killed, 58 injured
A former grad student  reportedly entered a mall theater during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” set off gas canisters and opened fire with an M&P15 (AR15 type) semi-automatic rifle with a 100 bullet clip, a Glock .40 semi-automatic handgun with a large clip, and a pump-action .12 shotgun.  He also bought 6000 rounds of ammunition on the internet.

Aug. 5: Oak Creek, Wisc.
6 killed, plus shooter, 3 injured
A white supremacist walked into a Sikh temple and opened fire just before Sunday services. The gun was purchased legally.

Aug. 13: College Station, Texas
2 killed, plus shooter, 4 injured
A man opened fire on police who approached his house to serve an eviction notice about two blocks from the Texas A&M campus. Police shot the gunman and he died in custody. Police have not publicly stated how Engeldinger acquired the guns.

Sept. 27: Minneapolis
6 killed, plus shooter, 3 injured
A man  being fired from his job at a sign company pulled out a gun and shot his two managers, the owner, other employees and a UPS driver as he walked around the building before shooting himself. The gun was purchased legally.

Oct. 21: Brookfield, Wisc.
3 killed, plus shooter, 4 injured
A former Marine whose wife had obtained a restraining order against him three days earlier entered her workplace and shot her and six other women before killing himself. The restraining order made it illegal for Haughton to buy a gun, but he bought it from a private seller; no background check was required and no waiting period was enforced.

Dec. 11: Happy Valley, Ore.
2 killed, plus shooter, 1 injured
A former gyro shop employee  opened fire randomly inside Clackamas Town Center shopping mall with a AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. His gun, reportedly stolen from an acquaintance, jammed during the spree but he killed himself with a final shot.

Dec. 14: Newtown, Conn.                                                                                                                                                                         27 killed, plus shooter, unknown number injured

A young man killed his mother and then entered Sandy Hook Elementary School, shooting and killing 26 people, including 20 children, using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and two semi-automatic handguns, and then killed himself. The shooter had stolen the guns from his mother, but his mother had legally purchased those guns.

Dec. 21: Frankstown Township, Pa.

3 killed, plus shooter, 3 injured
A gunman shot a woman through a church window, a man in a nearby home and the driver of a car he had hit while fleeing. He then hit a police car, injured three troopers, and was killed in a shootout.

Dec. 24: Webster, NY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3 killed, plus shooter, 2 injured                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sniper shot firefighters and his sister, setting blaze to house to ambush firefighters, using a semi-automatic AR15 Bushmaster rifle, another rifle, and handgun.  The shooter was an ex-con who could not legally buy firearms; uncertain how he obtained them.