Obama gives voice to the national determination on gun control

AFP/GETTY IMAGES President Obama pauses as he speaks during a memorial service for the victims and relatives of the Sandy … Continued


President Obama pauses as he speaks during a memorial service for the victims and relatives of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 16, 2012 in Newtown, Conn.

President Obama gave a deeply pastoral address to the Newtown, Conn., community, wracked by the shooting massacre of 20 children and six adults in an elementary school on Friday. In a Sunday evening address to an interfaith service, he solemnly read the names of each victim to the audible sobs in the audience.

But the president also gave voice to a growing national determination to end gun violence. “We cannot tolerate this anymore,” he said Sunday.

As he reminded the country, this is the fourth time he as president has presided over national mourning for victims of mass shooting, the fourth time he has “hugged survivors,” and the fourth time he has “consoled families of victims.”

It was clear that in the mind of the president, this is four times too many. Obama confirmed what many of us already know: we are failing as a nation to protect our children.

And to Obama, one American father, this was the final straw.

He raised the policy bar, not only by claiming that failing to protect our children is a national failure, but also by directly challenging the main argument of the pro-gun lobbies and their politicians.

The “freedom” argument.

Repeated mass shootings are not freedom. “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” Obama asked.

No, we are not.

I would add the sheer number and firepower of today’s guns are not weapons that fall under a rubric of the right to form militias, per the Second Amendment, but are weapons of mass social destruction. The Second Amendment is not a license to kill.

Polls taken in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting show a shift in American attitudes toward more gun control. It is becoming increasingly clear that Americans realize the unfettered flow of guns into our society is making us less free not more. These guns find their way far too easily into the hands of the mentally unstable and the school and mall-type massacres are increasingly the result. But these guns also circulate easily in cities like Chicago, and more carnage results. There are numerous deaths, including the deaths of children and young people, and they make horrifying statistics. Read this list of homicide victims, most of them from guns in Chicago, just from 2012. This must not be.

The moral and ethical condemnations of the gun lobbies are getting more pointed. In addition to the support for gun control legislation, there is a growing consensus that the National Rifle Association and its gun manufacturer supporters cannot be allowed to buy the votes they need to secure unrestricted access to their lethal armory, especially assault weapons.

Many are calling out the profound immorality of our lax gun laws and what that says about us as a nation.

Gary Wills, in an extraordinary piece in the New York Review of Books blog, calls guns “Our Moloch.” “Moloch,” a pagan deity, demanded the sacrifice of living children. Obeisance to the gun industry, according to Wills, demonstrates “our fealty, our bondage, to the great god Gun.”

I asked, after the Aurora, Colo., gun massacre, do Americans trust guns more than God?

Of course they do. Americans are the most heavily armed nation in the world, with 90 guns per every 100 people per a 2007 study. In that study, U.S. citizens owned 270 million of the world’s 875 million known firearms. Imagine what that number is now, four years later? Does it approach 100 guns for every 100 Americans?

Americans trust their guns, not God.

How many more kids have to die, before you guys say, ‘we want less guns, not more?’” asked CNN’s Piers Morgan on his show Friday.

Here is a moral red line in the sand. No more deaths of children from gun massacres. Not even one is acceptable.

All we ask is that our politicians have a little courage to stand up to the gun lobbies and their funders. How can they justify any further cowardice on passing tough gun laws in the face of national models of courage like Dawn Hochsprung, the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal and Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, who ran toward the sound of shooting?

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite  is professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress

Related content on On Faith:

National Cathedral dean: ‘… the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby’

* Graham: Why the shock and awe?

* Huckabee: Sandy Hook shooting not surprising after God ‘removed from our schools’

* Wintz: Quit using ‘loss’ when referring to death

* Pace: Comfort the grieving

* Stanley: In tragedy we grieve; in God, we hope

* Quinn: Where was God?

* Kaur: Journey from Oak Creek to Newtown

* Hirschfield: In wake of Newtown massacre, love more important than explanations

* Thistlethwaite:God weeps: 27 children, staff killed in Conn. school shooting

* Md. pastors were searching for solutions even before mass shooting

* Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting shocks a nation


    The congress must produce a federal law with a strong fixed penalty for any person found guilty by jury of the possesion of a miltary type of a assault weapon or high-capaity magazine other than on duty police or on duty military. The right to bear arms, of cource but not these type of arms. Call your members of congress. I did. It is time to draw a line on regular people with these type of arms and or magazine gun clips which are for the killing people.. Make the call.

  • NickyD

    Quinn: Where was God?
    God was at my house. We were having our second cup of coffee, at about that time.
    We laughed and joked at Huckabee’s comment, regarding him being kicked out of School.
    The Joke’s on, Whom?

  • Citizen C

    The recent escalation in the more publicized violent crimes are being committed by people that suffer from some form of mental illness, usually followed by the statement that they had gone off their medications prior to their spree of senseless violence. Instead of being so concerned about buisnesses paying for abortions, and birth control pills maybe we should focus on better mental healthcare services, and free mental medications for those that are depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic, etc. to help protect and ensure the safety of our citizens.

  • JLives

    I agree with your sentiment regarding excessively high capacity magazines, specifically for for center-fire rifles.

    But not with your call to ban “assault weapons.” This said, my objection has more to due with definition than desire.

    To be precise, current law already prevents the ordinary civilian from possessing a military-grade assault weapon without first having passed rigorous federal and state licensing requirements.

    What is commonly called an assault rifle in common media parlance is merely a modern semi-automatic center-fire rifle dressed up to look like a military rifle. These weapons did not become popular and common because civilians want to be soldiers, but because soldiers returning to civilian life wanted preferred a weapon that they were already familiar with.

    The popularity of this type of weapon has more to do with familiarity than the desire to be a soldier. Just as the common armaments of each era have become the most common civilian arms — the rifled musket coming from the Revolutionary War, the Breechlock designs from the Civil War, the Lever-Action rifles of the late 1800’s, the M1 Garands and Springfield rifles of WW1 and WW2, we now have the AR-styled rifles of the modern age.

  • Hu Dignam

    As long as Charlton & Brad don’t feel safe without a gun there won’t be any changes in the Gun Laws.

  • persiflage

    Compared to the current fiscal cliff, enacting sensible gun control laws by way of this congress will be more like climbing Mt. Everest. The GOP does have it’s priorities and ‘principles’ in perfect alignment.

  • Shawn Porter

    Disabled Vet Myself. Allow me to say this. Stop being morons. It is Illegal to kill, steal, and a number of other issues. Do you beleive making it harder to get guns is the answer. I am sure anyone who DOES NOT FOLLOW THE LAW, wait that is a criminal, well they would be able to get a gun. You can get them ILLEGALLY, The USA should make them more available, give them away with a fill up of gas…. Do you really beleive someone would be tempted to pull a gun on you if everyone had one. What this nation needs to be more worried about is Mental Health of our people. If someone picks up a screw driver and kills someone with it, will we ban the tool?? WAKE UP !!

  • jjlc125

    Gary Wills is wrong about equating gun violence with child sacrifice to Moloch. No, the equivalent practice in our country is legalized abortion, which has taken a far greater toll than all the school shootings put together.

  • persiflage

    Several million more unwanted children on the adoption roles, being farmed out by overworked social service agencies makes perfect sense, of course.

    And the forced birthing part is positively Old Testament -considering women have only just escaped the dominance of such archaic rules a mere 40 years ago. I think I’ll stick with the Gary Wills assessment – he’s usually a boundless font of common sense.


    These type of arms purpose are for the killing of humans period.

  • persiflage

    The globe is expoding with humans – birth control and abortion will never stem the tide. The misery of living a life without the necessary resourses never enters the minds of well-fed ideologs that stupidly believe they understand a life of poverty and deprivation in a 3rd world country.

    Ideology gets in the way of clear thinking and common sense every time. Humans are responsible for human life on planet earth – what more needs to be said?

  • persiflage

    ‘You might note that there were no armed citizens to stop the norway murderer either.’

    That happens when you don’t expect mass murder to be imminent.

    Scott, your mental state appears to be verging on the ‘watchful waiting’ status. Your interpretation of the 2nd ammendment is an additional warning sign. Are you preparing to ‘set an example’
    with regard to your cry for an armed population?

    Just asking……..I hope On Faith staff are paying attention.

  • Imarkex4

    If you really want to stop the murder of children ban Abortion.Millions of children will be saved.Far more than even if you banned all guns.

  • Imarkex4

    You know i’m right.If it is alive,growing and Human, it’s a human being you are killing with Abortion.

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