Rev. Thomas, the former General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, is now a professor and administrator here at CTS. Follow his timely, provocative writings on the issues of our day.
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On Bullets and Baseball
Join us for the 141st NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits at America’s Center in the heart of St. Louis, April 13-15, 2012
With over 500 exhibitors covering 340,000 square feet of exhibit hall space, educational seminars, celebrities, and fun filled special events, bring the whole family – there will be something for everyone! Spend the day exploring the products from every major firearm company in the country, book the hunt of a lifetime in our exclusive outfitter section, and view priceless collections of firearms in our gun collector area. You’ll also see knives, wildlife art, shooting accessories, hunting gear, ATV’s, and much more! (NRA website)
It’s nice to know the NRA wants to be family friendly! When they are not busy distorting the Constitution, pressuring politicians to pass dangerous laws like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground,” challenging cities like Chicago that are desperately trying to reduce the flow of guns onto their streets, or peddling lies about anyone who dares to challenge their potent political lobbying machine, the NRA is planning festivals where you can take your children to show them the latest assault weapons, handguns, and “shooting accessories.” What might shooting accessories be? In Chicago they might include toe tags to identify the bodies of four year olds shot in random gang violence, or perhaps paper shrouds to cover up the bloody corpses left in the streets after a drive by shooting. Check these out in booth number 237.
On Easter weekend my wife and I took a walk next to a couple of baseball fields bordered by Lake Shore Drive and the Metra tracks near our Hyde Park home. The kids reminded me of my own Little League coaching stint trying to get youngsters to hold their gloves properly to catch ground balls and persuading tiny first basemen that blocking an errant throw is more important than keeping your foot on the bag while the ball sails past. These idyllic memories, not to mention those perhaps romanticized recollections of my own childhood glory were sadly interrupted by the discovery of several spent shell casings on the sidewalk. They were small caliber and the papers had reported no shootings in Hyde Park over the weekend, so it appears that no one was injured in whatever criminal behavior had taken place. But this obscene juxtaposition of baseball and bullets was a sad reminder of the vulnerability of so many of our children in Chicago and elsewhere.
Between Good Friday and Easter Monday five people were killed in our city; twenty-three were wounded. In the first quarter of this year 118 people were killed in Chicago, most by gunfire. While much attention has been focused as it should be on Trayvon Martin in recent weeks, the gun fueled carnage quietly goes on our streets. People kill people the NRA is quick to point out. But people kill people with guns, guns that the NRA ensures are readily available, guns that were never intended for hunting, but for killing people. Does anyone really believe that the framers of the Constitution who wanted to safeguard the single shot muskets and pistols of local militia members from the reach of the federal government in the 18th century imagined that they were protecting gun dealers wanting to sell automatic weapons to private citizens in the 21st century? Every year nearly 100,000 people are killed or injured by guns. That’s almost 10 times the total number of deaths and injuries sustained in battle during the 8 years of the American Revolution! And yet we live constantly under the threat of a gun epidemic protected by the perverse interpretation of a document written in a time and place that is unrecognizable today.
In a study carried out in 1998, researchers found that a gun in the home is eleven times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide, seven times more in a criminal assault or homicide, and four times more in an unintentional shooting death or injury than in a self-defense shooting. In other words, you are far more likely to kill yourself, be involved in a violent crime, or accidently kill or injure someone when you have a gun in your house than you are to protect your household. There was a time when the NRA was known for programs on gun safety. I guess having failed so miserably at that objective they are now reduced to planning gun bazaars for family entertainment.
Most of the kiddies attending this weekend’s NRA extravaganza probably don’t play baseball in parks where spent bullet shells can be found. They can be excused for failing to understand that the sponsors of the gun fair they are attending are, in large measure, responsible for many of their peers being shot to death and never making it to the Little League field. Sadly the NRA does know it, but chooses either to deny or ignore it. Their massive political clout, and the timidity of most politicians in their thrall, is the chief aid and abettor of the people who kill people with guns. And who, we should ask, are the real criminals?
John H. Thomas