Wayne LaPierre Sent Me a Nice Letter: Here's My Reply

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Dear Wayne LaPierre,

Thank you for your very nice letter welcoming me to the NRA. I didn’t expect a letter from you, since you’re quite the celebrity these days, but it was a nice touch.

You suggested that I carry my NRA member card with pride, and I can promise you that I am carrying it. I have it in my wallet. However, you also said that the card “symbolizes what you stand for as an American,” and I wanted to state that, actually, it doesn’t.

As an American, I love my country and the people who live in it. I think we have a unique Constitutional system, and I am proud of the Bill of Rights, in particular. Even though I will never own a weapon, I understand that the Second Amendment protects an American’s right to “bear arms,” though I don’t think I understand that phrase the same way you do. I’m OK with that; I’m not trying to pry your weapons out of your hands.

But I don’t think the freedom to own any weapon you or I want is “what I stand for as an American.” I’m more persuaded by the line in the Declaration of Independence that says all Americans have an inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Unfortunately, the current gun freedom in this country threatens the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of millions of people.

You also said that the card means “that (I’m) a member of a family of patriots who make NRA the most powerful defender of freedom in America today.” Again, I take issue with this statement. I know that you’re biased, since you’re the executive vice president and all, but there are lots of organizations out there defending freedoms and rights that currently aren’t being recognized in our country, like Amnesty International, ACLU, and the Human Rights Campaign. This might just be some exaggerated bravado, and again, that’s OK.

But we also apparently have different definitions of “freedom.” I don’t believe that owning a gun has anything to do with freedom. In fact, as long as you carry a gun (except to use in hunting or sport), you’re not free; rather, you’re in bondage to the belief that violence can be defeated with violence.

You’re fond of saying that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but Mr. LaPierre, that’s a dangerous thing to say. It suggests that people can easily be divided between good and bad, and that you can tell quickly by looking. Ah, but the truth is that we all are both good and bad.

Furthermore, as I have already pointed out, the so-called “freedom” of Dylann Roof, Nikolas Cruz, and Stephen Paddock, to name only a few, was not any type of freedom for their 84 victims.

There is one thing I do agree with in your letter. You said that you need me now more than ever before. “Your voice, your activism, and your votes are how we’ll save freedom … I look forward to hearing from you and getting to know you better in the weeks and months ahead.”

So true, Mr LaPierre. I look forward to that very much, too.

Sincerely,

Wes Magruder

 

How to Pray About A(nother) School Shooting

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I was blissfully unaware of the school shooting yesterday in Florida for much of the day because I was busy with meetings and preparations for Ash Wednesday. When I saw the “Breaking News” alert on my phone, I tried to ignore it as long as I could.

Not until I got home from the Ash Wednesday service last night could I spend any time processing what happened.

Since I have already announced that our Lenten focus will be going deeper in prayer, let me suggest a couple of important things to know about how to pray in the aftermath of big tragedies such as a school shooting:

 

  1. Because the blame game will shortly begin, it’s always good to pray a Prayer of Confession. The usual suspects will be on TV soon — the NRA gun lobby, a do-nothing Congress, the state of mental health services, those who knew the shooter was a threat but did nothing, etc. But we all shoulder a portion of the blame for this national trait of ours. As Americans, we are complicit in a culture that celebrates violence, shames those with mental disabilities, and does nothing to prevent future school shootings. A Prayer of Confession is the only way to approach God in this matter. 
  2. Pray for victims, survivors, and first responders by name. As names pop up on the screen or in news coverage, use those names in your prayer. This personalizes the situation for you, and has the effect of deepening your empathy and compassion. It’s one thing to pray for “all those affected by” an event, and quite another to pray for Reginald, Barry, and Leigh.
  3. Pray for the shooter. Our natural impulse will be to pray for the shooter’s destruction, or to leave him out of our prayers altogether. He has committed an atrocious and horrific evil. We want to avoid mentioning him, but the Truth-with-a-capital-T is that he is a beloved child of God, as surely as those whose lives he took. He is a human being who deserves dignity and respect, even if he did not extend dignity and respect in kind. Our prayer for this particular shooter ought to be that he finds grace from God such that he is driven to repentance.
  4. Very few words rise to the surface of one’s consciousness when trying to pray about a school shooting; thus, it can be a helpful thing to attempt praying without words. One way to do this is to watch news video footage with the sound muted. Let the images guide you; enter the scene with your imagination, and let the emotions you encounter lead you into prayer, either wordlessly or with words. Remain in silence for as long as you need to.
  5. Finally, pray for guidance to action. On Twitter yesterday, politicians who offered “thoughts and prayers” for the shooting were mocked endlessly, because this has become the standard response to a recurring problem. If prayer doesn’t lead to corresponding action on our part, then one can rightly question whether our prayers were prayed in all sincerity. Ask God what you can do to counter the rash of school shootings in America.