Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

I’m home! And, after returning from a 10-day vacation seeing friends and visiting national treasures in the D.C. area, I am mostly glad to be home.

A new thing about home, though, that I don’t like and am having to come to terms with: Governor Nathan Deal’s new legislation on guns has taken effect here in Georgia.  Some of you may not know that in April of this year, Deal signed a wide-ranging guns bill, the “Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014,” nicknamed by opponents (probably rightly) as “the guns everywhere bill.”  The bill allows concealed weapons just about anywhere we proud Georgia residents find ourselves, including bars and churches (which makes the next run-in with an angry vestry member or the act of turning down a pick-up line at the bar that much more intimidating, I guess).  In short, just about everywhere we Georgians go, we can, thanks to Deal, carry concealed guns…

Excepting, apparently, the city of Atlanta natatorium where my daughter takes swim lessons and where I often choose to exercise.  Now, every time we non-gun-owning or gun-toting Georgia residents—and, there are a lot of us, the apparently more silent, 95 percent-majority of Georgia’s population—choose to enter a city of Atlanta building, we will be searched, our bags opened and checked, our persons surveyed.

Yesterday I was rudely and unhappily reminded that I live in a state where a bare 5 percent minority rules: when we showed up to exercise, two city of Atlanta employees, their salaries funded by my tax dollars, were not teaching children how to swim, protecting small lives as lifeguards or, at the very least, cleaning public locker rooms; they were instead rifling through my gym bags to look for concealed weapons.  In other words, my tax dollars—and chances are, if you’re in the 95 percent of non-gun-toting Georgia residents, your tax dollars, also—are now paying the salaries of people who will spend most or all of their working time conducting searches for concealed weapons!

I can’t think of something that better encapsulates “big government” than this: government employees looking for concealed weapons in my bags on just another ordinary day of going to the gym—all this thanks to, of all ironies, a Republican governor in a Republican-controlled state.  And here I thought Republicans were the champions of smaller government.  For that matter, wasn’t the original sentiment of the Second Amendment to protect the people from the tyrannies of big government?  (I’m embarrassed to admit that in my senior year of high school I received the Young Republican Women’s scholarship!)

On the same day (among many more to come) that my tax dollars were funding the rifling through of my workout bags, two guns in two separate carry-on bags  showed up at the Atlanta Hartsfield airport—another first for us Georgians.  The owners of the guns were briefly questioned and released.  Apparently, we can also expect to spend more money interrogating gun owners who are enjoying their new-found freedom coming at the expense of the rest of us.  (Did I mention that the new law allows for guns in TSA lines at airports, too?  Yep. That’s right.  Now ordinary citizens, many of whom have met dubious background checks, will be walking on to planes with guns with the blessing of our state government.)

Deal, in signing the bill into law, couched the new act in terms of “reaffirming our liberties.”  If he had any integrity at all, he would have specified that these liberties really only pertain to the Georgia citizens who carry a concealed weapon and to the deep-pocketed National Rifle Association (NRA) that lobbies Deal’s administration with all sorts of cushy enticements.  It is a costly “liberty,” too: while it is a sign of my own self-absorption that only now (after seeing this law’s daily impact on my life) am I speaking out, the cost of that liberty, lest we forget, is not merely one of mere inconvenience on the part of the majority of us who don’t run around with guns on our person; the cost of that liberty is one of life and death of our children, our communities and our culture (in the form of the violence we implicitly promote by sending the message that gun toting is normal and right).

The cruel slogan of one guns rights advocate to victims of the Newtown massacre sums up, with masterful irony, the tragic cost of that liberty: “My constitutional rights trump your dead children,” he said.  In other words, not even the costliness of the grievous and heinous loss of innocent children’s lives should occasion some introspection around his so-called “rights” and around sensible gun legislation.  Yes, the rights of the 500,000 Georgians—in a state of 9.92 million people—now carrying concealed weapons just about anywhere and everywhere, are expensive indeed.  Not even the largesse of the deep-pocketed NRA lobby can pay the price.

Here is a clip of Deal couching his new bill in lofty terms about American freedom.  It makes me want to take a shower, after which, I’m going to start being unabashedly louder about a growing conviction that the church needs to speak out in all manner of ways on behalf of those whose lives have been lost because of the senseless deregulation of guns.

If you agree with the views expressed in this op-ed piece, please sign your name in the comments section and then forward it on to other like-minded folks.  (It would help, of course, if you’re a Georgia resident; but if you’re not, don’t let that stop you! Sign this anyway and forward it to/share it with your friends.)  I’ll send it on to my representatives if we’re able to get a sizable group of signatures.



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