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Culture & Religion

Has the Second Amendment Become a Religion?

A complete refusal to accept basic facts has made a religion of our gun obsession.

Recently I was chatting with Dr. Christopher Ryan, co-author of Sex At Dawn, for an upcoming column on sexuality and imagination. During our conversation, he mentioned that every time he discusses gun control on his podcast he receives dozens of emails complaining about his views. I concurred, noting that whenever I criticize an aspect of any religion on this site, dozens if not hundreds of comments range from honest debates to, more commonly, vitriolic retorts.

“Maybe that’s a column for you,” he replied. “How the second amendment is like a religion.”

It certainly feels that way. When it was announced in late December that President Barack Obama was taking executive action on gun control, I braced for the inevitable onslaught of rhetoric, fear mongering, and hatred. I wasn’t disappointed.

Interestingly, during my conversation with Dr. Ryan, I asked him why America is so immature in regards to sexuality. In European countries women’s breasts are regularly on magazine covers and at beaches. Penises are common in movies. There is no infantile response to any of this, which is basically how Dr. Ryan responded, stating that America is an adolescent in terms of cultures.

What to do with an overgrown child experiencing growing pains? Having an adult conversation on gun control has, time and again, proven impossible. Media outlets regularly post thoughtful, insightful articles on the history of our gun culture, how other countries have successfully pushed back against gun violence, how the miniscule regulations that Obama is imposing does almost nothing to our current system. It’s a step, though a baby one, which I suppose is all an adolescent can handle.

The notion of a dialogue is impossible when those two three-letter words that begin with ‘g’ are off the table. Don’t talk to me about religion; I know my god. And don’t you dare tell me what to do with my guns.

Never mind that Obama’s not; he’s merely making it harder to slip through background checks and tightening a ridiculous loophole. Facts are of no consequence in many religious and gun-toting crowds, however. I write “many” because there are plenty of approachable people who believe in a religion, just as most gun owners are in favor of stricter legislation. Even Bill O’Reilly is a voice of reason on this topic:

If you are paranoid and believe the government is stockpiling information so they can come to your house and take your guns, that’s your problem, your problem. But the government has an obligation to enhance public safety.

Facts are inconvenient things, however. They get in the way of an agenda. For example, Mississippi Representative Steven Palazzo, who is trying to censure President Obama for “unconstitutional executive actions.” His main contention is that the president has overreached with his continual executive actions.

Problem is Obama is near the low end of the list when it comes to executive orders. His 226 pale in comparison to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 3,522, Calvin Coolidge’s 1,203, Harry Truman’s 907, even Ronald Reagan’s 381. George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford only had 166 and 169, respectively, but they only spent four years in office. The chance of Obama breaking 300 is slim, making him the president least likely to use executive orders in the last century. 

Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz artfully tweeted a photo of Obama wearing a crown, which is funny considering that kings rule by birthright and presidents win elections, but again, facts. The link in the tweet looks like something from the era of Reefer Madness: “Obama the evil dictator is coming for your guns, boys and girls!”

Jeb Bush published a rambling editorial invoking ISIS and Hillary Clinton while promising to repeal Obama’s order his first day in office, which, like religion, is a wonderful example of using one’s imagination.

And then Donald Trump… but really, who cares.

We don’t have God-given rights. We have, like all cultures before ours, ethics and regulations addressing the needs of the times. They are fluid and dynamic, sometimes outdated — New York City’s cabaret license, anyone? — caught up in the endless jargon of bureaucracy. And sometimes what appears to be a right is actually a revenue generator paid for by an industry taking advantage of our nationalistic addiction to capitalism.

Obama’s coming for your guns? Good. If you’re unable or not willing to understand the basic changes he’s implementing, I wouldn’t trust you to handle one.

Proving the impossibility of a dialogue, the NRA refused an invitation to partake in a Town Hall with President Obama. Much easier to play victim from your tower than engage in honest conversation.

An inability to discern fantasy from reality; the notion that what you want to be is the way it needs to be; an irrational fear of someone who believes something differently from what you do, regardless of research or facts contradicting your position; the desire to take up arms to defend said irrational position: The Second Amendment might be about the rights of a militia, but in modern America we’ve certainly made priests of our politicians and clergy of our lobbyists.

Image: Thierry Falise / Getty Images


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