A moral question

FI-EditorialFor too long the debate over gun control in this country has been seen as an entirely political one, when it’s actually a moral question.

At a rally this past weekend in Greenwich celebrating the 400-mile bicycle ride of Team 26 from Newtown to Washington, D.C., by people touched by mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Virginia Tech, there was support from people of all political affiliations. But it was the Rev. Maxwell Grant, senior minister of Second Congregational Church, who cut to the heart of it, quoting the Bible when he said, “Choose on this day whom you will serve but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” He followed it up by asking, Who would we serve as a nation?

“Will we serve the merchants of death who make profit in destruction? Will we serve those who say 30-round clips and assault weapons are vital to hunting? Will we serve those who argue that it’s fair and right that driving a car or getting on a plane or registering a dog should be harder than purchasing a handgun?”

That shreds all the politics around the issue and focuses instead on the moral question of what kind of nation we will allow ourselves to be. One that fights for common-sense reform or one that sinks in violence?

Perhaps one could be forgiven for seeing the issue as entirely political, thanks to the fact that it’s congressional Republicans who have blocked measures like expanded background checks and the elimination of loopholes in the law, reforms that enjoy clear public support. There were not the 60 needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster, and the matter hasn’t even come up for consideration in the House of Representatives.

The same weekend Team 26 traveled through Greenwich on its way to Washington carrying a message of “hope, peace and love,” it was also the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC, that was highlighted by embattled Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, trying to hold on to his seat by brandishing a gun on stage, and National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre defining freedom as having any kind of gun you could ever want in order to hold back all the threats out there that exist only in his paranoid, delusional imagination.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The NRA may claim to represent the average gun owner, but it actually represents only the manufacturers of the weapons. They are the lobbying arm of the very merchants of death profiting from the violence and tragedy that Mr. Grant spoke of. The fight over “freedom” is merely a fight to keep lining the pockets of weapons companies.

The more stark that realization becomes, the easier it is to see that this fight is beyond politics, and is a moral one. Moral outrage once led former President George H.W. Bush to resign from the NRA. A sense of moral duty led the Republicans in this state, including those in both our delegation to Hartford and our Board of Selectmen, who are true public servants and not bought and paid for tools of the NRA, to stand up and pass common-sense legislation that will help make people safer.

To enact real change, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said this weekend, was going to take years, and he’s right. But the kind of change that’s needed, one that goes beyond Congress and into the culture of a country, does not come quickly or easily. It must happen, though, and it will, as long as people like those in Team 26 and their supporters keep up the fight.

This debate will not go away. We can’t let it. Not until change is achieved.

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