For 10 years subsequent to my children graduating from high school, I was a basketball official in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. I enjoyed the experience and would probably still be doing it were it not for an unfortunate accident that witnessed me pulling a fishing lure into my eye. (Because when someone in the gymnasium would have muttered, “You’re blind” my only response would have been “I resemble those remarks!”)
During my tenure as a basketball official, the most frequent criticism I heard from the crowd was this: “Be consistent!” What that meant was that the objector must likely was agreeing with my call but was reminding me that I had failed to make a similar call on the other end of the court.
I was thinking about that experience most recently as I was listening to a speech by Colorado Senator, Cory Gardner. Senator Gardner was defending the Trump administration’s decision to assassinate Iraq’s Major General Qasem Soleimani. Gardner is a proficient orator and during his speech on the Senate floor made a convincing argument that American lives were saved through the administration’s actions.
I’m all for saving American lives, and personally, I have no real issue with the decision to “cut off the head of the snake.” By all accounts he was an evil man with the blood of thousands on his hands. Some might question the efficacy of the decision, perhaps even the morality, but I am okay with it.
I am reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s comment that “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” Bonhoeffer was best known for his vocal opposition to Hitler’s genocidal persecution of the Jews and spent a year and half in prison due to his beliefs.
While in prison, Bonhoeffer was a co-conspirator in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler because he believed that it was his obligation to remove this force of evil from the world. Later, Joseph Fletcher would write about this in his book entitled, “Situation Ethics.” Fletcher wrote that “some cases offer no right or wrong,” and I am inclined to believe that ultimately the world is safer without folk like Hitler or Soleimani.
All that said, however, as I sit in the “stands” watching the pageant that is American politics unfold, I find myself screaming above the din at my elected officials to “be consistent.” The consistency to which I allude is that of the value of “saving the lives of Americans.” A noble sentiment indeed.
So here’s my issue with Senator Gardner and anyone who opposes common sense gun control measures — if you want to preach about the value of saving the lives of Americans, how can you capitulate this value when it comes to gun control legislation. Nearly 40,000 people in America lost their lives last year due to gun violence. Admittedly a portion of this number include suicides but among those who died were numerous innocent children.
I’m not suggesting that the 2nd Amendment be repealed or anything close to that. I am a gun owner. I have a dozen or so firearms and I would be loath to give them up. I enjoy my guns both for hunting and potentially for self-protection. So please disabuse yourself of the notion that I’m anti-2nd amendment.
There are however, reasonable gun control measures that can be instituted which ultimately would make our nation safer. Closing the gun show loopholes, ensuring quality background checks that eliminate those with mental illness or criminal backgrounds from purchasing firearms, the elimination of bump-stocks, capping magazine size for semi-automatic weapons; these aren’t radical concepts.
I weary of the influence that the NRA (National Rifle Association) seems to have on many of our elected officials. Gardner has a 92-percent rating with the NRA, meaning that the vast majority of his votes relative to gun control support the agenda of the NRA. It is to the point that we really can’t even have civil discourse relative to the discussion of moving forward on any type of weapons control legislation.
But here’s the thing — we all support some type of weapons control. None of us would think that allowing citizens to own small nuclear devices was a good idea, and once you agree with that statement, you’ve acknowledged that there is a role for limiting the types of weapons that citizens can own and use. From there, it’s just about where you want to draw the line.
So, here’s what I’m asking of Senator Gardner and his fellow elected officials: please look at common-sense gun control legislation through the lens of saving the lives of innocent Americans. And in the words of every crowd I ever officiated in front of, “Be consistent!”
Westfall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.