I was dismayed, no, a better to say pissed off, when Jerry Falwell and other fundamentalist preachers began injecting religious faith issues into political campaigns. And it goes without saying that I have been shocked at the degree to which the gun lobby has cynically cozied up to politicians who chase the Evangelical vote on the one hand while promoting their so-called fervent, 2nd-Amendment beliefs on the other.
That is why I find the comments made by Rev. Rob Schenck about gun violence so difficult to comprehend. Because the truth is that over the past few years Schenck has been perhaps the most public evangelical voice speaking out on issues that align with virtually everything the NRA says. Not that the NRA takes public positions on abortion and public prayer, which have been the rallying-cries of Schenk’s Faith and Action organization. But the annual NRA meeting wouldn’t be complete without the Prayer Breakfast, and this year’s event will be led by none other than Jonathan Falwell who preaches every week from his father’s pulpit in the Thomas Road Baptist Church.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s any direct or indirect connection between the Evangelical movement and the NRA. And I’m certainly not questioning the motives of people who are both staunch supporters of the 2nd Amendment and agree with fundamentalist positions on abortion, creationism and prayer in public schools. What I am saying is that the NRA has spent the last twenty years telling its members that liberal politics go hand-in-hand with efforts to trample on gun owners’ rights, which means, in effect, that a conservative, pro-life minister like Rob Schenck should be the gun owners’ best friend.
But all of a sudden, this friendship seems to have become unglued because the Rev. Schenck has made some comments about gun violence that, as I said earlier, I really can’t comprehend. Here’s an example of what he said: “As pro-life activists, we do what we do because we care deeply about the well-being of women and children. The presence of a gun in the homes of women and children suffering the scourge of domestic violence makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed.” Schenck took his data from the unholy of all anti-gun unholies, aka Everytown, but Shannon and her folks got the data from public health research that used to be funded by the CDC. So Schenck’s comment is not only a direct challenge to the NRA’s insistence that guns protect more than they kill, it’s a direct slap in the face of the gun lobby that continues to deny that even with 31,000 deaths each year, guns constitute a public health issue at all. Or have we already forgotten how Rand Paul pandered to the NRA by holding up Vivek Murthy’s nomination to run the CDC?
But if you think that Schenck’s statement about domestic violence takes the NRA dead on, you should read his commentary a little further when he talks about a Black youth losing his life to an “armed vigilante” who had the legal right to carry a gun. Schenck is referring to the case in Florida where Michael Dunn, a CCW-holder, shot a Black teenager in an argument over the volume of rap music that was blaring from a car. If the NRA has one sacred cow above all, it’s the idea that people with concealed-carry permits are the most law-abiding, reliable and responsible of all.
The reason I find Schenk’s comments on gun violence incomprehensible is that there’s no precedent for them at all. There’s really no other issue that defines one’s political and social orientation as clearly as what to do about guns. And if the pro-gun lobby is going to have some problems figuring out what to do with Schenck, I suspect the gun-sense folks will also need to figure out what he really means. Something tells me that he means exactly what he said.