Is the right to keep and bear arms a religion? To half of American households, it appears to be. And what, I'd like to ask columnist E.J. Dionne, is wrong with that?
The secular definition of religion is "something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience." Religion is the glue that holds society together. It is the shared beliefs about matters of ethics and conscience that allow civilization to exist. Let us not mistake religion for theism. All theisms are religion, but not all religion is theistic.
Dionne was outraged by the Georgia Legislature's clarifications of the pre-existing rights of Georgia citizens by tweaking state law to make it clear that illogical, irrational and politically biased decisions on where and when law-abiding citizens can exercise their rights are not to be left to the whims and caprices of "pesky local elected officials."
Georgia and 43 other states have state firearms pre-emption laws that prevent "pesky local elected officials" from banning guns because historically, local ordinances nationwide created a crazy-quilt of gun regulations that placed citizens in the impossible position of having to know the gun laws of each town, city, or county they might travel through. Places like Morton Grove and Chicago banned the possession of handguns outright. One could be arrested for simply driving through with a handgun until the Supreme Court ruled handgun bans unconstitutional in 2008.
Dionne laments poor Vienna, Ga., because Mayor Pro Tem Beth English is caught in the cleft stick of " . rais[ing] taxes to provide police protection or . risk[ing] . potential injury to our public" in deciding whether to install security screening and armed guards because a provision of the new law frees law-abiding citizens to carry their firearms into non-secured public buildings.
One might ask the mayor pro tem who is protecting her public against the illegal carrying of guns in unsecured public buildings. One might also ask Dionne the same question when it comes to any of his plaints about the grand conspiracy of the NRA in "establishing conditions in which every man, woman and child in our nation will have to be armed."
I can't begin to deal with the unending litany of canards, fallacies and specious logic Dionne filled his column with, but I will address the core bit of unreason that drives all the rest.
Dionne and other anti-gun ideologues base their rhetoric on a single fallacious, insulting and flatly dishonest lumping together of law-abiding gun-owning citizens with deranged individuals, armed criminals and terrorists.
To Dionne, every gun poses a threat to society equal to every other gun, without regard to who might be operating any particular gun at any specific time or place. So those of us who have been vetted and licensed to carry concealed handguns and have never committed crime are no better than the armed criminal who shoots up a shopping mall or school or robs grandma.
This sort of vacuous paranoia colors most anti-gun arguments and refuses to acknowledge the simple fact that guns are inanimate objects incapable of doing anything without being operated by a human being, and it is the intent of the person operating the gun that determines whether the gun is a detriment or a benefit to society.
This simple fact should be too obvious, since even Dionne doesn't seem to object to the police and military possessing guns. Evidently it bears repetition, however, because every single objection Dionne makes in his column is rooted in the phantasmagorical proposition that no ordinary citizen, no matter how law-abiding or well-trained, can be trusted to carry a gun in public under any circumstances, and any attempt by anyone to secure the right to keep and bear arms against "pesky local elected officials" will "tip the balance of our statutes away from law enforcement."
As history proves, such a proposition is far beyond the pale of both reason and logic. It borders on a religious belief, in Dionne's rather insulting meaning of the phrase.
Weiser is a local freelance writer, blogger and photographer.