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BY REV. POSEY KRAKOWSKY

September 5, 2019


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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is officially saying what many have been thinking.
The Washington Post reports that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution labeling the Nation Rifle Association a Domestic Terrorist Organization. The resolution went on to urge the city to assess whether it has any financial relationships with companies that do business with the NRA.
So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the human to see what the human would call them; and whatever the human called every living creature, that was its name. - Genesis 2:19
In her 2018 book Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays), Rebecca Solnit writes, “Being careful and precise about language is one way to oppose the disintegration of meaning, to encourage the beloved community and the conversations that inculcate hope and vision. [Names have power, and] calling things by their true names cuts through the lies that excuse, buffer, muddle, disguise, avoid, or encourage inaction, indifference, obliviousness.”

Scripture tells us that God spoke creation into being, and that God specifically gave language to humans in order that we may co-create with God. We are God’s partners in the ongoing endeavor of creation. We are blessed by God in our role as namers - because proper naming is an act of love and intimacy and connection that generates not only community, but also individuality within that community. To speak someone’s name is to recognize them both as a unique individual and  also as an integrated and connected person within the great procession of ancestors who came before us and generations that will come after us. To echo Solnit, names have enormous power. When we name things we choose either to spread truth or to spread lies. When we name things, we choose either to conceal or to reveal.

Is the NRA a domestic terrorist organization? Technically, no, since there is no domestic terrorism law under which it could be designated as such. CNN reports that San Francisco’s resolution is largely symbolic, and “does not, for example, carry the law enforcement implications of designation as a foreign terrorist organization.”

But the SF Board of Supervisors chose this particular name because they are no longer willing to obfuscate the profound ramifications the NRA’s agenda has had on our common life. "Every country on earth has video games, movies, and mental health issues, and yet only the U.S. has gun violence at elementary schools, at the movies, at Walmart," Catherine Stefani, a member of the Board of Supervisors, said. "The difference is guns. No other country has so many assault rifles on their streets.”

The CNN article also reports that NRA spokesperson Amy Hunter has countered the resolution by calling it “a "worthless and disgusting 'soundbite remedy' to the violence epidemic gripping our nation.” "This is a reckless assault on a law-abiding organization, its members, and the freedoms they all stand for.”

I found Hunter’s choice of the phrase “soundbite remedy” telling. Because what, if not a “soundbite remedy,” is the hollow repetition of “thoughts and prayers” that comes from GOP Congress members, as well as the NRA itself, when yet another mass shooting occurs? In 2016, NBC News did a recap of how the NRA has responded to some of the most deadly mass shootings since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. It is sobering reading indeed.

There is no doubt that rhetoric can become heated on both sides of the political aisle. In this case, the difference between the two is in the quantity and quality of the actions taken behind the rhetoric. The NRA has done everything in its power to limit any and every kind of restrictions on gun sales in the United States, despite overwhelming evidence that our inability to put common-sense gun restrictions in place has allowed us to sustain a level of gun violence that is unrivaled by any other country on earth. They have also done so despite an overwhelming majority of US citizens asking for such restrictions to be put in place. Worst of all, they have used the grief and trauma of victims' families as an excuse to silence any calls for gun legislation. 

It is a common trope that Americans have limited attention spans and that with each mass shooting, calls for gun legislation come and then go, because the public moves on to other issues of the day. I’d like to take issue with that trope by noting that, on both sides, constant, persistent, and meticulous work is being done to shape the national discussion about the Second Amendment and the rights of gun owners. The difference is that one side, represented by the NRA, is doing consistent work to spread information that is demonstrably false. The other side, represented by such organizations as Sandy Hook Promise, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, The Brady Campaign, Never Again, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (to name a few) have worked to Call Them By Their True Names - getting the facts out and dismantling the false narratives of those who wish no restrictions of any kind on firearms in our country. The reason the discourse has become more and more heated on the pro-gun side is that they see how public opinion is changing - they see that they are losing control of the narrative. May we continue to speak truth and to advocate for our own lives and for those of others.
Take the time to read about some of the anti-gun violence organizations listed above - and give generously to them if you as you are able. The conversation really is being changed, as one by one, people have been willing to stand up and call things what they truly are.
God of Peace, God of our Ancestors, God who breathed us into life and blessed us by calling us to speak and co-create community through sharing our words with you and with each other: Be with us as we continue to dismantle the false narratives of “Freedom through Arms” that permeate and pollute our public discourse on gun violence. Help us to respond to the fear-based violence of their words and their actions, not with fear of our own, but instead with righteousness, humility, and justice. Remember those who mourn the loss of their family members and friends to the scourge of gun violence in this land. Remind us that when we name things not only as they are, but also as we wish them to be, we speak hope into the world, and that our hope engenders hope in others. Give us words of love that create community so that we may do what you call us to do. In your holy names we pray. Amen.
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