Guns in Vermont

It was not my intention to write on this topic, but we’ve been reeling these last two weeks about the shame at the heart of our little paradise in America’s gun crisis. Here we sit, snug in our mountains, happy in the snow, if a bit cold, congratulating ourselves that our gun crime rate is so low that we don’t need any gun laws. Sure, we have friends and neighbors who hunt or own guns, but hey, they’re responsible, they’re careful. And they’re just hunters, eh?

And then here’s our weekly alternative newspaper reporting on what that means for the rest of the country. According to Ken Picard, an excellent reporter who once stepped in as an emergency reader for a wedding I was doing, one of the healthiest businesses in our area is an anonymous-looking building that provides those anonymous guns.

Since his report came out, there’s been much more discussion about it, and the business involved cheekily placed a “We’re Hiring” ad in Seven Days the following week. before this article came out, our City Council here in Burlington and our Senate President down in Montpelier got ridiculed — including by me — for trying to propose bans on assault weapons. Our governor flatly stated that he was looking for “a fifty state solution,” with an implication that this was no place for wasting political capital.

But I seem not to be the only Vermonter that’s been thinking it over. It tore my heart to read an article about how our guns are killing people in Massachusetts, and the illustration was a street sign was from my old Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood. And it turns out that last year we had the smallest total number of hunting licenses ever. People aren’t coming here to hunt — which hurts our economy — and locals don’t hunt as much as they used to. And my late friend, Alice, who lived to the age of 93, never fully got over the death of her oldest son, Jimmy, who at the age of 12 was accidentally shot by a friend who was showing off his father’s gun after school.

I’ve watched tons of PBS coverage this week on all aspects of “Guns in America,” and lots of C-Span with various expert and local panels. Apparently, so have a lot of other Vermonters, because here’s how we poll now on this issue, in marked contrast to any other time in our history. Here are the policy measures I support, for my state and for my nation:

1) Universal registration of all gun sales and transfers, and public access to lists of registered gun owners.

2) Prosecution of all straw purchasers as full accessories to any crime committed by a gun bought with their signature.

3) A ban on all ammunition systems and weapons that deliver more than six bullets without reloading.

4) A ban on repairing any 7+ weapon when it breaks down. You can own it until it dies, but that’s it, then you’re done. Anyone repairing a 7+ gun for another person, whether or not for money, is committing a crime, to which shall be added an accessory count for any crime in which the weapon is involved.

And what about the Second Amendment? The best presentation on that came from Dave Wheeler, whose son Benjamin, died at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Better than I can say it, he urged us to remember that it is the “second” amendment, and its rights come second to his son’s rights, to all children’s rights, to grow up, to enjoy their lives, to live. And the Founding Fathers, he opined, knew what they were doing when they made this right second and not first.

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I would argue t…

I would argue that almost all of the internal developments within UUism, both in local congregations and as a larger institution are the expression of differing strategies for surviving the political and cultural wilderness.

I am writing this on the day of Barack Obama’s second Inauguration. His election confirms my suspicion that 2008 marked the end of the cultural hegemony of conservatism in the politics and culture of the US. Our wilderness days may be coming to an end.

It is time to consider new possibilities.”

Tom Schade in “The Lively Tradition.”

At The Lively Tradition, Tom Schade has been rocking the question of what lies ahead for Unitarian Universalism, if we have, in many ways, won some significant victories in making our vision more widespread and even incarnate in the world we inhabit and our offspring will inherit.

On his particular points, I have posted several comments, along with other valuable thinkers. My function here is to raise the question to which this blog is dedicated: “What is the best polity for us to achieve our fullest potential?” For if Tom is right, and our fullest potential has expanded so very much — a suspicion born out by all the talk about Free Range UUs and lapsed UUs, etc — then the question is not 9to use my old language as a military analyst)  “what are we here to deliver?” but “what is the best system or structure to deliver the payload we have chosen?”

I have come to believe that antiquated polity is the greatest danger to ourselves and to what we care about. Nor am I alone: the denomination is regionalizing, the Society for Community Ministers and UU Ministers Association have held talks about how to expand our vision and missions for ministry, and ministers with parishes are displaying websites that offer independent consulting or other services. Some folks conduct their ministries completely on line, and others are still making do with old-fashioned word-of-mouth connections and anchoring services such as books, classes, chaplaincies.

I believe we have a fundamental stumbling block, with an history of deliberate origins and therefore, an option for us to choose differently. I’ve been doing lots of scribbling at home to figure out how to talk about it.  There’s a role for history, there’s a role for debate. But Tom has achieved the fundamental first step: he has pointed out we stand at a moment of existential crisis, and asked us where we want to go from here.