Summit County leaders gather to discuss guns and society
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The locations of three contentious shootings in just the last week have once again reignited debate over the unwarranted use of deadly force with guns throughout the United States. The violence — and any number of incidents across the country before it — has also spurred local groups into action to create a dialogue in the hopes of shortening this life-altering cycle.
As part of the push, the Summit Interfaith Council, an organization comprised of several spiritual communities throughout the county that tries to promote conversation around heated topics, hosted a screening of the advocacy documentary “Making A Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA” in Breckenridge on Sunday evening, July 10. A handful of area leaders were also invited to steer a panel discussion.
“This is a tough subject, made even more poignant this week,” Rev. Robert Franken said in welcoming those in attendance. “There are a lot of perspectives, but we need to talk and listen to each other and address the issue of people dying, which is the most important cause in today’s world.”
The full-length feature is a stat-filled indictment of the National Rifle Association and its efforts to maintain the current access and sale of firearms in the United States. The five-act narrative tells the stories of domestic violence, deaths of children who gain access to unlocked weapons, the particular plight of Chicago, mental-health issues related to suicide and finally culminates with the 2012 Aurora movie-theater shooting.
Between segments, the filmmakers compare the licensure process for owning a gun in various states to other more mundane activities such as adopting a pet, selling lemonade in Texas or a permit to ride a moped in Colorado. With every example, waiting periods for these menial tasks exceed that of securing a handgun, shotgun or rifle — the producers re-iterating their main thesis over and over again.
Elected officials from the right wing of the political spectrum, many of whom recent Republican Party presidential candidates, often splash the screen with quotes about protecting the conveniences of hunters and those wishing to safeguard their families and homes and are juxtaposed against President Obama’s pleas for more controls. All the while, it is suggested, the owners and CEOs of gun manufactures are rolling in money, living the good life and filling the pockets of these politicians with campaign donations to uphold the most liberal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
“My takeaway was immediately the money,” said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier. “I knew somewhat, but I was blown away by the amounts of money that we’re talking about. Obviously, that’s why we are where we are today.”
From Smith & Wesson, Glock, Baretta and Mossberg/Maverick, each gun maker draws in millions upon millions of dollars annually, pouring sizable amounts back into the NRA to act as its leading governmental advocate. Yet still, the film reports, a woman is killed by her husband or boyfriend every 16 hours; seven children die from guns every day; 55 Americans kill themselves daily, to the tune of more than 20,000 each year; and there were more than 350 mass shootings in the U.S. in just 2015.
“I’m completely drained by the entire experience,” state Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) told the audience after the film. “I’m just blown away by the power of the NRA. There is no way that we should be living in a society that tolerates this. There is just no way.”
The evening’s conversation touched on everything from concealed- and open-carry laws, universal background checks, questions of mental-health matters and how those in attendance can get involved to work for stricter regulations. Jerry Arca, co-chair of the faith-based coalition known as Colorado Faith Communities United to End Gun Violence — which represents congregations including Christian, Jewish, Unitarian and recently its first-ever Islamic center — emphasized the need for joining the movement.
“Even though we all have very different faith traditions,” he said, “we’re all united in the fact we all believe that human life is sacred. The more names we have on our list, the more (politicians) listen to us, I think, because we represent more and more people out there. It’s the only way we’re going to make sure these laws don’t get overturned.”
Toward the end of the night, one member of those who attended stood up to address a question about concealed-carry permits and self-identified as a member of the NRA and volunteer at the Summit County Shooting Range in Dillon. He followed it up by speaking to the larger issues at hand.
“I’m not saying what the NRA does is all correct,” he said. “The thing we’ve got to look at is why are we in this situation. Guns don’t kill people; it’s the person behind that gun that kills people. So let’s balance it all out, that’s all I’m saying.”
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