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Rev. King and Gun Violence: “Study War No More”


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“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam [1],” April 4, 1967

Following the shootings of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson last weekend, we have been thinking about how the national addiction to guns is indistinguishable from America’s seemingly insatiable appetite (or tolerance) for war. What explains the sense of power, omnipotence, and what’s the source of the fear and insecurity that underlie the impulse to have and to hold firearms? (Some clues might be found in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine [2]; Eugene Jarecki’s book The American Way of War [3] and his film Why We Fight [4]; Tom Engelhardt’s The American Way of War [5]; and Robert J. Spitzer’s The Politics of Gun Control [6].)

This past week the Pentagon asserted [7] that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would support the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel and a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, said on Jan. 13:

“I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

We don’t read King’s “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam [1]” in quite the same way Mr. Johnson seems to do. We invite you to read it yourself, and click on the video link [8] below, and see how understanding of this 10-year war you think the Nobel Peace Prize–winning Reverend King would be.

Click here [9] for a link to a detailed and revealing interview with Dr. King (a polite grilling, actually) about his antiwar views on The Mike Douglas Show in 1967. Toward the end King is asked whether he is a communist; his reply puts the question firmly to rest.

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On this day of national commemoration of the life and work of a man of peace who was slain by gunfire, and only two months after the anniversary of the assassination by gunfire of a peace-seeking president, we feel a strengthened commitment to speak out and work against the too-easy access to guns in our troubled nation, just as we are dedicated to working toward peace abroad and at home. “National security begins at home.”

Please phone members of Congress [10] and urge them to support new common-sense gun control legislation being prepared by New York congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy [11] and by New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg [12]. Rep. McCarthy’s (D-NY) bill would reinstate the ban on large-capacity clips for automatic weapons that expired in 2004. (The Republican-controlled Congress opted to let the ban lapse.) Ms. McCarthy’s husband was one of five passengers killed and her son was critically injured by a man carrying an automatic weapon on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993.) This bill is a reasonable start, but even common-sense measures are routinely resisted by the gun rights lobby (NRA).

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•  Click here [13] and here [14] for previous tributes to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

•  See our posting “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition [15]” (July 7, 2010) about Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing of a “guns-in-church” bill that authorizes individuals who qualify to carry concealed weapons in “any church, synagogue, or mosque, or other similar place of worship.”

•  See also “‘Kill the Bill’ vs. ‘Stop the War’: A Tale of Two Protests [16]

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