Evangelical pastor laments powerful US gun lobby

DOMRADIO.DE: What was your first thought when you heard about this bloody deed?

Frank Kopania (head of the international work department of the Evangelical Church in Germany): tears and anger at the same time. For a long time I also accompanied emergency pastoral care and crisis intervention as a pastor in Germany. I really miss the words, together with the relatives. We already had that in Florida. I know how it feels to accompany people who are grieving in these extreme situations. But once again I’m at a loss for words. I can only ask personally and as a pastor with the people: Why? And to give space to these questions.

DOMRADIO.DE: President Biden immediately spoke up and said the idea that an 18-year-old could walk into a gun store and buy an assault rifle is just wrong. One must act. But why has action always failed so far?

Digging: That already has a long history. Action usually fails because of the powerful gun lobby in the USA, called the NRA, the National Rifle Association of America. In 2021 she celebrated her 150th anniversary. And it is such a powerful lobby, based on the second amendment of the American constitution of 1791, and has built up such a massive political lobby that it usually does not reach majorities in the US Congress.

DOMRADIO.DE: Could Biden theoretically override Republican opposition and order a tightening of gun laws by decree?

Digging: Yes, he could do that. Unfortunately, the history of the last 100 years tells a different story. The “Gun Control Act” was proclaimed in 1968 after the gun lobby had become radicalized. Clinton didn’t succeed either in 1993/1994, the laws expired again in 2004 and in 2005 there was also a law to protect the arms industry from lawsuits. As you can see, due to the two-party system in the USA, majorities are almost impossible at this point.

Frank Kopania

“There is serious discussion about arming teachers, increasing the number of security personnel, in other words countering weapons with more weapons.”

DOMRADIO.DE: From our perspective, it’s more appropriate to shake your head to say that teachers should be armed than to say that you’re trying to limit the number of people who have access to guns.

Digging: Yes, but the gun lobby keeps catching on with the phrase that the only thing that can stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun. Arming teachers, increasing the number of security personnel, in other words countering weapons with more weapons is being seriously discussed. And the idea that a fundamental restriction of the Second Amendment could be successful here comes up against this basic understanding of personal freedom and basic rights, especially in the Republican – i.e. in the very, very conservative circles in the USA – which gets emotionally so caught up in that it is currently unenforceable.

Pope Francis has expressed his condolences after the attack on an elementary school in Texas. He advocated stricter gun laws. Bishop Bätzing is also “speechless” at the bloody deed. “The massacre at the elementary school in Texas breaks my heart,” said the head of the church at the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square. He prays for the children, the adults killed and their families.

DOMRADIO.DE: Do you have an explanation for the sharp rise in gun shootings over the past few years?

Digging: For me it is due to the radicalization of society, especially in the Trump era. I notice myself in church contexts, also in family contexts, that due to this strong polarization and radicalization, political issues in the public and social space can hardly be discussed in an appropriate way.

And in my opinion, this polarization leads to the fact that certain political views and attitudes are unfortunately reflected in a radicalization, also with society’s weapons, as was also seen with the attempted storming of the Capitol at the end of the era.

Frank Kopania

“So the focus is not on people and life, but on the static interpretation of texts. And the second amendment to the constitution now gives the population the right to be armed.”

DOMRADIO.DE: When it comes to issues like abortion, conservative voters and politicians there always argue with the protection of life. But when it comes to weapons, this protection of life suddenly doesn’t seem to play such a big role anymore. And that too is hard for us Europeans to understand. Can you explain that to us?

Digging: I think it’s because of how I deal with certain texts or developments. And here are the very conservative religious circles that interpret the Bible literally and put the prohibition on killing in front of it. And just as the Bible texts are interpreted statically out of context, so the Second Amendment is approached here.

So it is not the people and life that are in focus, but the static interpretation of texts. And the second amendment to the constitution says the people have the right to arm themselves. And it is in this interpretation that apparently contradictory ideas are reconciled here and that abortion and the carrying of arms are interpreted in a similar way.

The interview was conducted by Dagmar Peters.

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