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Have you ever wondered how different the world would be if Adolf Hitler had been accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna – if he had been allowed to learn the art of beauty rather than the art of war? Sadly, we’ll never know.

Thus in this month to reflect on the place of violence in our times, it got me thinking about Harlon B. Carter – known as the “father of the modern day NRA.” How different would things be had he just continued to enjoy sports hunting… and had not murdered the Mexican youth, Ramon Casiano, with his shotgun when he was 17 years old?

This prompted film director Sierra Pettengill to explore the question:

How did the NRA transform from a sporting group to a mighty political force?

Aeon.co describes Pettengill’s film this way:

Compiling newsreels, articles and television news reports, The Rifleman examines some four decades in the history of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Via these archival materials, the US director Sierra Pettengill frames her portrait of the controversial gun-rights group around Harlon Carter, the former NRA president and a US Border Patrol chief, with an overturned murder conviction to his name, who was central in forging the NRA’s transition from a sporting organisation to one of the most potent and controversial political forces in the United States.

Tracing the many overlaps between Carter, the NRA and US Border Patrol, Pettengill finds a group that, since the dawn of Carter’s influence, has been propelled by reactionary racism.

Producer: Arielle de Saint Phalle    Website: Field of Vision

What are your concerns?

For the record: I am not against guns used for hunting, sporting (with its clear restrictions and safety measures), or protecting from wild animals.

I am, however, deeply concerned about the proliferation of guns designed to kill people – numerous people – in a short time, and about a culture that harbours the fear that hastens distrust and violence.

The Recent Case to prove the point

I suppose the incident in Kenosha, Wis. couldn’t come at a “better” moment to illustrate the point of the proliferation of automatic weapons in the wrong hands. I will not comment on whether justice was served in the recent acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse as the courts of public opinion pit him as either hero or vigilante. Reuters reported:

“Rittenhouse’s decision, at age 17, to roam the streets of Kenosha toting a weapon in the name of protecting private property from rioters struck a particular nerve about just how far gun rights should extend.

“As the tragic events on that night in August showed, a 17-year-old arming himself with an AR-15 makes no one safer,” top officials at Giffords, the gun safety group, said in a statement. “Today’s verdict sends a troubling message that will encourage further vigilante violence and murder.”

As if not to be left out of an opportunity to foment the chaos, within minutes of the verdict, the NRA posted on Twitter, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

How Did This All Start?

Not to be forgotten is the inciting trigger event of August, 2020 that started the protests:

“Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was left partly paralyzed after a white police officer shot him seven times in the back outside an apartment complex in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23, 2020.

The shooting, which happened in front of three of Mr. Blake’s children, was captured by a neighbor in a video that circulated widely and rapidly on social media. Outrage spread quickly, rekindling the nationwide protests for racial justice that had followed the deaths of George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans after encounters with the police.”

Though the police were called because of a domestic disturbance incident involving Mr. Blake, and though they had used a taser, I find it incredulous that the police found it reasonable to shoot Mr. Blake seven times in the back.

“Four months after the shooting of Mr. Blake, the Kenosha County district attorney, Michael Graveley, announced that the officers involved in the shooting would not be charged. In October 2021, the Justice Department said it would not be pursuing federal civil rights charges against the officer who shot Mr. Blake, closing its investigation.”

Where there is no Justice, there is no Peace

When yet another white police officer is exonerated for shooting a black man in the back seven times, then this kind of “justice” will inevitably erupt into protest.

I’m not justifying any violent action. None of it:

    • Not Mr. Blake
    • Not the police officer(s)
    • Not the protests
    • And certainly not Mr. Rittenhouse

The fact that a naive 17 year old could be in possession of an automatic killing instrument like the increasingly infamous AR-15, and could be in possession of an idea that he would make things better… is astonishing.

How different would things be had Harlon B. Carter just continued to enjoy sports hunting and had not murdered the Mexican youth, Ramon Casiano, with his shotgun when he was 17 years old?

Surely this is a sad parallel of two 17 year olds.

Wisdom from Proverbs for a Time of Strife:

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Proverbs 20:3

Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

Proverbs 26:17

Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.

Proverbs 27:3

May there be Justice – may there be Peace.