On Thursday this past week, Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, the founders of the gun control group Americans for Responsible Solutions used the Pope’s visit to further their agenda. They quoted the Pope’s congressional address out of context to get donations for their political action group.
The quote they used was “Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society”. The Pope was referring to the international arms trade. The U.S is one of the largest exporters of arms in the world, and inevitably either due to negligence or chance some of these weapons fall into the wrong hands. A great example is the loss of thousands of Humvees and dozens of tanks and armored cars to ISIS after they routed the Iraqi army. The Pope’s message was targeting these situations. He was trying to address how much suffering these weapons can cause if they fall into the wrong hands. Small arms are the real weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear missiles stay in their silos, and bombs are rarely dropped. It is small arms shipped by Russia, the U.S, Great Britain, and China that allow dictators to come to power. They enable genocide and suffering on a scale rarely seen. He addressed the U.S congress about this issue because 31% of exported arms originate in the U.S. Stopping these weapons from falling into the hands of future mass murderers and dictators was the Pope’s real message.
Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly took this quote and tried to apply it to U.S gun lobbying. They in effect compared gun owners, and people purchasing firearms to mass murderers and tyrannical dictators. They are basically calling all gun owners criminals. They assume that people buying a gun are going to “Plan to inflict untold suffering…” which is completely wrong. As a gun owner myself I find this particularly offensive. When I bought my rifle I had no plan to use it to inflict “Suffering on individuals and society”. I bought my rifle so I could participate in a hobby that I love. Just because someone owns a gun does not mean that they have mal intent. Sure some people purchase guns with the intention of defense, but defense does not equate to offense. The Pope’s message does not transfer to the U.S. So why did they use it? Money. That is the basic answer. The founders of ARS tweeted “Heed Pope Francis’s message not by giving to charity, but rather, a super PAC”.
Taking advantage of the Pope’s visit to raise money for their Political Action Committee by taking his words out of context is bad enough. What made what they did terrible was intentionally comparing gun owners to some of the most immoral and violent people in the world. Explain how a man buying a handgun to protect himself–and doing so legally at that—compares to a dictator buying crates of high powered military rifles to suppress his people and kill political dissidents. Hopefully ARS will realize that alienating the firearm community will only add difficulty to any attempt at gun control.