Government & Politics Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion wp-export

The face of evil

(RNS) — “Let’s pray for wisdom,” said Vice President Mike Pence after the slaughter in Parkland, “for all in positions of authority that we might find a way to come together as a nation to confront and end this evil in our time once and for all.”

Amen, brother. But what, exactly, is the evil we are supposed to confront and end?

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, speaking at the 2017 CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland.

St. Augustine thought of evil as the absence of good, and if there’s anywhere that good is absent in our ongoing struggle with gun violence, it’s the National Rifle Association.

Take bump stocks, those cute accessories that allow a semi-automatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic one. After they were used by Stephen Paddock to kill 58 and wound 851 on the Las Vegas Strip Oct. 1, there seemed to be a broad consensus in Congress to ban them.

Then the NRA stepped in said no, it couldn’t support the proposed legislation, it would rather have the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms look into regulating the things. And so it was announced that the ATF was conducting a review. And nothing happened.

Until Tuesday, that is, when Donald Trump, ever sensitive to the winds of public opinion, told his attorney general to order bump stocks banned. Did the NRA know that the attorney general might not have the legal authority to do so? Of course it did.

Once upon a time, the NRA worked with the federal government to devise decent gun laws. But since the 1970s, it has been all about helping gunmakers move as much of their merchandise as possible, all in the name of protecting the “civil rights” of gun owners, and as an integral part of the culture war that continues to poison the country.

The NRA is a cancer on the American body politic that needs to be removed from public influence. No, I’m not saying what that spray-painted billboard in Kentucky has delighted NRA officials by saying.

Let it live.

The kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have the right idea. Vote against candidates who take money from the NRA. Vote against candidates whom the NRA endorses.

Let it live but throw its minions out.

For as Augustine wrote, “In the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil.”


About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


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  • So happy that young people are getting involved. I hope this new generation will overturn the NRA’s influence.

  • Naturally, the NRA is a media target these days. (I don’t belong to ’em, btw.) But as always, there’s another side of the story with this gun control gig. Here you go:

    “Not every school mass shooting survivor attacks the NRA and extolls disarmament. Some have matured and would like to stop schools from being tempting soft targets to armed sociopaths. In other words, they want to end schools as gun free zones which assure would-be killers that they will be able to shoot people without worrying about them shooting back.”

    “Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville survived the Columbine mass shooting, and he wants people with concealed-carry permits to no longer be required to lock their firearms in their vehicles when they are entering a school.”

  • Actually the face of evil is Planned Parenthood. They have murdered far more people than all guns combined in this country.

  • There’s still no effective solution despite all the debating. But after Parkland, **teachers** should be allowed a few humane options.

    In Florida, or in any mass school shooting, trapped teachers only get ONE choice from school admins and school boards: die cowering alone or die trying to shield students.

    Can’t use the smallest gun to last-ditch save themselves or their students from death, or they will lose their careers. They’re only allowed to stand there and DIE, just like that Florida coach.

    Trump is right, Mark. We gotta change that scenario. Permit teachers to CCW arm themselves, voluntarily.

  • I’m against the concept of having armed teachers; Too great a chance for the teacher to overreact to a perceived threat. Besides this is a reactionary measure and doesn’t address the underlying problem of why this is a problem with American men/teenagers. Offering better mental health services would perhaps be a good start, something I understand Florida fails at.

  • Planned Parenthood is responsible for the murder of millions of babies. They make the gun lobby look like girl scouts.

  • No babies are killed in abortions. Babies are born.

    Plenty of children are murdered by conservative policies concerning guns, public assistance, immigration, and drugs.

  • So you don’t trust public school teachers to do their job and educate, you attack their budgets and ability to work, but you want them armed to the gills.

    Do you see where this can be a problem?

  • I am against the entire notion of “lets arm amateurs rather than address rampant endemic gun deaths in schools”.

  • Marco Rubio is taking the high ground so far, calmly taking the heat (including rather unnecessary cr*p), while showing some openness to listening, and changes like raising the age limits for gun buyers.

    In other words, he’s acting like a U.S. Senator.

    Which doesn’t make any difference to these strident teenagers, their big-money donors like Oprah and Clooney, or the alt-left CNN media. But down the road, they’re going to watch Sen. Rubio get re-elected — and won’t be nothing they can do about it.

  • Who’s attacking their budgets? That’s up to state/local school boards (and the parents’ zip codes, unfortunately). It’s also possible for some teachers and admins to apply for grants to fund new ideas, projects & initiatives. Sometimes it can help.

    But meanwhile, were you okay with that Florida football coach having NO choice in his last moments of life, nothing except to stand there totally vulnerable to an active mass shooter, letting the crook gun him down to a bloody mess right in front of the frightened students he bravely shielded?

    You don’t even want a trapped schoolteacher to have ONE last-ditch chance to survive a mass shooting? I have to believe that you’d be open to letting teachers have that one final chance.

  • Of course you are. You even call it “school choice” while demanding money to be diverted from their budgets into wingnut welfare private education.

    Conservatives attack the existence of public schools and their teachers vet want them armed. That could be troublesome. 🙂

    Or better yet, get just guns off the streets and impose heavy regulation on high capacity magazines.

  • Rubio is a spineless shill. He got the treatment he deserved. He doesn’t deserve kudos for what amounts to doing his job. He wasn’t listening, he was avoiding. Trying to save face. Expecting teens to be more compliant and willing to put up with BS than they were.

  • Oklahoma and a few other states already allow public school teachers to voluntarily carry firearms if they want to. Doesn’t hurt any school budgets.

    (Charter schools don’t hurt public schools either. They just help kids.)

    Meanwhile, they are reporting today that the official deputy assigned to watch over the Parkland school, did NOT enter the school when the shooting started. He actually stayed outside, all safe, while there was shooting and screaming inside. Didn’t walk in.

    That’s why you gotta let public school teachers voluntarily carry their own guns. They deserve to live.

  • Amazing, an entire article and not one relevant fact.

    A new high for Mark Silk, aka the face of evil.

  • Babies in the womb are murdered by abortion. Far more babies are murdered by abortion than any school shootings combined.

  • Do you stuff the babies back in the womb first? Since babies are born and all.

    Conservatives want dead children. They make that clear here and elsewhere.

  • What do you think is growing in the mother? A tree? a bug? a human being?
    Yes a human being. Medical science supports this.

  • “Around half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among women who know they are pregnant, few women will have a miscarriage. Most miscarriages occur during the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. The rate of miscarriage drops after the baby’s heartbeat is detected” (

    God seems to be the biggest abortionist of all. (I approve of abortion only when the woman’s life is endangered by a medically verifiable toxic pregnancy.)

  • “Murder” is a legal term. Most abortions do not involve “murder”. Even the Church of Rome does not use the term ‘murder’ to describe abortion (CCC-2271-2272).

    Although the Vatican would disagree, abortion in some cases can be regarded as “legitimate defense”:

    “The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. ‘The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor…. the one is intended, the other is not'” (CCC-2263).

    “Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

    “If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful…. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s” (CCC-2264).

  • I agree that abortion is “deliberate killing”. What does the word “innocent” mean in this context?

  • The Parkland students and other teenage activists have restored my confidence in this generation. The NRA’s opposition to commonsense gun regulation suggests that all the other rights in the Bill of Rights should have no limitations. Does freedom of religion give me the right to practice human sacrifice?

  • I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. Given the left’s increased attack on Constitutional rights, I have chosen for the first time to pay for a four year membership in the NRA which defends one particular Constitutional right.

    Don’t like it, then form a Constitutional convention and change it.

  • Look for the libs to jump up that “it isn’t a baby”. The first step in the justification of evil such as murder is to dehumanize the victim. “It isn’t human”.

  • Yea…………….it is crazy. You can’t go anywhere without seeing GUNS on every person. Frightening.

  • We could add “Texting While Driving” to this list as well. Far more deaths related to car accidents.
    However……speaking of gun violence……..I think like 7 blacks die every weekend in Chicago. How come no one is screaming “gun control” for residents of Chicago???!!!

  • Statistics for Chicago Gun Violence — 2017
    A person is shot every 2 minutes and 27 seconds.
    A person is murdered every 12 minutes and 59 seconds.

  • I agree aborted children did no wrong and committed no crime. Likewise, the criminally insane have done no wrong and committed no crime upon engaging in the most heinous behaviors. Still, like the presence of unborn children in a life-threatening pregnancy, they can pose a verifiable threat (in their case, to others). In both kinds of circumstances, the threat to life can be — and has been — real. If you have no other recourse, you have the God-given right to defend yourself, even to the point of killing the other person. The pregnant woman whose life is threatened by a medically verifiable toxic pregnancy surely has this same right. Just as a police officer might save your life, so a physician might save the life of the woman.

  • We don’t need to change the 2nd amendment. We just need to return to the Founding Fathers’ intent: “well regulated Militia”. What largely passes for regulation today is a farce, thanks to the NRA. The idea of a “militia” today is an anachronism. Perhaps we can reinstitute the military draft with all gun owners automatically listed for immediate induction if necessary. This way, they can use their pistols, revolvers, shotguns, and rifles to shoot at incoming nukes and high-altitude bombers 🙂

    Speaking of military service, there is no evidence that Wayne LaPierre has ever served in the U.S. armed forces.


  • “Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville survived the Columbine mass shooting, and he wants people with concealed-carry permits to no longer be required to lock their firearms in their vehicles when they are entering a school.”

    And on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” today, Feb. 25, another Columbine survivor, Austin Eubanks, said that “we have to strengthen schools by way of architecture, metal detectors or perhaps additional security personnel. But I do think that those two functions have to be completely separate. Educators have to focus on education and security officials need to focus on security.”

  • When they look at car deaths, they actually calculate by exposure – miles driven is one common measure or per vehicle or per licensed driver if a driving behaviour. Frightening in a way but there are apparently actually more guns than vehicles on the road in the US> However, that death rate for vehicle shrinks considerably relative to guns when Americans drive 3.22 trillion.annual miles –

    And actually gun crime is a very big issue in Chicago -. 617,000 plus news articles -and the subject of numerous studies and research. Gun control doesn’t work very well in Chicago because of neighboring states (Indiana and Wisconsin) which very week gun laws. Of guns now traceable, the study found that between 2009 and 2015, more than 60% of traceable guns used by gangs and 31.6 % of non-gang crimes came from Indiana. By contrast, Indiana had relatively few out of state guns used in crimes, And Chicago also has a serious gang problem. So it is more than just a single issue/problem .

  • perhaps but you gotta’ get rid of those assault rifles and mega=magazines before you can realistically even think of a teacher being effective. And issue them bullet proof vests as well to be worn at all times and at least monthly training.if they are going to CCW at a bare minimum – otherwise just stupid nonsense. And still ballsy and somewhat baffling when police response would normally be a well equipped SWAT team.

    And personally the idea of arming teachers instead of taking concrete measures to address the proliferation of guns is a solution worthy of a banana republic or third world country.

  • Given that CCW permit holders have also engaged in mass shootings – range from e to 14 victims – there is a bit of an erroneous assumption thinking they are good guys – let alone the issue of cross fire or friendly-fire. Surprised that as a Columbine survivor he would think a CCW was even in the same ball park compared to the weaponry typically used by shooters.

  • Scott Peterson was charged with double homicide — one for his wife Lacy; and one for his unborn baby.

    On November 12, 2004, a jury convicted Peterson of two counts of murder: first-degree murder with special circumstances for killing Laci, and second-degree murder for killing the fetus she carried.

    Was that a mistake?

  • No. That baby if I remember correctly was wanted, and was healthy. What is wrong is denying a woman the right to choose what is best for her situation. Every situation is different.

  • People kill humans all the time and it isn’t murder–policemen, military personnell, people in self-defense, and early term abortions.

  • That baby washed up on the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean………………dead. When Lacy was murdered, she was pregnant. Scott Peterson was tried for double homicide and found guilty.

  • I think I got your point..guns are killing people in Chicago why is there no outrage. Is that it? I was trying to point out that most of the mass shootings aren’t committed by convicted felons would either purchased guns through the black market or stole them. In other words, not a good analogy.

  • In other words, he’s acting like a U.S. Senator….which in the past two decades means doing absolutely nothing…but place blame at the feet of the survivors and anything other target they deem worthy. Now when there is pork to fry, they bunch up thicker than black flies in New England to siphon as much as they can.

  • That baby was wanted by grandparents maybe not by the father! It doesn’t change my point that every situation is different and every woman deserves the right to make her own decisions about her situation. Read your Bible you will see that killing a pregnant woman was wrong as it also killed the fetus.

    The other point is that fertilized eggs are not a fetus. Many fail to implant and are expelled and many even after implantation fail to develop and also get expelled.

  • I was just making the point that the courts charged him with “Double” homicide. Then I asked you a question — “Where they wrong to do that?”

  • And I answered your question. I said NO. That baby was wanted and was healthy. Each situation is different. what is wrong is denying a woman the right to make decisions regarding her own body and situation.

  • When it becomes “human” and what it means to be “human” is what is subjective. For many there is more to being “human” than just having human DNA!

  • According to the CDC report, the rate of abortion among African-American women is far higher than among white American women. While black women make up only six percent of the U.S. population, they account for 35 percent of abortions reported.

    If the GOP and its Christian conservative base had gotten its way, Roe vs Wade (1973) would have been overturned, and an additional 20 million African American babies would have been born between 1973 and 2017, many of those aborted babies would be adults, and have had their own children by now, and the African American percentage of the U.S. population would be significantly higher, than it is today. (According to some estimates, the African American community would be 25% larger today, if lefty liberals hadn’t vigorously pushed, promoted and supported legalizing abortion in America). The left-wing Democratic party and its Leftist “progressive” base pretends to care about the socioeconomic status of non-white minorities, at the same time the Democratic party’s support for abortion has resulted in a demographic genocide of African Americans, drastically reducing the potential political clout of the African American community, a factor taken into account by the US government when it makes decisions on policy that affects the socioeconomic status of the African American community.