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RH Reality Check

In the Wake of Newtown: Still Clinging to Guns, Religion, and Abortion in Kansas

Kari Ann Rinker

The quote deemed disastrous during President Obama’s 2008 campaign about small town people “clinging to their guns and religion” rings true in Kansas. You cannot throw a rock in the Kansas legislature without hitting a pro-gun, anti-choice politician. This is a land awash with golden wheat fields, tornadoes, and contradictions. A land where, indeed, there is no appropriate place to “draw the line” on gun control, but a Kansas politician will not hesitate to find six ways from Sunday to restrict a Kansas woman’s access to abortion and contraception.

This gun toting, fetus-worshiping mentality is an extension of the rampant and wildly patriarchal viewpoints, practices, and policy that abound in this red state legislature. That is why, in the wake of a mass murder in Connecticut, rather re-considering wildly un-restrictive gun laws, we can expect to see even more “guns and religion” in Kansas and, perhaps, other red states across the nation. The gun-toting, man-splaining political egos will simply see this as the next item on their agenda. They stand ready to impose their views on the masses, because Daddy knows what is best and “an armed society is a polite society”, doncha know?

Case in point… Representative Forest Knox, an outspoken advocate of the right to conceal and carry firearms in Kansas. He introduced and shepherded legislation that would allow those with conceal carry licenses to carry their firearms wherever they darn well please.

Representative Knox confirmed to RH Reality Check that there will be more pro-gun legislation in 2013 and he will be the one introducing it. This in spite of the fact that Kansas already has been ranked as having some of the most egregious gun laws in the nation. When asked by RH Reality Check what his thoughts were on the Newtown shooting, he responded…

“When this tragedy occurred, I read through the list of names on the Internet and I thought, this is indeed, a terrible situation. I also thought, you know what stopped him? He shot himself. These people kill themselves, because they are not courageous. If the principal would have had a gun locked up in her office and merely shot to let the attacker know that she was armed, I believe the shooting would have ended…because he would have shot himself. That’s what these guys do. Crime and murder and serious crime are down across the nation, perhaps due to conceal carry. In this world we live in…if we are going to be safe, we need guns. Whatever criminals have, I would want to be able to defend against.”

In spite of Representative Knox's assertions USA Today’s data show that violent crime is on the rise and the City of Chicago saw 500 homicides this year.

Representative Knox is abiding by the NRA viewpoint that the answer to mass murders in America is to arm more civilians. Representative Geraldine Flaharty strongly rejects that notion. Geraldine is a retired teacher and served on the House Education Committee.


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“I have no desire to operate a gun. I don’t know many teachers who would and the armed guard at any school is going to be at automatic disadvantage against an assault weapon. He would probably be the first casualty. Now, I understand that these men in the Kansas Legislature all grew up watching John Wayne westerns, but we don’t wear white hats and black hats and we don’t have perfect aim. Ordinary sane people aren’t motivated to kill first and think later.”

Unfortunately, the NRA has opened this can of worms and red state legislatures and school districts will soon be taking the NRA’s words of wisdom to heed. It has already started in Utah, where teachers are receiving free gun training in response to the shooting and, in Arizona, Sheriff Joe is sending armed volunteers to schools.

It’s not as if the Kansas pro-gun patriarchy needs much prodding in that direction. In Wichita, gun rights groups successfully lobbied the City Council to allow citizens to carry guns in 111 public owned buildings… but not where the City Council meets. In our state capital it is somehow seen as acceptable to speak about shooting human beings from helicopters like “feral pigs." In 2010 a Hutchinson, Kansas man brought two loaded guns into a paternity hearing and was later only sentenced one year in prison. Just two days after the Newtown shootings, two Topeka police officers were shot and killed in a grocery store parking lot. This didn’t stop Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp from “shooting off” his mouth just days later on national TV, however.

Now, I don’t claim to know the difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic weapon, but considering most of the men in the Kansas Legislature don’t know the difference between a vulva and a cervix and are a-okay with legislating my body parts, I will go ahead and give voice my strong opinion. We need more gun control.

I have written here about my twin daughters, they are seven years old and in the first grade… just like those first graders in Newtown. And this I know… when a child is shot 11 times while sitting in their classroom, it is time for change. When 20 children are shot in this manner… it is time for drastic change. I will not allow my children to be victims of terrorist acts committed by a gun-toting madman, nor will I allow them to be a prop for the NRA to sell more weapons to their cult-like masses, nor will I remain silent while the Mike Huckabees of the world to use this tragedy to push a Christian agenda into my public school.

People have questioned whether gun control is a feminist issue. In a state like Kansas, embracing gun control may lose the support of some pro-choice, gun-owning feminists. But I believe that women are powerful and should not shirk from lending their voices to this debate, even if we lose a few supporters along the way. Guns, religion, and abortion restrictions go hand in hand. It only makes sense that we might fight them with equal and infinite passion.

Kari Ann Rinker is a former State Coordinator and Lobbyist for the Kansas National Organization of Women.

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