Can we make progress on guns?

My blog looks at relationships among courage, humility and action, from an Anabaptist’s point of view. The blog is not primarily political, but something is happening, and we find it hard to turn our eyes away. 

It’s been less than a week since the March 24th ‘March for our Lives’. As a former teacher, I feel the need to let these articulate students, from all over America, rest for a while in the protective arms of their parents and teachers. The depth of this movement in our nation’s history must sink into my putterer’s brain before I try to write my way through it. So, today I’ll try to articulate some thoughts about guns from a perspective other than our schools.

For those who wish, there is a copy and paste link below to a stunning cache of marching photographs.  NYTimes. (1)

In all religions and walks of life, there are folks who don’t own or carry guns, and never will. But things weren’t always so, even in Mennonite enclaves.

As a young man, my great grandfather killed a boar in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. And he didn’t throw rocks at it.

In the mid 1800s, the Swiss government offered money to farmers who would kill boar that were streaming south from the Alsace Lorraine, where a conflict between the French and Germans was raging. The boar were huge, long-tusked, and dangerous to crops, livestock, and people. Safety was needed.

Those Swiss Mennonite hunters were packing heat, and Great Grandfather killed that boar with a gun.

Let me be as clear as the bell on a Swiss cow’s neck, though: that gun would never be used to kill people, so firm was my great grandfather’s Mennonite faith.

My husband and I—following other family members’ ventures—found the boar in a lovely little museum in Switzerland, in 2003. A kind manager (below) let us into the exhibit on his day off. I was surprised at the large scale and ferocious appearance of my great grandfather’s boar. It had been dangerous, and people needed to be safe. (Still, this modern, suburban woman ran her hand over its bristles and sent a message of apology to its cold brain. I know, I know.)


                   The manager, the boar, and I                                               Earlier: my mom, a cousin, and the boar

The young man showed us the rest of his museum. Case after case and room after room glowed with butterflies as big as our faces, antelope and springbok from the savannas of Africa, and strange reptiles killed in South America. The carnage was extensive and beautiful. Most had come from the explorations of the 1800s.

The years of European scientific competition spanned that century and rolled into the 1900s. With discoveries of ‘new’ lands came the need to transport animals, dead or alive, to the scientific societies of developed countries for study—and perhaps to prove that each man had actually found new species. People wanted, and competed for, knowledge.

With monetary and scientific discovery came the realization that there were lots and lots of animals out there. Such lauded men as Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and all-the-boys shot the bloody guts out of thousands of native animals on a variety of continents. People wanted sport, and there were so many critters to kill.

Today, we are shocked at such destruction, be it for science or sport. You see, times have changed, and we perceive life in modern terms. Now, we see our planet as temporary, and we worry that humans are not living on it, or with each other, very well.

One thing remains, though. We need to be reasonably safe. 

Responsible hunters still go out in sanctioned seasons and cull the deer. They eat the deer and honor the animal. For them, hunting is not only skilled sport but a love of nature. They carry their hunting rifles precisely and are rightfully proud of the caution with which they handle their equipment. They want sport, but good hunters accept that their sport is regulated for safety and number.

Robbie Weaver on Unsplash

The Second Amendment was ratified in 1791. It was championed by James Madison as protection for the states against a federal or kingly army that might take away the rights gained in the Revolutionary War. In fact, he and James Monroe started a technological revolution for the making of repeating arms! David Kopel (2)

Although there were some repeating rifles and blunderbusses back then–at least for those who could afford them (2)–we all know that the difference between guns then and now is the sheer number of highly advanced firearms available for individual use: Glocks, Sigs, Rugars, semi-automatics, high-capacity magazines, and assault-style weapons—add the bump stocks.

The sky’s the limit.

vladimir vladimir palyanov on Unsplash

There are those crazy Anabaptists-and-other-folk, who purposely go into dangerous areas for the greater good, unarmed except with their courage and good intentions. Bless you all over the place, Christian Peacemaker Teams and the like.

Almost everyone else, though, agrees that his/her own safety, the safety of loved ones, and hopefully the safety of others are of primary importance.

But, how many guns does an individual American need for safety? Where should those guns be kept: in locked boxes, in our cars, on our persons? Who should be allowed to carry guns: everyone? Which kinds of guns should be made available? Who must carry a gun?

What about our freedoms?

This is the point my thoughts have come to today. Presently, what we want and what we need may be at odds.

We may want absolute freedom, but we need an adjustment for modern times: carrying through on the laws already on the books, and crafting reasonable legislation—with the purpose of securing our entire society’s future.

Here is a list (with links) of Ohio’s laws to consider.

It is a list sponsored by folks on the progressive side. If that is not your cup of tea, you can still use the list to further your own deliberations. Of course, you will look up your own state’s laws.

Why use a state’s list, not federal? Because today–marches not withstanding–the politics that we can actually control tend to be closer to home. It is time to work together, even as we feel apart. Even as we are angry.

A well known passage for today’s Maunday Thursday is John 13:14-15 (NSRV):

14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

Our courage may be to work hard for modern legislation, while listening with humility to opposing opinions and recognizing that we all want our families, and our children, to be safe.

Best wishes and have a good week.


This post does not address Tuesday’s article in the NYTimes by John Paul Stevens (3).

More on our attitudes about guns next week.


Copy-and-paste links:





I welcome your comments: Please enjoy a few short stories on the Home page, as well.

{Thank you to my niece, Addie Liechty, for taking the picture above that is this blog’s featured image. Her blog is:}


Greta Holt


  1. Judy DaPolito on March 29, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for writing such a balanced and thoughtful post. The issue of the distinction between what we want and what we need is immensely important and needs to be the focus of public discussion.

    • Greta Holt on March 29, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Agreed, Judy. We may need to do the hard work of looking at facts more than folks. Not as fun, but necessary.

Leave a Comment

Sign up to hear about upcoming stories and posts.