Open Carry: Is it OK at a public high school concert?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Open Carry
Open Carry at a Burger King in Eagle Colorado

OPEN CARRY, the act of carrying a firearm in plain sight in public, is permitted in more than half of the 50 states and is a matter of legal dispute in many others. Groups promoting and opposed to open carry are sharing photos of gun sightings on many web sites, including Wikimedia Commons. This photo of a man filling his cup at a Colorado Burger King was shared on that site by DDriver for public use.

About ten days ago, a gun-rights activist attended the Chorale Cavalcade concert at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, MI, openly carrying a pistol. The incident created quite a stir.

Police were called and squad cars showed up, according to press accounts, but the man was permitted to watch the concert because his actions were legal under Michigan law. Even if legal, should a member of the general public be allowed to carry a pistol into a public school event?

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants the right for private individuals to keep and bear arms. The Michigan state Constitution says, “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.”

In Michigan, if you have a valid concealed carry permit, you can’t bring a concealed weapon into a designated pistol-free zone like a school—but you can openly carry it. If you don’t have a concealed carry permit, you can’t openly carry a pistol in a weapon-free zone, even though open carry is generally permitted in the state.

The logic of open carry in a weapon-free zone by a holder of a concealed weapon permit takes a few moments to grasp. Some have called it a loophole in the law. Others, however, maintain that it’s an example of our constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.

How would you feel if you were at the Chorale Cavalcade concert?

Do you support or oppose open carry by concealed permit holders at a school event open to the public?

Care to read more? This incident in Ann Arbor wasn’t the only case of a gun owner, while openly carrying a firearm, touching off controversy at a public school in Michigan. Detroit Free Press staff writer Bill Laitner reported on both the Ann Arbor case and a second case in Madison Heights involving a man with a rifle.

Tomorrow—What are the four reasons many gun-rights activists promote open carry?

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Family Treasures: Missing photographs, missing memories?

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Family Treasures

Jennifer Pollard with photo of her great grandmotherAmericans today are the most photographed people in history. Smartphones and Facebook make it easy to capture daily images of our lives and share them. Go back a generation or two, however, and photographs are rare. Many are missing, representing gaps in the stories of our families.

Do you have a photographic gap in yours?

Here’s a story of one such gap: Jennifer Pollard’s family is from Barbados, the tiny island nation just north of South America. Jennifer participated in our recent group discussion on objects and the values they signify. She showed a photograph of her Great Grandmother Cecelia. This photo is a valuable object. But the missing photograph is one of her Uncle Arlington, one of her Great Grandmother’s 11 children. Seven immigrated to America, and her uncle was the first. As Jennifer told us, “He came through Ellis Island, and he started a dry cleaning business in New York.”

As she told her story, she reflected that the activity of sharing such valuable objects can be difficult. “You realize how many gaps you have about your family,” she said. “I did meet my Uncle Arlington and some of his siblings—but my regret is that I didn’t get to know them more and to meet those whom I didn’t get to meet. I wish that they had lived longer so I would have been able to learn more about them. … A part of me is missing because I don’t have a decent knowledge of my great aunts and great uncle.”

Arlington’s story is a classic immigrant story of people coming here to make a better life for themselves and their families. His example illustrates the values of achievement, hard work, and enterprise.

Do you have a story like Jennifer’s?

Is there a gap in your family knowledge?

What object would you use to tell the story of your values and how you got them?

Your story matters!

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Elections: Who wants to radically change America?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Elections
Public Religion Research Institute report on 2014 midterm elections

CLICK this image from the Public Religion Research Institute to read an overview of the PRRI study. On that webpage, you also can choose to download the entire 33-page PRRI research report.

Would you like to see radical change in America? Sweeping immigration reform? The end of Obamacare? Something even more dramatic?

This week at OurValues, we will discuss what the latest election results mean.

Stalemate and gridlock are likely, now that the Republicans control both the Senate and the House and a Democrat sits in the White House. Then again, Obama may take unilateral action and radically alter our immigration policies through executive action. And, in 2016, if the Republicans retain control of both houses and the presidency, we might see radical change of a different sort.

Let’s start our discussion with this question—Who do you think wants to make radical change in America: Democrats or Republicans?

Democrats is the answer, according to a post-election survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. A majority of Americans (53%) say that Democrats want to radically transform society, compared to only 33% who say that it’s the Republicans who want to do that. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Tea Party member, Republicans, and conservatives say that Democrats, more than Republicans, want to remake American society.

However, more Americans say that the Republican party is more extreme in its positions, compared to those who say that the Democratic party is extreme in its positions.

Do you think that Democrats, more than Republicans, want to radically change America?

Would prefer radical change by Democrats or Republicans—or no radical change at all?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

Changing Relationships: Who needs marriage, anyway?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series changing relationships
OV Pew 2014 Public Is Divided over Value of Marriage

CLICK this Pew graphic to read the entire Pew report.

Marriage and family are often considered to be the bedrock of society, but values about these institutions are changing.

One shift is rising support for legalizing same-sex marriage. But changing values about traditional marriage is an even bigger trend, at least in terms of sheer numbers.

What’s your view? Is society better off if marriage and children are a priority? Or, is society just as well off if people have different priorities?

You have plenty of company either way. Half of all Americans (50%) now say that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and kids, according to a new Pew poll. And, 46% of Americans disagree, saying that society is better off if people make marriage and children a priority in their lives.

Younger Americans are much more likely than older Americans to say that society is just as well off if people have other priorities. Two-thirds of Americans who are 18 to 29 years of age say so, as do a majority of Americans (53%) who are 30 to 49. Americans who are 50 years of age or older are more likely to say that society is better off if getting married and having kids are priorities.

If a couple wants to spend the rest of their lives together, do you think they should get legally married? A majority of Americans say yes, but again we see differences by age. Just over one-third of Americans 18 to 29 believe that those who want to be together for the rest of their lives should get married, compared to half of Americans who are 50 to 64 years of age. The oldest group (65 and older) is the most likely to say that getting legally married is important if a couple wants to spend their lives together.

Have you or did you make marriage and having children a top priority in your life?

Should people get legally married if they want to spend the rest of their lives together?

Changing Relationships: What happens when religious values clash?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series changing relationships
United Church of Christ banner in a pride parade

Some religious groups welcome LGBT men and women. This United Church of Christ banner was part of a gay-pride parade in 2013. Photo provided for public use by NathanMac via Wikimedia Commons.

The right to make and break relationships is a defining feature of modern society.

Through most of human history, a person was born into a fixed matrix of relationships. Today, many people enjoy unprecedented freedom of action and choice when it comes to their relationships with one another and to institutions like religion, family, and community. But we don’t have complete liberty—values shape and influence the choices we make.

When values change, what happens to relationships?

One area of change involves religion and relationships with those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT). Public opinion has shifted in favor of same-sex marriage, but it is still a divisive issue—a majority of Americans support gay marriage, but a near-majority do not. For many churches, it’s an even more divisive issue.

Most LGBT adults feel that religious groups are generally unfriendly toward them, according to a Pew survey of the LGBT community. For example, at least eight of ten LGBT adults say that the Muslim religion, the Mormon Church, and Catholic Church are unfriendly toward them. Three-quarters view Evangelical churches as unfriendly.

It is noteworthy, then, when a prominent evangelical ethicist changes his mind about the church’s relationship to the LGBT community. The ethicist is David P. Gushee, who is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. Throughout most of his professional life, he took the traditional line on the church’s relationship to LGBT people. Now, in his latest book, he argues for “full acceptance of LGBT Christians in the Church.”

Gushee’s book about changing his mind is changing many of his relationships. The new book’s official publication date is this week, but news about its message already is bringing him new allies, including friend requests on social media, and new opponents, some of them former friends. (You can read a new interview with Gushee in ReadTheSpirit this week.)

Given David Gushee’s pedigree and credentials, however, he cannot be easily dismissed.

To what extent will religious institutions change their relationships to the LGBT community?

In the religious institutions you know, what happens when values clash?

Ebola: Does hysteria make sense?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Ebola
10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group

WANT TO WORRY? CLICK ON THE TOP CHART to see it expand and learn the “10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group,” the most recent version compiled by the CDC. CLICK ON THE LOWER CHART to see it expand and learn the “10 Leading Causes of INJURY Death by Age Group” from the CDC.

There was a time when hysteria made sense and fleeing for the hills was a prudent survival strategy, notes sociologist Claude Fischer. When yellow fever and cholera were prevalent and the mechanisms of transmission (and hence prevention or treatment) were unknown, leaving town was the best way to avoid illness. Of course, this meant that the burden of a disease fell disproportionately on the poor and the immobile.

Is Ebola another time for hysteria?

Drawing upon history, Fisher argues “that, while alarm and drastic emergency actions are needed in a few West African countries, the U.S. has the expertise and the resources to contain this kind of infectious disease.”

He notes that during the same three-week period in which Thomas Duncan was diagnosed and died, thousands of Americans died from other contagious conditions. Some of these conditions are medically contagious; others are socially contagious:

10 Leading Causes of Injury Death by Age Group“…during an average three-week period in the United States: 35 people die from tuberculosis; 3,200 from influenza and pneumonia–500 of those people under 65 years of age; 1,100 from suicide by gun; 650 from homicide by gun; 1,000 by alcoholic cirrhosis; and 1,900 by motor vehicle accident. These deaths are not only vastly more numerous, they are much more contagious, either in a medical sense or in a sociological sense. Where are screaming headlines for those risks?”

The threat of Ebola has captured our attention. But the diseases and conditions that occur slowly and in some ways acceptably elude our concerns. Fischer questions whether we have the will “to contain the much greater killers like alcoholism, firearm use, and motor vehicles.”

Is hysteria warranted when it comes to Ebola?

Should we be focusing on other killers of Americans?

Ebola: Changing your travel plans?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Ebola
CDC Symptoms_of_ebola

DOES IT REASSURE YOU (or make you more anxious) TO KNOW THE SYMPTOMS? This information comes from the Centers for Disease Control and was posted as a graphic to Wikimedia Commons by Mikael Häggström.

So far this month, I’ve been on 10 different planes and through several major and regional airports in the U.S. I have to admit that Ebola crossed my mind from time to time, but I haven’t changed any travel plans. Have you? Has anyone you know?

More than eight of ten Americans (83%) are following the news about Ebola at least somewhat closely, according to new national poll results just released yesterday by Rasmussen Reports. Forty-five percent say they are following the Ebola story very closely. A quarter of all Americans (26%) are very concerned personally about Ebola, with an additional 31% reporting that they are somewhat concerned. Only 15% say they are not personally concerned at all.

The level of concern has abated slightly since Rasmussen Reports’ poll on the same issues in early October. This slight decrease is noteworthy because, since the earlier poll, two nurses in Texas were diagnosed with the disease. It remains to be seen how Americans react to the news released yesterday that the people who were closest to the Ebola patient who died in Texas have passed the 21-day period without any symptoms and are free to leave their homes.

And some Americans are changing their personal travel plans because of the occurrence of Ebola in the United States. Just over one in ten (12%) say that they have done so, according to Rasmussen Reports. Men and women are equally likely to have changed their personal travel plans.

Most Americans (83%), however, say they have not changed their personal travel plans because of the Ebola threat.

What is your current level of concern about Ebola in the U.S.?

Have you changed your personal travel plans due to the occurrence of the disease in the U.S.?