Rotary, Peace Through Service, Families and Guns in America

by John Borst,

A nation that lives in peace is a nation that controls its guns.  Is that too political a statement for the President of Rotary International to make?

The “tragedy of Newtown” is the tragedy of Everytown, in every country, in every language, in every race. The death of 20 children and six teachers by bullets fired from a gun wherever it might occur is an event which must rise above the banality of politics.

December-Family-MonthBut for Rotary International such a tragedy is something greater; it is a test aimed at the very heart of what makes Rotary great. Peace and family are the very cornerstones upon which Rotary is built.

Rotarians worldwide, but especially Rotarian’s in the United States of America must rise up as one voice and condemn this violence within their own house. They must rise up and say with one voice “a nation that lives in peace is a nation that controls its guns.”

To do anything less makes a mockery of the 2011-2012 theme of “Peace through Service”. To do anything less makes a mockery of December’s theme of “Family”.

If one truly believes in peace through service and the importance of family within society one cannot possibly subscribe to the tenants of the National Rifle Association.  Peace through guns is incompatible with the values of Rotarians.

It is time for President Tanaka, to speak out forcefully on behalf of grieving Rotarians who feel the pain of those 26 families most directly impacted by the bullets fired by guns that pieced fragile bodies and snuffed out not only their breath but the joy of this most holy of seasons.

President Tanaka, I want to hear you say, “A nation that lives in peace is a nation that controls its guns;” because the values of peace and family are not negotiable.

About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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25 Responses to Rotary, Peace Through Service, Families and Guns in America

  1. Lee White says:

    I live in the USA and do not own a gun. I feel the statement you ask for is close but not on target. First problem is we should be banning weapons of mass killing/destruction including assult rifles and semi-automatic handguns, making it illegal to own, possess or sell! Next we should set out how to controll “guns” and rifles. Let’s break down the catagories of “guns” and identify what we need to do and do it.

    Another point is we need as a country to be supporting mental health education and services. We have cut back services and access to mental health services. Everyone should have access to mental health services for as long as needed. Perhaps a tax on guns could go directly to providing mental health services.
    My last point is the USA itself; we as a country have slid into the business of weapons of mass destruction rather than focusing on service and construction. The weapon’s business needs to be monitored–companies in the weapons industry should not be allow to lobby or to be limited in their lobby efforts.
    My very last point is the USA military budget is so our of wack for sheer defense. The USA mind set needs to be examined, and congress can’t do it. And that statement forces us in to facing the weakness of our political system (ouch), with lobbyists, funding of candidates, professional egos and other problems that need to be faced.
    I’ll get off my soapbox

    • Paul Winiarz says:

      Rotary needs to stay out of politics, else it will find members and support leaving. As for the gun issue, Chicago has the strictist gun laws of any city in effect but has more gun killings (and is on the rise) than New York (which is in a decline). I am a gun owner but agree that fully automatic weapons really are not used in hunting and should be banned. Criminals do not care about any laws and those considering a killing spree will find/steal a weapon to accomplish their goal. Or worse, perhaps not finding a gun, might drive a vehicle through a school bus stop loading zone full of kids. Will we then call for removal of auto ownership?

      • Peter Dochinez says:

        AMEN !!!! I will likely resign from Rotary July 1st after over 30 years !!!! Sad !

  2. I am also a U.S. citizen who does not own guns, but I agree that this question is not as simple as ownership or guns. Ours is a culture of violence that needs to be addressed in so many ways. Reallocation of funding to education, social support, mental health, etc., all are needed. And, yes, the discipline of regular civic dialogue through organizations such as Rotary is extremely important.

  3. T Mathewson says:

    Any one of us might experience a mental health crisis by the end of this very day that would cause us to commit an unthinkable act we otherwise would not. Are twenty-seven innocents, don’t forget the mother, dead at the hand of an ill person in Connecticut different than twenty-seven dead at the hand of an ill person on a winding mountain road in say Columbia next week?

    A supposedly sane person(s) unfortunately made this headline: Program on Polio Eradication Suspended in Pakistan After 9 Aid Workers Killed 20-Dec-12.

    Be safe out there, it is a World full of uncertainty, with seven billion persons riding this rock around the Sun and not all of us are of right mind; mentally, politically, religiously, morally et al.

    • noronwe says:

      T Mahewson,
      But none of the scenerios you describe justify doing nothing about the number of guns or their lack of control in America.

      The only thing certain is that more guns will result in more deaths whether by accident, the menatlly derranged or the religiously fanatic.

  4. Cliff Borofsky says:

    “The death of 20 children and six teachers by bullets fired from a gun wherever it might occur is an event which must rise above the banality of politics.” These are not “bullets fired by a gun” – these are bullets that a deranged, mentally ill person fired from a gun he illegally seized, used to kill his mother and then took revenge. I agree that the issue is more related to the mental health of the American society – mixed as it is. More importantly, I do not think that Rotary International should issue any official position on the gun laws in this country. I would much rather see an official statement from the RI President regarding the RI workers killed in Pakistan. The statement we have seen is from the Chair of the International Polio-Plus Effort – not the RI President.

    • noronwe says:

      Cliff, I beg to differ a person can not fire a bullet. Only a gun can give a bullet with sufficient velocity to penetrate and kill another human being.

      It technically does not matter if the person was derranged or not. The matter of the fact is that guns were used on the mother, children and teachers to excute them.

      The following quote from Past Rotary International Director John Eberhard is in repsonse to a person claiming the issue is political applies to your view of R.I.’s position vis-a-vis its politics:

      LinkedIn Groups

      Group: Official Rotary International Group
      Discussion: Rotary, Peace Through Service, Families and Guns in America

      I beg to differ. The prohibition in Rotary is, for example, to collectively support a candidate, espouse the platform for a party or advocate for a cause in a political debate as a corporate citizen of the world. To say Rotarians cannot debate the principles is wrong. We are all engaged in our communities and all have opinions on controversial subjects such as gun control.
      The Rotary Code of Policies instructs us: “Because its world-wide membership includes persons of many facets of political opinion, no corporate action or corporate expression of opinion shall be taken or given by Rotary International on political subjects. However, freedom of speech and freedom of association are essential for the healthy development of Rotary in any given country”
      Surely, this is why your club, as so many do, will invite candidates of all stripes to speak to your club during an election. There is nothing in Rotary that precludes this sensible activity by engaged and interested citizens.
      To stifle debate on this important violence issue is like saying, “we can’t debate the merits of a sewage treatment plant because it politically offends the budget sensitivity priorities of a particular village; or, we can’t advocate, as a Rotarian, for a school in our community for girl children because it is culturally inappropriate.
      All Rotarians should be involved in this debate as well as the debate on the social/religious freedoms associated with the topic and the underlying frailties of our public mental health systems. Each has a constructive contribution to make to this debate. And this is a good forum to engage the Rotary world.
      Posted by John Eberhard

  5. Ken Fulk says:

    Rotary needs to be careful where it heads with this subject. This is a polictical statement and Rotary should be careful not to fall into being political. I for one would be inclined to look at Rotary from a completely different perspective if it decides it wants to be political. Will they want to start forming political action groups? Do lobbying? Where will it stop? Let’s keep Rotary focused on what it primary purpose and mission is and allocate its resources towards those ends. I do not contribute to Rotary and its Foundation to see it become an entity which works in the political arena. Based on what I know from other Rotary members I think you will find many others that share a similar opinion. Depending on where this goes could decide the fate of Rotary, potentially shrinking its ability to remain effective in its primary purpose.

    • noronwe says:

      Ken, It may be difficult to believe but I actually tried to craft the statement so that it was general enough to apply to all nations. From the discussion at Linkedin, it is obvious I failed. The sensitivity to the issue of gun control or even the words “gun control” among some Ameicans elicits what can only be described as an irrational response, sometimes falling over the edge to incoherence. For a non-American it has been quite something to observe.

      I really see it going no where within Rotary. For me what will be interesting to watch is where it does go poltically within the U.S. Congress.

  6. Jay McCall says:

    Rotary does not need to made any statement. If it were, it should also condemn abortion, a main reason the value of life is diminished. If it were, It should also condemn the violence of video games, movies, and TV. If it were, it also should condemn the mistake of not being able to protect individuals with mental problems from themselves and society.

    If it were, it should return to the theme of population control of several years ago that would have the effect of allowing third world countires the chance to develop sustainable economies and reduce violence from starvation, lack of education and warring groups

    If it were, it should condemn religious extremism.

    Rotary needs to stay out of any individual country’s political situation. Comment would be a knee jerk reaction to the shooting at Newtown, USA.

  7. D.J. Muse, Van Wert, Ohio (USA,) Rotary Club, D6600 says:

    Sir: I am a US Citizen, and I own guns. This is a political matter, a matter relating to our country’s Constitution, and as such, a matter that no Rotary Club nor Rotary International has no business broaching.

    • noronwe says:

      Dear Muse,

      If you re-read the sentence more carefully, the issue is not about gun control in the USA. It is about peace. It is also about all nations and about the relationship between peace, nations and the control of guns. Even the United States of America has gun controls. They may not be as strick as other countries but they do exist.

      The unfortunate problem is that you and may of your compatriots see the word gun control and you immediately react negatively without reading the context properly. This year’s president chose peace as his theme. My point is that as Rotary’s first ambassador it behooves him to make a statement about peace and finding a way for all Americans especially Rotarians to find a way to prevent further Newtown tragedies.

      • D.J. Muse, Van Wert, Ohio (USA,) Rotary Club, D6600 says:


        Kindly consider the last sentence of the article in particular, the request the author is making of the RI President: “President Tanaka, I want to hear you say, ‘A nation that lives in peace is a nation that controls its guns;’ because the values of peace and family are not negotiable.”

        That statement, in my opinion, clearly infers that gun control is a component of “peace.” I would argue that guns in the hands of citizens is a major contributor to “peace.”

        And, I believe that where a nation makes “gun control,” a matter of politics, as it is in the US, then by default it is a political matter. I would never presume to press my opinion on how another country might choose to handle a political matter provided the citizens of that nation have free-will control over the destiny of their own nation. Many nations have laws that I disagree with, that I believe wrong. But, unless I am a citizen of that nation, I have no right, and should not assume authority, to attempt enforcement of my opinion on that nation, just as RI should not presume to tell any (representative democracy or republic,) nation how what the laws in that nation should, or should not, be.

        Government control has but one result, the reduction of freedom. Our nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights is to serve one purpose only, and that is to restrict and limit the power of governments.

      • noronwe says:

        Dear : D.J. Muse, Van Wert

        Surely you can’t believe as you wrote:

        Government control has but one result, the reduction of freedom. Our nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights is to serve one purpose only, and that is to restrict and limit the power of governments.

        If you read the history of the United States of America surely you will realize that it is only with the Rule of Law as created by your two legislative bodies that you have any freedom at all. The bill of rights and your constitution do not exist outside of the context of your government. Both are creations of government.

        The NRA has twisted the meaning of government as has the extremists from Barry Goldwater on to today’s Tea Party acolytes. Rotary thrives best where there is good government. Government is good when there is peace and order.

        On the issue of guns, America is in chaos. Can you truly deny that? Is aiming a gun at another person really the only way you can solve a problem? Is that really what Rotary’s peace scholarship program is all about? I thought it was about finding alternatives to violent conflict resolution.

      • Jay McCall says:

        Rotarians need to keep the gun issure outside of Rotary communications. Efforts are best directed to promoting the 4 Way Test that offers basic values for human interactions. It is the Golden Rule. If we all adhered to the 4 Way Test and created no harm with our speaking, writing and actions what an enjoyable world we would all share.

  8. D.J. Muse, Van Wert, Ohio (USA,) Rotary Club, D6600 says:

    Sir or Madam,

    First, rest assured, I DO believe precisely what I said.

    Second, every school child in the US is taught that the people in our country ARE the government. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were created by the people, not by the government. The government exists solely at the will and pleasure of it’s citizenry in the US. (a concept at the root of our right to keep and bear arms.) It strikes me even more now that this clearly is purely a political issue, and again, I stress, in my opinion, an issue inappropriate for Rotary’s involvement.

    Third, it’s important that Rotary continue to respect the freedom of a people to adopt and implement their own laws.

    Please know I wish you happiness and peace and bear no ill will towards you. You see, I respect your opinion, and believe strongly in your right to have and hold that opinion, to even speak out as an individual about your opinion. I do not, however, believe Rotary International should be hijacked by any individual or groups of folks who wish to force their opinions on matters of national law or politics on others. Good day to you.

  9. Robert Rowley says:

    One of the first questions I asked when I joined Rotary was whether it engaged in political agendas. I was told it did not. If Rotary starts down this path of favoring gun control, it will be time for me to leave Rotary. Rotary already walks a very fine line related to its involvement with the United Nations. As long as their efforts are purely humanitarian, then I am an avid supporter. When it becomes political or supportive of the UN’s broader agenda, that is an entirely different matter!

  10. Jay McCall says:

    Rotary needs to stick to its involvement in eradicating polio as its connection with the United Nations through the World Health Organization. Any support of lthe UN’s gun control policies and agenda will damage Rotary and membership.

  11. Danny Schnautz says:

    I agree with the freedom of America’s constitution – where a limited, controlled government stays clear of the liberties of the citizen. If Rotary supports gun control I will leave Rotary. Millions of guns EACH DAY are used to promote peace. So much of what is said above about people killed by a car (and thus a car-ban) or any other sort of death is tragic; guns are not to blame. Citizens must control their government. History teaches this loud and clear.

  12. Jay McCall says:

    I agree, if Rotary is overtaken by the international, socialistic attitudes of Rotary leaders from the many countries in which there are clubs, I will consider ending close to 50 years of membership after formation of three clubs. The countries that control guns are the countries with leaders and administrations that are in fear of their own people.

    We in the United States have the three branches of government to balance control and not allow despotic actions by any branch. A governmental format that for the most part has worked. However, there is a fourth branch that is overlooked. It is the people, who give the power to those who govern.

    The balance factor of the people is revolution when the ballot box is not effective. A successful revolution most often utilizes arms to effect a successful outcome. Revolution is necessary by the people when governments stray from adhering to a nation’s constitution.

    Disarm the people and lose the fourth balancing factor.

  13. noronwe says:

    Folks, the above piece was written nearly 3 years ago to the month, and very near the day. And nothing has changed except the place and the number. Today it is San Bernardino where last Wednesday afternoon, 14 were slain, & 21 wounded. That just 5 days after a whack-job fundamentalist loner shot up a Colorado women’s health clinic that performs abortions — killing three, wounding nine. Now we also learn that there have been more mass killings in America to date, than there have been days in the year to date.

    Can anyone truthfully say that guns are under control in the USA?

    Rotary is trying to eradicate a natural epidemic in Polio because it kills and maims children and adults. Ummm, isn’t that what guns do? Now if we had a serum to prevent the killing and maiming of children and adults by guns wouldn’t that make a whole lot of sense for Rotary to promote just the way it has for Polio? That wouldn’t be about controlling guns; no one would be prevented from owning a gun but the serum would prevent guns from at least most of the killing and maiming.

    There is, of course, such a serum; it comes in a number of forms and is often called a “smart gun” because it can identify it’s owner and only permits that person to fire it. It can also be created so that it only fires under certain safe conditions because it has sensors that read its surroundings.

    Neither system is gun control in the sense that Americans have come to know and fear. Both serums are a means of keeping American society safe in the presence of an epidemic of violence involving guns.

    At the time of the Newtown tragedy, had such serums been in place, and had the guns been stolen as claimed above , they would not have worked and those little ones and their teachers would be alive today.

    To be quite frank, if you cannot as a Rotarian accept such a parallel ‘medical’ miracle as an andidote to guns killing and maiming, by supporting a Rotary initative to make America and the World a safer, healthier place to live, work and play in then I would be glad to say good-bye and good luck.

    I also happen to think that should Rotary do such a promotion, including raising funs to educate, promote and even subsidize the installation of such safety features, the publicity would generate so many new members that they would out number the leavers by a wide margin.

    • jay mccall says:

      rotary needs to stay out of politics. it is not guns. it is education. it is valuing life. it is sharing simply the four way test.

  14. noronwe says:

    Jay, Glad you are still monitoring this site or is it the topic? Anyway, I am perplexed because I say “should Rotary do such a promotion, including raising funs to educate, promote and even subsidize the installation of such safety features,” Are we not in agreement re: education; when we do as I say apply the “serum” or medical model is it not about education, safety, and valuing life? Where in your opinion does what I am proposing violate the 4 Way Test and where does it violate your “right to bear arms”? In my opinion it doesn’t.


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