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Letter to the Editor: Responding to Gun Violence

Letter to the Editor: Responding to Gun Violence

Each day in the Unites States, people grieve the loss of loved ones due to gun violence. Christians, in particular, want to make our society safer but we can feel frustrated because we often do not know what to do.

 

This article seeks to equip Christians to join in the effort to reduce gun violence.  First, we will review a few statistics about how many lives are lost each year. We will then highlight some key Bible verses that establish the basis for the value Christians place on human life and at the biblical mandate that believers are called to work for justice. Lastly, we will consider some suggestions for ways to put our faith into action.

 

John Gramlich’s article titled “What the Data Says about Gun Deaths in the U.S,” published by the Pew Research Center provides statistics about the number of lives lost each year to gun violence:

  • In 2018, 373 people died in mass shootings.
  • In 2017, 39,773 people died from gun-related injuries.
  • Suicides by gun accounted for about six of every 10 firearm deaths in 2017 according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Gramlich).

 

As people of faith, what are we called to do?

We are called to value people. In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he reminded them of their, and our, intrinsic value as beings created by God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul posed a question. “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (New American Standard Bible (NASB), 1 Cor. 3:16).

We are also called to act. The Old Testament prophet Micha asked the Jewish people another thought provoking question. “. . . And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (NASB, Mic. 6:8). Justice, according to the biblical imperative, includes speaking out for the victims in our society. In our time, this includes victims of gun violence.

People of faith are publicly stating their commitment to speak out and keep speaking out about the need to end gun violence. On August 6, 2019, The Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of nearly 100 Episcopal Church bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, put it eloquently:

Today we are weary of witnessing the slaughter gripping our country. But we are no less determined to continue speaking, even when it seems our words make no difference; to continue praying in order to gather our strength to act; and to follow Jesus in speaking truth, especially when it seems that truth is out of season.

 

We can be encouraged that Christians are not alone in speaking out. An article published at npr.org on 8/10/2019 [by Domenico Montanaro], stated

“There is public support for universal background checks for gun purchases, extreme risk protection orders (also called red flag laws), gun licensing, assault-weapons bans and bans on high-capacity magazines.

 

We put out faith into action by practicing discernment and then taking action.

Discernment

  • Pray.
    • Ask God what he would like us to do? Allow time to pray, journal and listen for God’s guidance.
  • Follow our heart.
    • What aspects of our society do we feel we want to help? Information on how sensible gun control measures could improve safety for specific groups in our society including:  school children, people suffering from mental illness, victims of domestic abuse, and people serving in the Armed Forces is readily available online.
  • Take stock of our resources.
    • What do we have to give and how much? Which of our resources do we enjoy giving? Time, financial support, ability to write, sign a petition, join a march?
  • Challenge yourself.
    • Take one small action step and then pray again for God’s guidance for what to do next.

 

Take Action.

  • Pray for our elected officials to act justly.
  • Write or call your elected officials to urge them to support sensible gun control legislation.
  • Vote for candidates to elected office who will support sensible gun control policy.
  • Support legislation to remove big money’s influence from policy making.
  • Sign online petitions.
  • Financially support legal nonprofits fighting for sensible gun control measures such as The Giffords Law Center. (This advocacy organization was founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly.)
  • Stay informed on the factors contributing to gun violence and on current developments.

 

Here are some online resources:
Pewresearch.org
Giffordslawcenter.org
Gunpolicy.org

 

May the Holy Spirit inspire us, lead us and strengthen us to respond to the gun violence epidemic.

 


 

Jane Malmgren, parishioner, All Saints Episcopal Church, San Leandro, CA

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Harry M. Merryman
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Harry M. Merryman

Inevitably, it seems, the conclusion of those who are concerned about gun violence is that the most urgent need is to pass "sensible gun control legislation." While I am all in favor of gun control legislation, these laws--at least those that have any chance of being enacted--will do very little to address the guns that are already plentiful and available in our country. The fact is that there are more privately owned guns than people in the U.S. If we don't begin to focus at least as much attention on other determinants of violence (e.g., social and economic inequality, childhood abuse and neglect, bullying, stigmatizing those who are different) we are unlikely to make much headway. Fortunately, our faith has much to offer our culture when it comes to addressing these determinants.

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