I’m exhausted. I’m fatigued that another shooting has happened.
We said that legislative action was needed back in the summer of 2012 when 12 were killed at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
A few mass killings later, 27 were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children died as a result of the massacre. Even with the majority of victims being first-graders, nothing was changed in our country’s legislative policy on guns.
This August, two people were killed on live television, and still, nothing.
Once again, last week brought about another mass shooting at a educational institution in Oregon.
Some days, I’m feel like I’m becoming a pessimist because I believe nothing will be done to change the way we in the United States are dealing with the gun violence in our country. No place is safe- not churches, malls, movie theatres, restaurants or schools. Just as George Santayana stated “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” if we don’t try something soon, we may all experience loss and trauma due to handguns.
Our president claimed that we need more than thoughts and prayer at a time like this. What we need is a prayer that involves action. James 2:14 states “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?” In this case, only an active and dialogical faith can save us.
Now is the time for us leaders in the Christian faith to begin a sacred conversation on guns.
I still hold some hope when it comes to the possibility of dialogues. What would a sacred conversation on guns look like? The discussions will not be easy. The perspectives range in our congregations from very pro-gun and NRA to ridding the world of all weapons. Some Christians want to “beat their ploughshares into swords” (Joel 3:10) while others want to “beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4). Having these discussions doesn’t mean that anyone wants to take away the guns that people currently own. Unless someone shows some type of violent behavior, most of us respect the right to own arms.
When designing a sacred conversation on guns, first and foremost, I believe it’s time for us to tell our stories and listen to one another. For those who own guns, we open the floor to their stories of how and why they’ve acquired their guns. Is it something that was given to them by a family member? They can tell us how they’ve used their guns in recreation and express their fears of not having a gun in their homes.
For those of us who do not own guns and would rather they not exist, we can express our fear of guns in our world. We can express the frustration with lax gun laws and how needed conversations on gun reform aren’t happening. We can communicate how we are exhausted hearing stories of mothers, fathers, siblings and children of every race, religion, gender and sexual orientation are finding their demise at the end of a gun.
Secondly, how can we better understand the context in which the second amendment was written? Weapons during the time that the Bill of Rights were composed were extremely different than today. How can we understand the second amendment with twenty-first century semi-automatic and automatic weapons and ammunition? How does this amendment make sense in a context with no militias? Are we overlooking the words “well-regulated” as we uphold the second amendment. What does well-regulated mean in conjunction with this amendment and its rights? Currently in many states, people can own a gun without a waiting period, without a universal background check, without a permit and without registering their handgun. How do our laws work and no longer work for 2015, and how can we make changes without robbing people of their rights?
Third, as people of faith, we can look at our widespread violent culture that contributes to weapon use. How do the rituals of engaging in violent video games and playing toy guns contribute to the comfort of using weapons in daily life? How do extremely violent movies and news clips numb us to the reality of violence?
Fourth, how easy it is for a person who has a background in domestic violence, stalking or other violent crime to attain a gun? And what benefit would waiting periods, background checks and registering a handgun like we register cars improve the safety of all? How can we make locks on guns more accessible? And how could we all compromise on gun reform, creating laws that would be closer to owning and operating a car, knowing that those who follow laws and ethical behavior will have no problem attaining a weapon?
Fifth, the subject of mental illness often arises in conversations about mass shootings. While some people who attain guns do have severe mental health issues, most people with mental health issues are not violent people. And some people do not have mental illnesses but obtain guns to harm others. How can we discuss mental health in a way that will help see this issue in a new light but not stigmatize those with mental illness?
Finally, let us unpack the ways that we can begin the conversation on change. How can we embrace compromise to design laws that will protect both our sisters and brothers across the country who want to live without the fear of violence in their lives and those who want to own handguns?
I may be a person who would rather guns not be a part of our daily lives, but I believe in compromise, in making needed changes to laws and, simultaneously, upholding a second amendment that honors the “well-regulated” side of weaponry. I also believe that honoring a God of love and peace means wrestling with our issues together because this is the way for us to find healing and wholeness in our communities. If we Christians refuse to discuss this topic as a Church, we will continue to abide in a divided state as more people find their demise from gun deaths.
Let us live out our prayers, love and our faith by advocating reform and dialogue. Let us live out Christ’s love by listening to one another’s stories and finding ways to bring about peace in our world.
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