December 10, 7 p.m.
Judea Reform Congregation
1933 West Cornwallis Road, Durham
The NC Council of Churches, partnering with North Carolinians Against Gun Violence and the League of Women Voters, will host a Candlelight Vigil to Remember the Victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. This is especially timely for the Council. Recently we gathered representatives from many organizations across the Triangle who work for better gun sense in our community to begin thinking of ways we can all come together and shape a different gun culture. Together we are seeking places for education and change in our state.
As it turns out, Judea Reform Congregation is only four blocks from my house and so news of the vigil this week registered with my neighborhood email group. Scrolling through <dukeforestneighbors> I was pleased to see our event mentioned through this channel. My pleasure was short lived — the very next email carped that our neighborhood group is not for “political agendas.” I was so stunned my fingers threw caution to the wind and quickly typed: “This is not political. It’s a vigil. Besides, who’s not against violence?”
As you might imagine, my cyber-quip unleashed a maelstrom of responses. More importantly, it reminded me, when we talk about guns in this country we touch a raw nerve. A vigil is intentionally not political, but a vigil commemorating an event linked to guns is automatically reframed as political. Rather than being about those killed in Sandy Hook three years ago and the 90,000 since then (plus 14 more from San Bernadino),the vigil is only about guns. Descriptors like violence, control, or reform are rendered mute by the largess of GUN. The conversation we need to have is reduced to a visceral defense of the Second Amendment. So far as I can tell, however, no one is suggesting repeal of the Second Amendment or gun banishment.
Isaiah, the savvy political analyst from ancient Israel (a country full of woes not unlike many we encounter today), once said, “Come now, let us reason together” (1:18). He offered this on the heels of a lengthy description about how things are and as a prelude for how they might be different. We are in that place with our guns. We know how things are and polls show most of us want it to be different. Most of us are tired of vigils to commemorate senseless death because the wrong people own guns (40% of all guns in the United States are purchased from unlicensed dealers, who do not require background checks), some gun owners are careless (more than two million American children live in homes with guns that are not stored safely and securely), and some guns don’t need to be owned by the general public (assault weapons, the choice for mass shootings, used to be illegal under a law that expired in 2004).
We need to have a reasonable conversation about these matters, not irrational one-offs on a neighborhood email list. Come now, let us reason together. Just a little reason could make a big difference.