Remarks from a June 2 press conference recognizing Wear Orange Against Gun Violence Day.
Last fall, we at the NC Council of Churches, invited all the organizations we know who are working for gun safety to join us for one big conversation. Since that time, we’ve discovered even more allies and with them have begun a concerted effort to raise awareness about gun violence and offer education about gun safety. Truth is, most people don’t understand the danger that surrounds them every day, made possible by our current gun laws. Open carry in public places allows guns at the parks where our children play. Pistol permits allow weapons in restaurants where our families gather. And unless each individual church expressly forbids it, concealed carry means guns are entering the places where we gather to worship the Prince of Peace.
The gun laws we have now seem to be a reaction to the climate of fear that permeates our lives. Our fear is reinforced by the habits we embrace every day in the name of safety: walking through metal detectors to enter schools, installing alarm systems in our homes, and carrying guns everywhere we go. Metal detectors and alarm systems can be helpful, but their pervasiveness in our lives reinforces the notion we are never safe, when in reality, we usually are. Guns may even be necessary under certain conditions, but their preponderance in our communities actually makes us less safe. Guns have become the idol we worship in the misguided pursuit of safety.
As the prophet Isaiah told his listeners when they were faced with similar polarizing issues: “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18 RSV). We believe there is a reasonable way for us to promote gun safety while respecting gun rights. Many gun owners and gun violence prevention advocates share similar safety goals. During the month of June, the NC Council of Churches is calling on all communities of faith to offer gun safety information to their congregations and to become aware of the current gun laws in our communities. Most importantly, our faith communities can provide safe space for gun safety and gun rights advocates to work together for reasonable and fair laws that go beyond political polarities. On the weekend of June 17-19, June 17th marking the one-year anniversary of the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, SC, we encourage all communities of faith to Stand Up. We can stand up to remember the Emanuel Nine. We can stand up to raise awareness of gun violence. We can stand up to promote gun safety. The NC Council of Churches is calling on all people to stand up for the hope-filled future promised to us rather than succumbing to the fear propagated around us.