About this time two years ago, I accepted the offer to become the next Executive Director of the NC Council of Churches. We agreed that I would spend two weeks with the outgoing ED in June learning the ropes, and then I would really get to work in August. My first day in the office was June 18, 2015. I had heard the news from Charleston that morning when I woke and I knew that event would forever define my first day at the office. The NC Council of Churches was founded in 1935 because some people didn’t like the racial inequality they saw around them. My first day in the office was a bitter reminder that laws and policies can’t change hearts. The people at Mother Emanuel were shot because of the color of their skin—not the religious convictions that had brought them together that night. Furthermore, they were shot by someone who never should have been allowed to own a gun.
On the first anniversary of this terrorist attack, the Council and its gun-violence prevention allies organized an awareness-raising weekend in our communities of faith across NC. As the second anniversary of the Mother Emanuel shooting draws near, we are raising the banner once again and calling on people of faith to take seriously the tension between the Second Commandment — thou shalt not kill — and the Second Amendment — right to bear arms.
No one pretends the line is easy to draw, but on the spectrum from accidental deaths, planned suicides, crimes of passion, and calculated murders, there are some important barriers to impose. Some people should not own guns, and some places should never allow guns. Several bills have been introduced during this session of the NC General Assembly that still bear watching as we move into the summer months and approach the anniversary of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. These bills would:
- Allow guns on campus, even in areas with children such as day cares, early learning colleges, and hospitals;
- Eliminate our life saving background check on private sales of handguns (the pistol purchase permitting system); and
- Eliminate our concealed weapons permitting system.
Let’s talk about it. On the weekend of June 16-18, say something in your place of worship about the senseless loss of life because of lenient gun regulations and irresponsible gun ownership. Our Gun Violence Prevention Page includes resources and links to our allies in this work. There can be a healthy balance between the Second Commandment and the Second Amendment. As people of faith, we must be willing to work toward it.