Powerful voices have long narrated the story of guns in America.
The media. The NRA. Outraged, livid, grief-stricken mothers and fathers.
When it comes to the horror of mass shootings, the stories are told with images and words that sear into our brains: limp bodies, the cries of parents, eulogies, and an NRA Valentine’s advertisement in which a target was substituted for the “o” in “love.” There are so many words.
What more can be said?
Arguments about exactly what is protected by the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to bear arms have been explored in great detail, sometimes by those with the capacity to understand nuance, and sometimes by those who babble a repeat of what they have heard. But positions are entrenched.
What more can be said?
God is weeping; but the person and not the gun is the issue; children are innocent victims; but there is nothing more to be done than the restrictions already in place; other countries have passed sensible gun control; but no one is going to take away our guns; dangerous weapons are too easily acquired; but there are restrictions in place and they are enough; our children are being mowed down at school; so we should arm teachers and administrators.
What more can be said?
The more that can be said is critical.
- People die of gun violence every day in the United States. Every single day. The mass shootings are only one part of the whole story and only one part of the problem. According to the Brady Center, citing data on gun violence through 2015, this is what gun violence looks like in America:
Every day, 46 children and teens (or 315 people of all ages) are shot and 7 (93) of them die. Every year 114,994 people of all ages in America are shot and 33,880 people die.
We need to say the names of all the victims. All of them.
- Rhetoric is getting us nowhere. Neither are sermons or blogs or posts on social media. They simply feed the status quo. All of these powerful voices speaking into the fray have resulted in no greater gun control.
- Words are losing to money. Though it has long been suggested that the pen is mightier than the sword, neither the pen nor the microphone have held sway over those who receive obscene amounts of money from the NRA. Though undeterred in offering good words – words of hope, of peace, of God’s abiding love, we must work with vigor to elect leaders who will not be bought and draw attention to the massive sums of money changing hands.
- Gunowners are the key. Change will only come when those who do own guns and do value sensible gun control become engaged, articulate, and passionate advocates, standing against those who say that nothing can be done. These responsible gun-owners must use their relationships, their votes, and their money to change the political landscape in favor of sensible gun control.
- What is true today does not have to be true tomorrow. If changing the narrative is a priority, if making sure that more of the children who wake up every morning are still alive when the sun goes down seems a worthy cause, then get serious about how you are going to respond and engage this issue. Arm yourself with facts so that you will not be intimidated by the rhetoric of others, build relationships outside of your own echo chamber, find ways to encourage responsible gun owners in your community – of which you may be one – to engage for change, and commit to daily action.
The season of Lent has begun for Christians all over the world. Alleluias have been put away, green vestments have been traded for purple, and our attention has been turned, yet again, to Jesus’ trial in the desert. How will we be changed? Will we learn a bit about rejecting the evil which promises us power and dominion? Which encourages us to serve our desires? To prove our indestructibility?
Perhaps resisting gun violence can be your Lenten practice.
- What might happen if you set aside time every single day to reach up to our Senators and Representatives about gun violence; to agitate about the massive payments they (some of them) receive from the NRA?
- Or you might reach out to those in your community who are already working on sensible gun control legislation and find out what help they need. (North Carolina has excellent leadership on curbing gun violence, and the North Carolina Council of Churches has taken a lead in drawing the coalition together).
- You could encourage those who are not already working on sensible gun control legislation – but who should be – those whose experiences and perspective might be different from your own – to engage.
There is something more to be said.
Perhaps 40 days of walking in this wilderness will change you. Perhaps it will change someone else. Perhaps it will be a small part of changing everything.