The following remarks were delivered by Executive Director, Jennifer Copeland, on January 5, 2021 at a Gun Violence Prevention press conference. View the live stream here.
When individual rights are at odds with community safety, my faith tradition dictates that we lean toward community safety. Biblically speaking, individual rights are seldom privileged. Instead, the Bible privileges a covenant community where each one is concerned about everyone else. “Love God, love your neighbor,” occurs in a variety of places, nuanced many ways, throughout scripture. In other words, my rights are not more important than the safety of my community.
Linking schools and places of worship, as does Senate Bill 43 recently vetoed by Governor Cooper, endangers the children in our community. These children are currently protected by state laws that prohibit concealed firearms in all schools, including places of worship with an associated school. By removing this protection S.B. 43 will put school children at risk.
Furthermore, this bill will set a dangerous precedent that opens the way for private schools unaffiliated with religious places of worship to argue for an exemption from the firearms prohibition, all of which further erodes the prohibition of guns on school property and endangers our community’s children. Remember, it’s about the community, not the individual who wants to carry a gun. For those of us who come from faith traditions whose holy scriptures explicitly prohibit violence, the presence of guns in our sanctuaries is contrary to our very being.
The gun laws proposed lately 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 ballgames, 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. We tend to think of idols as an object fashioned from stone or rare metals, maybe a figure or a shape. Truth is, an idol is anything that becomes more important to us than the God who gave us life. It is something we’ll fight for no matter the toll on the community. Something like a law that allows us to carry a gun in a place where children study and learn.
The N.C. Council of Churches and our 18 member denominations, urge law makers to sustain the Governor’s veto of S.B. 43. Thank you on this 12th Day of Christmas.