"The summer is almost over, and I hope you’ve had a restful season. It seemed a quiet season, except of course for the weekend of August 3rd and 4th. That’s when, in two separate incidents, more than 30 people lost their lives, violently, to gunfire — senseless deaths once again traumatizing the nation. I’ll admit that it happens so often, I feel mostly numb when I hear the grim news of another mass shooting. There’s a voice telling me I should respond, and numbness is not the right response.
Preventing gun violence can be a controversial issue. It’s often associated with efforts to ban certain weapons, ammunition, or recreational uses of guns. At the 219th General Assembly in 2010, the PC(USA) took a different approach, and adopted an exhaustive resolution entitled GUN VIOLENCE, GOSPEL VALUES: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call. It calls for an approach that focuses on preventing illegal guns from getting into the wrong hands. It states:
"Confronting the crisis of gun violence in the U.S. and indeed around the world, we are called to advocate policies—and to act upon them—which will defend and protect the public, not only from external threats, but too often from itself. The church is not as disturbed with the legitimate possession and use of hunting rifles, shotguns, and sport shooting guns, but we are categorically opposed to the poor regulation and easy flow of guns that are manufactured to kill efficiently human beings. We must exert special efforts to stop unlicensed sellers peddling guns at our country’s thousands of gun shows with “no questions asked,” and to stop unscrupulous licensed dealers from selling to straw purchasers who then turn guns over to traffickers. Too often, this easy access results in harm to self or others that could have been prevented."
The resolution goes on to ask, “If Not Now, When?” When, indeed. I’m frustrated by my own lack of resolve to confront this issue. After the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, I sought out the documentary film, Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence, produced by David Barnhart of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Several people in the documentary reframe gun violence as a “public health issue,” and I think that’s helpful language, because it names the problem appropriately as a plague to society. Gun violence does not affect just certain racial or socio-economic groups, or particular age groups, or specific genders. It’s a virus infecting all of us.
We had several screenings of Trigger in August. A few of us gathered to discuss this contentious and complicated issue. We didn’t solve anything. We didn’t even agree on how to address it. But we talked about it. And we listened to people who had different opinions than our own. It’s a start.
As we turn to our own busy schedules and our own busy lives this fall, I hope you’ll join the conversations happening here at CHPC. Engage in what speaks most urgently to you. Tap into the movement of God’s Spirit, wherever it leads.
With love in Christ,