Shoot – at what? For what? Shoot as in ‘strive’ – for greater advocacy? For information that is accurate without political folly? Shoot. For a more peaceful world? Shoot as in hunting – for game, for sport, or… for more malicious reasons?
Let’s ‘shoot’ for facts and violence prevention.
“The United States has more guns, weaker gun laws, and higher rates of gun violence than any other developed country in the world. That’s a fact.”– Giffords PAC / firstname.lastname@example.org, August 14th, 2023
Why should we as United Methodists concern ourselves?
Why as people of faith should we enter into discussions or debates around this issue – one that can lead to argument and dissolve into division? Why should we take the risk to. . .go there? *
Book of Resolutions:
Adopted in 2016, our denomination calls for a variety of actions to reduce gun violence. NONE call for an outright ban of all weapons, such as the ever-present political commentary “they’re trying to take away our guns” so often heard by people who have been misinformed.
Our Conference passed a resolution calling for gun-free campuses in our Conference churches. In our 2018 Journal you would find the following commentary on this:
2018.05: Gun Violence Awareness Task Force—Prohibiting Guns on Church Property 2018 Journal, p. 91 Submitted by Conference Board of Church and Society
WHEREAS Jesus calling upon his followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) is tied to intimate relationship with God, and echoes God’s dreams for peace for all of creation as expressed in Micah 4:1–4, The United Methodist Church Book of Resolutions calls upon church members to prayerfully address gun violence in their local context. Furthermore, it makes eight specific recommendations congregations may implement to prevent gun violence, including displaying signs to prohibit carrying guns onto church property;
WHEREAS the Desert Southwest Conference calls us to “Be a Courageous Church, Loving like Jesus, Acting for Justice and United in Hope.” In order to live out these principles; WHEREAS churches have a responsibility to for the safety and wellbeing of every person who enters a church for education and or worship or for any other reason;
WHEREAS the Gun Violence Awareness Task Force has developed the Gun Violence ConversationsCivility in the Age of Chaos program and other resources to assist congregations in developing policies; and
WHEREAS it is affirmed that sworn, active duty law enforcement officers shall be allowed to carry firearms anywhere on church property; therefore, be it
RESOLVED that churches in the Desert Southwest Conference are gun free campuses. They may also choose to post signs prohibiting the carrying of guns either openly or concealed onto church property.
Jesus’ call to his followers to be peacemakers:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” which is tied to an intimate relationship with God, and echoes God’s dreams for peace for all of creation.Matthew 5:9
Micah 4:1-4 (NRSV).
“In days to come, / the mountain of the LORD’s house / shall be established as the highest of the mountains, / and shall be raised up above the hills. / Peoples shall stream to it, / and many nations shall come and say: / ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, / to the house of the God of Jacob; / that he may teach us his ways / and that we may walk in his paths.’ / For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, / and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. / He shall judge between many peoples, / and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; / they shall beat their swords into plowshares, / and their spears into pruning hooks; / nation shall not lift up sword against nation, / neither shall they learn war any more; / but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, / and no one shall make them afraid; / for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken”
So why bring all this up today? After all – we are not in the midst of endless “thoughts and prayers” for Sandy Hook, or Uvalde, or Las Vegas. At least at the moment I write this.
I want to offer an important resource, one that I believe is important for all to read. Both Gerry Hills, Chair of the Conference Board of Church & Society, and myself, heartily recommend this book (The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic by Dr. Jillian Peterson and Dr. James Densley). It seeks to provide a greater understanding of mass shootings, violence, and how to prevent them. The book offers insights that are valuable to all institutions, but also simply to individuals weary of the direction of gun violence in our country.
The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic, penned by Dr. Jillian Peterson and Dr. James Densley, was published in 2021. For me, I read it in small excerpts – it is a difficult read, including deep-dive interviews with shooters who chose to survive their actions rather than dying in the midst of violence.
Beyond recommending the book, there is a portion that is startling. A warning to all who own guns. And if for no other reason, I hope you will take heed. It reads:
“When asked, a majority of gun owners confess that they do not safely store all their firearms. According to a 2015 national study, about one in five gun-owning households with children under age eighteen stores at least one weapon in the least safe manner: loaded and unlocked. A 2018 survey of U.S. veterans put that number at one in three. That means that up to 10 percent of U.S. children, roughly five million, live within reach of a loaded gun.”Dr. Jillian Peterson and Dr. James Densley – The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic, p. 166.
A frightening statistic – but one we can act on.
As defined, a mass shooting is any incident in which four or more people are shot and wounded or killed, excluding the shooter – Everytown for Gun Safety.
According to CNN, as reported on July 24, 2023, there have been over 400 mass shootings in our country.
Further information can also be obtained from Gun Violence Archive – an interesting website. – which shares not only the statistics about all shootings but also will address what’s happened in the last 72 hours. 72 hours – this is how we can track now?
And again –
Five million children at risk.
That at least, we can change.
*NOTE – Both Board of Church & Society Chair Gerry Hills and Director of Justice & Outreach Billie K. Fidlin are available to lead a local church discussion on justice topics through the Civil Dialogue process. Contact Billie at email@example.com .