WE’RE ALL SHAKEN
Many of us are shaken to the core at this week’s news out of Las Vegas, of a lone gunman methodically murdering 59 persons & wounding more than 500 at an outdoor concert in that city. And as I sit to write this blog post, police have learned how this individual had been planning such an attack for a very long time, calculating the time & place to ensure the greatest loss of life. Perhaps like you, I have both wept & screamed in disbelief as news feeds spill ever more details on this sad tale. This is the face of evil which calculates harm upon innocent people. This is the worst of human nature. And while I believe we each embody the Divine Image at our core, I believe it also possible to use our human freedom to reject that image, and so destroy life.
POWER OF PRAYER
This week I have heard others say they are praying for those harmed by this massacre. I have spoken my own prayers, aloud & quiet, not knowing what else to do, for people I do not know but with whom I share humanity. It is important to pray for those suffering in the world. It is what people of faith do. It links us to others & deepens empathy across all lines. But we must be careful to not allow our praying to let us off the hook. Prayer is not meant to be a catharsis, but rather prayer has the power to align us with God’s intention for the human family. Prayer at its best is giving God permission to stir us up. And sometimes prayer should stir & disturb us to the point that we take action, insisting that life be better for all.
As a wealthy industrial nation, the US is uniquely known for our homicide rate from gun violence. According to David Hemenway of Harvard, since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than the sum total of all the Americans who died in all the ward in American history. Every day, some 92 Americans die from guns, and American kids are 14 times as likely to die from guns as children in other developed countries.
STEPS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE
Powerful people advise that we should not let the emotions stirred by this tragedy influence hasty political decisions. But we have been here so many times before – Columbine, Sandy Hook – to name a couple. All people of goodwill, Christian or not, should focus our outrage this week on advocating gun regulation reform. I offer this list from New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof as a launching point for prayer & discussion. Feel free to offer your own list as you respond to me. Any one of these likely would not have prevented the tragedy in Las Vegas, but together they may prevent the next tragedy. You may consult this list when emailing your senators & representatives, as I’ve chosen to do.
Here goes –
1- Impose universal background checks for anyone buying a gun.
2- Ban bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic rifles to fire more like automatics.
3- Impose age limit of 21 on gun purchases.
4- Enforce a ban on possession of guns by anyone subject to a domestic violence protection order.
5- Limit gun purchases by any one person to no more than, say, two a month. Make serial numbers harder to remove.
6- Adopt microstamping of cartridges to that they can be traced to the gun that fired them.
7- Invest in ‘smart gun’ purchases by police & military, to promote their use. Such guns incorporate technology to restrict their operation, such as not firing without a PIN, a fingerprint or a device in proximity, like a special bracelet, so that children cannot misuse them.
8- Require safe storage, to reduce theft, suicide and accidents by children.
9- Invest in research to see what interventions will be more effective in reducing gun deaths, so we can base our policies on robust evidence.
I hope we will all keep praying for all who suffer in the world, especially those harmed & affected in Las Vegas this week. I also hope we will remain righteously disturbed, pestering those who legislate or who resist reform, so that senseless loss of life would be stemmed.
Sensing the agitating Prince of Peace who insists we do better,