From the Conference Minister: a few words on gun control legislation

I thought I would just say this now rather than reply to messages about my increasing advocacy and outspokenness for gun control legislation. Saves time. And it's cathartic. And it's an invitation to join me in the effort, but not in a discussion or debate - not over this issue because it involves the lives of our kids so there isn't anything to debate. My love and respect for all of you require that I share my truth and speak prophetically.

I appreciate the time ones among you who oppose gun control legislation would have taken to message me. And I do understand the reasoning behind the argument that “Guns don't kill people, people kill people.” I don’t agree but I understand. I've observed that people with guns kill people. Not all people with guns. In fact very few people with guns kill other people. Nonetheless, the people who kill other people with a weapon are people holding guns the vast majority of the time.

I also understand what the research tells me. People with fewer guns, with no assault style weapons, with low-capacity magazines, or with no handguns kill FAR fewer people. In fact, people without guns kill almost no people at all. Statistics from every country in the world bear that out. We can choose not to believe those statistics. But whether we believe them or not, the numbers are the numbers, and have been proven repeatedly.

Some of your experiences as a youngster – living in a time when young people had access to guns for hunting (usually long guns) and no one used those guns when they got into altercations – is a time for which I give thanks. Part of me wishes those were the days we live in now. But they aren’t. And our times being what they are, we need ways that match our times for protecting our kids and for protecting one another from the people who kill other people with guns. No church should need to be training their members for gun violence survival (but we do and we are). No hunter needs an AK47; those are weapons for warriors. Banning those weapons now, as they had been banned between 1996 and 2004, is reasonable gun control. Banning handguns is reasonable gun control too since handguns are the weapons that people-who-kill-other-people choose 80% of the time (Department of Justice statistics).

After Timothy McVey committed his mass murder Americans accepted regulations so people could not just go buy fertilizer and make bombs with it. After someone tried to blowup an airplane with explosives in his shoes we all started submitting to shoe inspections in order to board airplanes. It’s long past time to take that same approach with guns. Didn't matter that only ONE person used each of those methods for mass murder. One person was enough for all of us to endure the regulations in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

Even though very few people with guns ever could or would or actually do kill another person, I am very willing to regulate everyone’s guns, even taking some guns away, so no one can use a gun to kill other people regardless of that gun owner's perceived or actual mental health or illness. Even though very few people with guns ever could or would or actually do kill another person, I am more than willing to regulate everyone’s guns, even taking some guns away, so the vast majority of us can send our children and grandchildren to school without wondering if they will come home alive that evening. Even though very few people with guns ever could or would or actually do kill another person, I am very willing to regulate everyone’s guns, even taking some guns away, so the rest of us can go to the movies, eat dinner out, or enjoy a concert without our children and grandchildren wondering if we will make it home alive. And I am very willing to turn in any banned guns that I own (if I own such guns) in order to comply with future gun control laws because I deeply want a society in which all of you and your children and your grandchildren and our neighbors feel safe.

Someone might rebut, “Well that just leaves us vulnerable to the criminals who will always have guns.” By 'criminals' does that mean the very few people who are willing to kill other people with guns whom we point to when we also say, “We don’t need gun control laws because only a very few people misuse them?” Which way shall we have it then?

Maybe I don't sound very pastoral or gentle or neutral. That's probably because I feel righteous anger that people keep dying unnecessarily. That's probably because I feel afraid because my grandchildren are approaching school age. That's probably because I don't see this as a discussion about rights but rather about human lives. Here I stand! Probably to the parents of a child killed in one of the school shootings recently, or to a wounded student or teacher, or to a first responder, or to a survivor, I don't sound determined or prophetic enough.

So I will accept the power that I have through my resources and stop acting powerless. I will NOT let praying for gun violence victims and their families be my only response to the national sin of gun violence. I will work harder for gun control legislation as a moral issue that grows out of my faith and that is grounded in the Commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ or as I explain it, “Value life!” I will say louder that legislators who don’t pass common sense gun control legislation are complicit in the murders of people killed in mass shootings and with assault type weapons and with handguns. I will vote every time against NRA-supported candidates of any party, and urge others to do the same. I will not let my efforts wax and wane based on time elapsed between gun violence tragedies.

The myths must end – the myth that guns make any of us safer, the myth that passing gun control laws imperils or infringes upon our democracy. The Truth must prevail: no Constitutional right is worth more than a human life. The right to life was listed first in the Declaration! There is an order of priority to our rights. The Parkland students' right to life was greater than your right to happiness derived from owning a gun. Regulating the weapons that have now become the third leading cause of child death in America (that’s no myth) is the moral thing to do, the only moral thing to do. My faith tells me so.