If the United States can succeed in reducing gun violence (a much more public goal since the shooting at Sandy Hook), not only will deaths go down, but also fewer people will live with disabilities. In 2011, over 32,000 Americans died in gun violence including nearly 20,000 suicides and over 10,000 homicides. A journal article postulates that for every gun-related death in the U.S., up to six additional people are injured, many of them permanently.
This past Saturday, for Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath, Curtis Ramsey-Lucas from the American Baptist Home Mission Societies delivered a statement at the Washington National Cathedral. His statement got me thinking. Perhaps it will you too. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here.
The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as with other mass shootings, give us pause as disciples of Jesus Christ and citizens of the United States of America. We recoil in horror at these events. We lament the daily toll of gun violence that takes the lives of 30 Americans each day, tearing at the fabric of families, congregations, and communities across this great land.
Our founders, who in declaring our nation's independence, said we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; who worked to establish our Constitution in order that we might enjoy a more perfect union, to insure peace at home, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty for their time and our own; who crafted the Bill of Rights to further secure the fundamental freedoms we enjoy including our right to keep and bear arms; surely this is not what our founders had in mind when establishing our government—that we would live in a nation in which the right of one to bear arms trumps the rights of another, even those of children, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to “keep and bear arms,” while also making it clear that this right is “not unlimited.” Nor should it be. The liberties we enjoy are often in tension with one another and no right should be so broadly construed as to undermine the ability of the broader community to maintain order and the peace necessary for human life and flourishing.
That is why gun violence prevention is a priority of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies. That is why we have encouraged American Baptist congregations to take part in this Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath and to work beyond this weekend to support the sensible goals of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. That is why we have reached out to the Newton Interfaith Clergy Association in support of their efforts.
The scriptures teach that God sets before us life and death, blessings and curses. God does not force, but God surely encourages us to choose one over the other. “Now choose life,” we read, “so that you and your children may live.” On this matter, as with so many others, our ancient calling is clear. Now and in the days to come may it be our present task.
What do you think are the best ways to reduce gun violence? Would strategies be different in Canada than in the U.S.?