I know we all were horrified to see the events unfold from the mass shooting in the theater in Aurora, Colorado where 12 people were murdered and 58 were injured. In the days that followed, some have claimed that now is not the time to discuss efforts to dramatically reduce this kind of senseless gun violence from happening again. This same claim was made right after the Tucson gun shooting in January of 2011 that injured Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and in April of 2007 when the terrible gun shooting on the campus on Virginia Tech occurred, as well as in April of 1999 with the gun shooting at Columbine High School. In that time virtually nothing has happened to further the discussion on how to make our communities safer and how to make gun ownership a more responsible process.
I believe the time for a sensible discussion that prevents more victims and saves lives from further gun violence is now. Yes, we will continue to pray for comfort for the families of those killed and for healing for those who were injured and traumatized. And, in addition, we will act to see that this senseless gun violence does not create more victims.
I hope you will join me in letting our political leaders know that the time is over for allowing anti-public safety groups like the National Rifle Association stand in the way of common sense and necessary reforms that will allow gun ownership to be safe and responsible. On Wednesday, August 1, I urge you to call Senate Leader Reid (D-NV) at 1-888-427-0484 and Speaker of the House Boehner (R-OH) at 1-888-427-0480 and tell them:
As a United Methodist concerned about peace and public safety, I urge [Speaker Boehner or Leader Reid] to do all he can to end senseless gun violence such as happened in Aurora, Colorado. This can begin now by a strong and effective ban on assault weapons.
We are focusing on the House and Senate leadership to urge them to make public safety a priority and to put an end to senseless and unnecessary gun violence. We are focusing on enacting a strong and effective ban on assault weapons – a ban that was in place from 1994-2004, during which time there was a 66% drop in the use of assault weapons in crimes – because it has zero effect on those who use guns for sport. We want an assault weapons ban that is “loophole free” to ensure that unscrupulous manufacturers cannot get around it, as too many learned to do with the expired ban.
We are calling both Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid because this is not a Republican or Democratic issue – both parties cower to the money and influence of the NRA. But no longer. It is time for people of faith, it is time for United Methodists to make our voice known and to tell our political leaders that we can have safety in our neighborhoods, on our campuses, in our schools and even in our theaters. They can do something about it, they can. We can take assault weapons – weapons originally created solely for military and law enforcement use – off the streets and out of our communities.
As you call, and as you urge your fellow church members, friends, and family to call as well consider these facts (and you can find out even more on www.BradyCampaign.com).
- Did you know that just since the gun shooting in Tucson January 8, 2011 that injured Representative Gabrielle Giffords, there have been 60 mass shootings? And during that time there has been no meaningful legislation passed that makes gun ownership a responsible process.
- Did you know that in an average year, almost 100,000 people are shot or killed with a gun in the United States?
- Did you know that in the ten years that assault weapons were banned by Congress (1994-2004) use of assault weapons in crimes declined 66%? This means that banning assault weapons, which are not used by hunters and were originally created solely for use by the military, actually creates safer communities.
- Did you know, according to a 2003 study, an estimated 41% of gun-related homicides and 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present (Wiebe, p. 780). There is a strong correlation between increasing gun ownership in a home with higher rates of homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings. The myth that guns provide safety must be exposed.
- Did you know only 1% of gun dealers account for almost 60% of crime guns recovered by police? Did you know, according to a undercover study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 94% of licensed dealers approached at gun shows in Ohio, Tennessee, and Nevada, completed sales to people who appear to have criminal records or to be straw purchasers.
- Did you know gun violence costs U.S. taxpayers roughly $100 billion annually through medical costs, the costs of the criminal justice system, and security precautions among other costs? Did you know that U.S. lifetime medical costs for gunshot injuries total an estimated $2.3 billion? That's over $6 million dollars a day.
- Did you know that exposure to violence, including gun violence, can cause intrusive thoughts and sleep disturbances, emotional withdrawal, and post-traumatic stress disorder among children? These violent acts have the equivalent emotional impact on children as war or natural disaster.
Jesus is called the Prince of Peace and he calls those who practice making peace sons and daughters of God. And we know from the gospels that Jesus did not create peace by violent force, but rather, through a force far greater and transformative: love. The Kingdom of God will not be fully manifest if we reinstate the ban on assault weapons. But a ban on assault weapons will certainly save lives and create safer communities. And I believe those are evidence of a world being transformed from the forces of fear by the Kingdom force of love and a concern for the welfare of human life.
So, please share this with others and join with me on August 1 in calling Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner with the message above. It is too important for us not to make our voices heard.