Faith and Guns: What's Up?

Your Participation Needed in National Discussion: Links Provided

Posted Mar 12, 2013

It is sadly ironic that the U.S., the most religious of all the developed nations, has, by far, the most gun-armed citizenry with, by far, the most gun homicides. Obviously, there is a serious disconnect between religious beliefs, gun ownership and gun use. In our last post we explored historical and cultural reasons for Americans' suspicion of national government and "the other," which has led to the fear and insecurity that result in gun purchases. In this post, as we consider what people of faith are doing to address America's gun problem, consider what you can do, post your ideas so that we can create a dialogue and share ideas that will help us address our gun problems. No idea is too small. The best ideas begin with you and how you implement them in your life.
    Gary Hall, the dean of the National Cathedral, has organized Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a national, inter-religious coalition of almost fifty different groups representing among others, Christians of different denominations, Jews, Muslims, Seiks, different races, men and women, all united and calling on Congress to pass legislation that will 1) Require every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check. 2) Get military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off our streets and 3) Make gun trafficking a federal crime.
     Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence provides the following shocking facts: Right now 40% of gun sales take place with no background check. (We have better controls for who drives a car than for who owns a gun.) 85% of the sales on require no background checks. Ten national police organizations and more than 850 mayors support the Fix Gun Checks Act. Background checks have "blocked more than 1.9 million criminals, domestic abusers, seriously mentally ill people and other dangerous people from buying guns at licensed dealers." (Of course, with our current system, these same 1.9 million buyers could still purchase guns without a background check.) "Congress should pass The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R. 1781/S. 436), pending since February 2011, which would close the private sale loophole at the federal level." Please sign up with Faiths United and contact your representatives in support of this act. We should have as many controls for owning a gun as we have for owning a car. Faiths United also informs us that " high-capacity magazines are used in 14 to 26 percent of all gun crimes and in 31 to 41 percent of fatal police shootings. ...Law enforcement groups across the country, as well as the majority of NRA members, support banning these dangerous weapons. In fact, a recent national survey found that 81 percent of likely voters support a ban on assault weapons, including 71 percent of gun owners and 60 percent of NRA members." "Every year, tens of thousands of guns find their way into the hands of criminals through illegal trafficking channels. For example, 85% of the guns found at crime scenes in New York City were originally bought out of state and made their way illegally into the City." We need stronger gun sales laws so that traffickers can be prosecuted. Please contact Faiths United and share your ideas with them:
    The National Cathedral is calling on Americans to "reflect, unite, and act" with a Gun Sabbath Program, March 14-17. All events are webcast live. The National Cathedral is also providing a gun prevention toolkit with suggestions for what you can do personally, including links to your representatives. All of these initiatives are asking for your ideas and your input. Democracy and faith, whatever yours may be, require participation. If you are silent, you are part of the problem. If you speak up, you are part of the cure. America can do better, but only if you make your voice heard.
    Our next post will be a consideration of all of the ideas you provide. Mark, one of our readers, has already made a very interesting suggestion: "My plan, for what it is worth, would be to offer voluntary service of some kind. EMT, fire fighter, police reserve, militia, etc. that would benefit the community. Those who are not eligible (mental screening or physically not able) or who do not volunteer would have to pay a tax of some kind to fund the programs." Although I may not agree with all of it, I urge him to share his idea with his local, state, and national representatives. My idea, much more humble, is to treat every one you meet with the respect and kindness they deserve because they carry a spark of the divinity within them— a concept that is embraced by all religious faiths, beginning with the most ancient. All life is a miracle. If we remembered that, everything would be different. Please make your voice heard.