On Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love, the expectation is that couples would enjoy a nice dinner, chocolates or roses, that would normally cause their hearts to flutter. However, this year on February 14th, hearts were not moved by love, but by the horror of yet another mass murder of our school children and teachers.
This brutal and senseless slaughter of 15 children and 2 teachers at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., was the 17th occurrence of mass murders in our country in just six weeks – more than twice the number of such horrific events as in the same time period in 2017, the 24th massacre in the last 14 years since the ban on assault weapons was allowed to lapse by Congress, and the 72nd since the deadly Columbine massacre in 1999.
Of course, mental illness is involved, but all nations have citizens who are mentally ill – none of them experience nearly the amount of violent shooting deaths that we do in the United States.
Of course, our law enforcement and educational institutions overlook possible ‘bad actors’, but the fine balance between guidance and coercion in the treatment of juveniles and the mentally ill is difficult to achieve.
Of course, we can blame video games, violent movies and TV shows, and the ‘culture of violence’ in our society for its influence on our citizenry – but almost all nations experience a similar culture, and yet they do not see their children gunned down on a regular basis.
There is one major difference, and all studies point to it: the vast proliferation of guns in our society – some 40 million, or 1 in every 9 people (including babies)! Gun regulation laws are ignored – the massive sale of all types of guns – including assault weapons, abound online, at gun shows, and even in Walmart! “Waiting periods” to check for felony records or mental problems are overlooked. The gun trade to Mexico and Latin America is a land office business. Our police now use military-style weapons on citizens for the least infraction – bolstered by the gun manufacturing industry that knows no limits. Is it any wonder that our nation is engaged in its longest war ever with no end in sight? Is it any wonder that we spend nearly 57% of our budget on our military and war supplies? In light of that, should we be perplexed that a “culture of violence” is killing our children in schools, where they should be safe and free from fear? Should we be surprised that the majority of these murders have been committed by assault weapons of mass destruction – guns made only for one thing: to kill huge numbers of people as fast as possible in a war setting!!
The appalling shame is that our state and federal lawmakers are paralyzed by inaction and denial, and the “gun lobby”, financed by gun manufacturers through the National Rifle Association, has bought their silence and inaction.
Since the lapse of the 1994 ban on assault weapons by Congress, our legislators have been financed/bribed by the National Rifle Association to make sure that no legislation will be enacted that might limit their power, or the profit of gun manufacturers. On the average, for each fire arm or accessory sold by arms manufacturers, $1 is contributed to the NRA; this creates a slush fund that they then pass on to legislator’s campaigns. The amount of money ‘donated’ to legislator’s campaign funds since the enactment of Citizens United, has been more than any other PAC or super-PAC. A list of the top ten senators and representatives receiving money from the NRA can be found at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/04/opinion/thoughts-prayers-nra-funding-senators.html.
Recent polls have shown that responsible gun owners and most members of the NRA favor background checks. The use of assault weapons taints the image of the average gun owner. We have the cybernet and electronic communications to provide an immediate background check on anyone desiring to purchase a hand gun, whether at a certified gun dealer or at gun shows. If the purchaser really wants the fire arm for a collection or use in hunting or sport, they should be willing to wait the time needed to perform a background check. One has to wonder, if they are not willing to have a background check, what they are hiding. And, just as in driving a car, gun owners should be required to register their guns and complete a gun safety course.
The perpetrator of the Parkland School murders purchased the assault rifle and ammunition legally – he was 18. But it is mind-boggling that he could purchase an assault rifle at the age of 18, yet cannot purchase a hand gun until 21 in the state of Florida. Just as in the case of concealed-carry laws, there should be a national guideline, including training and proficiency requirements, enforced in all states. We do this with driver’s licenses.
Is there no hope? What can we do?
As we are told in Isaiah 11:6,
A child shall lead them;
Thankfully, we see students from Parkland and across the nation now rising up in grief and anger to organize resistance to the NRA and to demand stricter gun laws. Perhaps the indignation of our children can do at last what adults have been unable to do: effect meaningful gun legislation and serious attention to mental health treatment. And we, as mothers and fathers and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends, must join their bandwagon to FINALLY make changes in assault weapon legislation so that no more children and citizens will lose their lives by assault weapons.
There are many organizations that are supporting responsible gun ownership; find one that is in your area and become active. Pledge that you will not support with money or your vote any legislator or candidate who takes campaign funds from the NRA or who fails to support gun legislation – and ask them what their opinions are! Remember, as horrible as it sounds, it could be your child who becomes a victim of the next assault weapon massacre.
Some of these organization are:
Everytown for Gun Safety (https://everytown.org/)
Moms Demand Action (https://momsdemandaction.org/)
Grandparents Against Gun Violence (https://moksgagv.org/)
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (https://www.csgv.org/)
Americans for Responsible Solutions (https://giffords.org/)
If you are a teacher, you might consider the National School Walkout movement, joining the walkout event schedule for March 14, 2018, “for 17 minutes at 10am across every time zone … to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.” Almost 3 million teachers and students, along with the Network for Public Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and other organizations have planned an action on April 20, 2018, calling for a national teachers’ strike if lawmakers continue their failure to enact “sane gun laws.”
Student survivors have organized a ‘March for Our Life: A Time to Talk About Gun Control’ in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2018. Let these children be the ones to finally get our legislators to address the issue of our children (and all Americans) dying as a result of unrestricted assault weapon legislation.
A favorite hymn of mine, “God of Mercy”, was sung last Sunday at Saint John’s Episcopal Church:
God of mercy, you have shown us ways of living that are good.
“Work for justice, treasure kindness, humbly journey with the Lord”.
Yet your people here are grieving, hurt by weapons that destroy.
Help us turn to you, believing in your ways to bring us joy.
God, we pray for those who suffer when this world seems so unfair.
May your church be quick to offer loving comfort, gentle care.
And we pray: Amid the violence, may we speak your truth, O Lord!
Give us strength to break the silence, saying “This can be no more.”
God, renew our faith and vision, make us those who boldly lead!
May we work for just decisions that bring true security.
Help us change this violent culture base on idols, built on fear,
Help us build a peaceful future with your world of people here.
What we must not do is GIVE UP HOPE. In fact, in this season of Lent, let us give up hopelessness that our gun violent culture can be ended. There are things we can do and must do.
 Mark Folman, Gavin Aronsen, Deana Pan, “US Mass Shootings, 1982-2018: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation’, Mother Jones, February 14,2018.
 Walter Hickey, ‘How the Gun Industry Funnels Tens of Millions of Dollars to the NRA’, Business Insider, January 16, 2013.
 Organized by the Women’s March
 Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, ‘God Of Mercy’; B. F. White (1844), Beach Spring
The Rev deniray mueller, Legislative Liaison, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio; 19 February 2018