During my recent sabbatical I researched and wrote a paper on Faith Based Responses to Gun Violence. In this research I studied the gun industry, the media, the NRA, the culture of guns and the way in which faith communities can and should respond. Over the next several weeks, I want to share the fruits of my research in hopes that a greater awareness of the hideous and twisted nature of the gun industry and the havoc it wreaks may move us to more concerted action. In light of the violent flash mobs in Philadelphia and elsewhere, and the riots in London, not to mention the random gun violence plaguing our streets, this discussion and the need for action is as urgent as ever.
In this first segment, I set out my case (that will be developed further) that at its heart the struggle over gun policy in this country is a deeply spiritual issue.
While much of the discussion following the Giffords incident focused on the polarizing political rhetoric which may have influenced the shooter, Jared Loughner, few Democrats and no Republicans dared to speak up for greater regulations on the sale of handguns. As Dick Polman noted: “The [gun] issue is off the national agenda because Democrats have been rendered mute by their terror of the gun lobby” (Polman, 2011).
Why is there an apparent disconnect between vigorous efforts to limit regulations on handgun sales and the voluminous data showing the danger the presence of firearms presents citizens? Why do gun violence prevention groups have continued difficulty convincing the American public and political leaders of the need to pass laws limiting and regulating the sale of handguns? How have the pro-gun advocates been so successful at dividing the American public on this life and death issue?
Viewed through the lens of faith, the struggle over gun policy in this country is a deeply spiritual issue, reflecting what the apostle Paul called a battle against “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6.12; Romans 8. 38). Even so the institutional church has been largely silent and inactive on this issue. However, Christians and people of other faith traditions have begun to challenge the gun industry, realizing they are uniquely equipped and called to work for common sense laws and policies regarding the sale and use of firearms.
Polman, D (2011, January 16). Talk about civility is fine, but where are the new calls for gun control? Philadelphia Inquirer, Section C, p. 1,6.July 5, 2010 at http://citypaper.net/print-article.php?aid-22345
WPVI-TV (2011, January 10). Three wounded by gunfire in Kensington. Retrieved 1/21/11 at http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/crime&id=7889799