The Common Good

Don't Shoot!

"Don't shoot -- I want to grow up," read the protest sign an 11-year-old boy held in the wake of 30-plus shootings of Chicago schoolchildren this school year. The Supreme Court's recent assertion of the individual's right to own a gun for self-defense stands in sharp contrast to the anguished pleas of the father of one of the schoolchildren to stop the tragic gun deaths in our community, and to get rid of the guns so available on our streets. His pleas reminded me of Jeremiah's account of Rachel weeping for her children.

We are a violent nation. Forty-nine percent of U.S. households have guns in the home (Just Facts, 6/08). The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reminds us that 80 Americans die from gun violence every day in America. The Supreme Court decision is a blow to the scourge of gun violence in our communities and probably will be used to seek to block passage of common-sense gun laws that require background checks, forbid bulk sales of handguns, and other efforts. However, the decision as reported did not give license to "any gun, any time, for anyone" (Brady Center), and those of us who want to eliminate readily available guns have a lot of work to do to see that reasonable restricting laws are enacted.

The affirmation of the individual's right to bear arms must also be countered by us, as people of faith, with what is in the interests of community, of public safety, and what makes for the common good. We shouldn't be silent about this tension.

Mary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the west side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners.

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