Today, on the National Mall, I stood with fellow faith leaders, including clergy from Newtown, to remember lives lost at Sandy Hook elementary school and the 3,364 gun deaths that have happened since.
We stood in front of a field of crosses, Stars of David, and other grave markers, and it broke my heart to think that each one stood for a life ended too soon. It doesn’t have to be this way. Commonsense steps to reduce gun violence are within our reach. Just today the Senate voted to begin the debate. But there is much work to do. Lawmakers need to hear from you.
This is one of the clearest examples of a stark democratic choice: the old politics of guns or the morality of the common good. The clergy are here today for the common good.
There are many law abiding and responsible gun owners in this country. And I understand that those who play by the rules might feel like they are being punished for the wrongdoing of others. But no legislation being considered would end gun ownership as we know it. What it would do is begin to make owning a gun look a little more like owning a car. In that process we can make it more expensive and more legally punishing for criminals to get guns and make our streets and our schools safer for all. The gun laws on the table are just common sense; they bring us back to the common good.
The all-too-often reality for many urban pastors in our country is that they find themselves burying kids and comforting parents. While this experience may be far removed from those who live in rural or suburban areas and grow up hunting, part of our moral obligation as Christians is to think through these difficult issues not just from our perspective, but considering the stories and lives of others. When pastors are having painful funerals for young people who have died from gun violence, they are not really not thinking about the Second Amendment. Their hearts are full of tears for the families of those who have lost their beloved children; and their minds are full of frustration for how politics prevents us from finding simple ways to save more lives.
Pastors who have buried teen victims of gun violence today planted crosses on the Mall. It marked the beginning of prayer vigils happening across this country while Congress votes on gun legislation.
And if Congressional leaders care about democracy, they will vote for the commonsense rules on gun sales that a majority of Americans — and a majority of gun owners — now agree with. Public opinion is changing. Yet, today 86 more people will die from gun violence, including 8 more children. When old politics triumphs over common sense, more people die.
I urge the friends and families of those we remember on the Mall today: ask Congress to take just one step forward in making our streets and schools safer.
Today we plant crosses, Stars of David, and other religious symbols. Today we pray. Today we speak to our members of Congress. And one day we will make our country safer — all it takes is coming together together for the common good.
Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners. His book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, is now available. Watch the Story of the Common Good HERE. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.