Guns are dangerous idols. While mass shootings are happening at an alarming rate and an epidemic of gun violence plagues our nation’s cities, our society’s fanatical devotion to weapons prevents us from enacting solutions to curb the violence. The cost of worshipping these false idols continues to rise, as firearms kill more than 80 people a day.
Since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newton, Conn., nearly 3,500 people have died because of a gun. Some of them were suicides. Some were gang-related gun deaths. Many use these facts to insinuate that the deaths somehow aren't equally tragic. But as Christians we know that all of them were children of God created in the Divine image.
While the idolatry rages on, prophets are beginning to speak out. Last week, Sojourners and the PICO National Network held a prayer vigil and placed thousands of crosses and other religious symbols on the National Mall to represent every victim of gun violence since the Newtown massacre. Lawmakers have been hearing directly from the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, with one mother even stepping in to give the president’s weekly radio address. The president himself has refused to back down from his plan on this issue despite the difficult political climate.
All the public pressure appears to have worked, as the Senate has agreed to open debate on legislation focused on reducing gun violence through expanded background checks on gun purchases and increased the penalties for gun trafficking. This progress is encouraging, but significant hurdles remain. Any legislation would require bipartisan support to pass the Senate and then faces a very uncertain future in the House, despite over 90 percent of Americans supporting wider background checks.
Focusing solely on legislative dynamics risks missing the sheer absurdity and moral confusion around this issue. It should not have taken a mass killing of young schoolchildren and their teachers for our country to ensure that would-be gun buyers could responsibly handle firearms. It remains inexcusable that banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines will likely prove to be politically unfeasible, for now. The qualifier is needed because, as Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy recently said, “I think ultimately we will get the assault weapons ban because I don’t think this is the last time a man will walk into a crowded place with an AR-15.”
Not all tragedies are preventable but we know there are sensible measures that can be taken to prevent gun violence. It shouldn’t take another mass shooting for Congress to do the right thing. Tell Congress now is the time to act.
In a culture that turns weapons into idols, people of faith need to be the prophets that remind us about what’s really at stake: protecting our children and making our communities safer.
Beau Underwood is Campaigns Manager for Sojourners.