Gun Violence

Josiah R. Daniels 12-04-2023

Photo of Michael McBride. Photo credit: Squint. Graphic by Tiarra Lucas/Sojourners.

When I was living on the West Side of Chicago, friends and family would often say that they couldn’t comprehend why I would want to live in such a “dangerous” area. The exchange would usually go something like the following: “I can’t imagine why you’d want to live in Chicago, considering all the gun violence.” “Are you worried about me being shot by the police?” “Well, no. The criminals are the ones who are shooting people.” “The police shoot people too. And there’s a reason the ‘criminals’ are resorting to violence.”

I would then go on to explain the antecedents to Chicago’s gun violence: racial segregation and systemic disinvestment. Beginning in the 1950s and into the ’70s, white Chicagoans fled the South and West Sides because they couldn’t imagine being neighbors with Black people. Because of this, these areas became predominantly Black, and the city has refused to invest resources into these neighborhoods to reverse their poor conditions. The South and West Sides are still suffering from disinvestment today, and this disinvestment is a major contributor to gun violence.

Liuan Huska 8-02-2023
An illustration with a horizontally split background, the upper half in yellow and lower half in black. A yellow pistol is layered over the latter, and a black outline of a school is layered over the former, resting on top of the gun.

Nanzeeba Ibnat / iStock

AFTER A TEENAGER shot dead 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last year, I spent two weeks putting my children on the bus to school with a pit in my belly. Then the term ended, and I breathed relief. I would not have to live with this low-level dread for another year.

My family has been on sabbatical in South America for the past 12 months, homeschooling our three boys. Though we’ve faced other risks, the possibility of my kids being shot in school was not one of them. Not only were they not attending school, but the countries we visited also have stricter gun regulations than the United States.

In the U.S., the purchase of guns has soared — gun ownership is estimated to be more than 120 per 100 people, according to Gun-related deaths in the U.S. also top every other high-income country, at more than 12 per 100,000 people annually. Compare that to Ecuador, where we spent part of our sabbatical. In 2017, it had 2.7 guns per 100 people and approximately three gun-related deaths per 100,000 people. Our sabbatical year has been a window into what it’s like to parent school-aged children without the shadow of school shooting anxiety.

The cover for Sojourners' September/October 2023 issue, featuring a blue illustration of a woman praying. You can see tendrils of her nervous system glowing through her skin. She's surrounded by black bramble, stained glass windows, and a church building.

Illustration by Ryan McQuade

Healing from religious harm: Why compassionate community is part of the journey.

Justin Jones 5-31-2023
Representative Justin Jones, a Black-Filipino man in a white suit and brown tie, stands amid the aisles of Tennessee's House of Representatives, raising his fist to the ceiling as his colleague Justin Pearson stands behind him to the left.

Rep. Justin Jones gestures during a vote to expel him from the state legislature in Nashville, Tenn., in April, for taking part in a gun-control demonstration on the House floor after six people were killed in a mass shooting at a local Christian school. / Seth Herald / Getty Images

Justin Jones is a Tennessee state legislator representing Nashville. He spoke with Sojourners’ Mitchell Atencio.

What they were trying to do wasn’t just expel us, but the movements we are standing in solidarity with. It’s not ironic that it happened on the day before Good Friday. They tried to crucify democracy and I [was reinstated] the Monday after Easter as a testament to the resurrection of a movement for multiracial democracy here in the South. The resurrection of a Third Reconstruction [is] being led by students and young people — that’s a very powerful vision. If it’s possible here in the South, if it’s possible in Tennessee, that should give us some hope in the nation.

Police officers arrive at the Covenant School after reports of a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. March 27, 2023. Metropolitan Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS.

A shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday morning, left multiple victims before police "engaged" the gunman, leaving the suspect dead, local officials said.

Liz Bierly 11-17-2022
An MP5 submachine gun is shown being taken apart by and entangled in plant stems with green leaves.

Illustration by Danielle Del Plato.

THE LEADING CAUSE of death for children in 2020 wasn’t COVID-19. It wasn’t cancer. And it wasn’t car crashes. Rather, more than 4,300 of our children in the United States died by firearms — the first time in at least 40 years that guns have accounted for more deaths than motor vehicle incidents.

The numbers are stark: More than 110 people in the U.S. are killed every day with guns, while more than 200 others are shot and wounded. “Gun violence in any form — any form — leaves a mark on the lives of those who are personally impacted,” Giselle Morch, a deacon and mother whose son, Jaycee, was shot and killed in their home, told Sojourners. “So many of us will never be the same.”

On July 19, 2017, Morch took her grandson to Vacation Bible School, where she played the role of the Lord in a skit from Judges about Gideon and the Midianites. “One of the lines was ‘For God and for Gideon,’” Morch said. “And when I got home, that’s when the battle was: That’s when my own son was murdered — my son who said, ‘I may not change the world, but I want to inspire many.’”

One thing about the senseless loss of Jaycee has always been clear to Morch: “This could have been prevented.” Shortly after he was killed, Morch began volunteering with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to advocate for cultural and legislative change. She has since joined Everytown for Gun Safety’s Survivor Fellowship Program to connect with others who have been impacted by gun violence. “There are others in this movement, because it’s not a moment,” Morch said. “A moment was when my son died; a movement is the call to action to make the change so that nobody else does.”

A poster depicting Ahmaud Arbery is seen outside the Glynn County Courthouse while Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan are tried over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Ga., November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello

A judge sentenced Travis McMichael to life in prison on Aug. 8 for committing federal hate crimes in the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man shot while jogging through a mostly white Georgia neighborhood in a case that probed issues of racist violence and vigilantism in the United States.

Hannah Bowman 7-06-2022

Flowers and candles are seen left along the parade route after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Ill., July 5, 2022. REUTERS/Cheney Orr.

While reducing the prevalence of guns in our society is essential, I am wary of religious gun control efforts that focus primarily on federal gun legislation because laws ultimately rely on frameworks of punitive justice, criminalizing anyone who breaks the law. A holistic approach to gun violence should imagine new alternatives for a safer society — alternatives that go beyond the criminal legal system and gun control laws. To imagine these alternatives, we can turn to the lessons of the transformative justice movement, which seeks to address violence without relying on state violence, police, or prisons.

Ruth Nasrullah 5-27-2022

Rev. Teresa Kim Pecinovsky, holding the megaphone, gives instructions to the interfaith protest outside the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on May 27, 2022. Ruth Nasrullah/Sojourners

The protesters gathered to raise their voices for gun control and lament gun violence three days after a gunmen killed 21 people in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Emily E. Ewing 5-27-2022
People protest the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston, Texas on May 27, 2022.

People protest the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston, Texas on May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

“I hate, I despise your vigils,
and I take no delight in your school shooter drills.
Even though you offer me your thoughts and prayers,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your collection plates
I will not look upon.”

Josiah R. Daniels 5-26-2022

People write notes and visit the small white memorial crosses in the town square in Uvalde, Texas on May 27, 2022. Each cross has one of the names of the 19 children killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Jack Gruber/USA TODAY NETWORK.

It has been hard to read any of what has been written about the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. At some point, you start to wonder if we have convinced ourselves that words speak louder than actions.

An illustration of a gold picture frame laying atop a field of flowers. The frame contains individual photos of the Mother Emanuel Nine.

Illustration by Nico Ortega

On the seventh anniversary of the martyrdom of the Mother Emanuel Nine, we still need to heed the text they were studying that evening.

D.L. Mayfield 7-09-2021

Photo via @taylorschumannwrites.

Her thoughts on guns didn’t immediately change; slowly — as the PTSD and long-term effects of her injuries continued — Schumann began to question the narratives around guns she had grown up with her entire life. Now she’s asking others to join her in questioning the stories we’ve been told about gun violence in the United States.

Cassidy Klein 4-28-2021

Garden Of The Gods, Colorado Springs, Colo., United States

With each new instance of gun violence, creation cries out with the victims. Creation also helps us center ourselves in relation to God when God feels absent.

Shane Claiborne 8-05-2020

This year has been difficult beyond description for so many people. While the COVID-19 pandemic has understandably occupied front pages across the country and around the globe for much of the past six months, another destructive wave continues to fester, creating so much pain and grief: our national plague of gun violence, which claims 100 lives a day. Together, the two crises have become a toxic combination.

Erricka Bridgeford 3-20-2020

Erricka Bridgeford kneels near the site of a murder in Baltimore / Spencer Platt / Getty Images

“MY BROTHER WAS killed in 2007, and I watched my mom avoid that area for years. When there’s a space where someone has been murdered, you can feel the toxic energy in that space. And I realized there are these toxic holes being left around Baltimore, and it shouldn’t be that way. When people are murdered, the space should be sacred ground—where they lost their lives to violence. Just like the Bible talks about the blood crying out from the ground when Cain killed Abel, when blood cries out we should show up to answer with love and with light, honoring that person.

We ask people facilitating rituals to show up with love in their body. Grief is okay, some sadness is okay, but mostly a feeling of joy at how much this person meant to the world, love for the neighborhood, and compassion for their family and loved ones.

Jamar A. Boyd II 1-31-2020

A vendor sells pins as gun rights advocates and militia members attend rally in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. Image via REUTERS/Jim Urquhart. 

We must carefully observe and acknowledge that many black and brown people consistently witness the senseless deaths of individuals at the hands of racists, supremacists, and those inflicting direct harm on Christian and non-Christian houses of worship. 

Jeania Ree V. Moore 10-22-2019

Illustration by Matt Chase

LIKE MANY PEOPLE, I have spoken out more times than I can count under the literal and metaphorical banner of “Silence Is Violence,” my voice growing louder and louder in the past several years.

Yet recently, on one matter, I found myself having fewer words, not more. Gun violence rendered me mute.

The death counts that rise in real time. The fact that before we have comprehended one shooting, another has occurred. The relativizing of value and shifting calculus of loss we have begun to accommodate this “new normal.” The reality—contrary to what one would think based on media attention and political rhetoric—that mass shootings account for less than 2 percent of U.S. gun violence (suicides, by contrast, account for nearly 66 percent).

Rosalind C. Hughes 9-26-2019

Image via Rev. Jeff Bunke / RNS

It’s not much to make 100 stoles when up to 100 people die each day in this country from gun violence.

Aaron E. Sanchez 8-13-2019

Shocked and saddened citizens of El Paso, Texas paying their respects to the memorial wall created just outside the parking area for the Walmart store. August 8, 2019. Credit: Shutterstock. 

“Amor Eterno,”or Eternal Love, was written in 1984 by the famed Mexican singer and song writer Juan Gabriel, or JuanGa, after his mother passed away. It has become a standard that is played at funerals, wakes, get-togethers, and even restaurants across the U.S., Mexico, and the world to remember family and loved ones who have passed away.