Gun Violence

Jennifer Pinckney. Image via Megan Mendenhall/Duke University/RNS

The first lady of Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church offered two enduring images: her late husband’s smiling face lying in a casket, and the bullet holes that riddled the church walls when she went to clean out his office a week later. “Clementa was a peaceful person,” said Jennifer Pinckney, the widow of the late preacher and South Carolina state senator Clementa Pinckney, during a visit to Duke University to talk about gun control, race, and faith.

Rose Marie Berger 2-01-2016
gangis khan / Shutterstock

gangis khan / Shutterstock

AFTER MASS a few months ago, I asked a member of my parish how her search for a new apartment was going. She said, “I’m so scared where I’m living right now that I went out and bought a gun.”

I was shocked. “I hope you didn’t buy any bullets to go with it,” I quipped. She gave me an eye-roll; I gave her a hug.

Like many Americans (dare I say most)—from President Obama on over—I despair of our country ever regaining sensible gun-ownership standards.

If I had my way, society would have no guns. Period. My motto is: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is ... the unarmed cross of Jesus Christ.

However, I recognize that in rural areas a gun can be a tool for wildlife maintenance.

I recognize that a well-ordered society relegates certain uses of force to the state—generally understood as police and military—for the protection of its members, especially the vulnerable.

I recognize that the U.S. Constitution has a Second Amendment—controversial as it may be—that allows for people to “keep and bear arms” (in the context of a “well-regulated militia” that was deemed “necessary to the security of a free state”). It’s a system of checks and balances built into our democracy’s operating manual.

Olivia Whitener 1-15-2016

No guns, no gun deaths. That was the mantra ingrained in me from a young age. It is the line that runs through my head when I read reports stating that around 3,000 of the more than 30,000 gun-related deaths in the U.S. each year are of children. In 2015, 265 minors were responsible for accidental gun shootings and 83 of these children killed someone, often because they found a loaded gun in the house and were curious.

Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell on Oct. 20, 2014. Photo courtesy of The Texas Catholic, via Catholic New Service

In a blistering critique of what he describes as congressional kowtowing to the “gun lobby,” the Roman Catholic bishop of Dallas is praising President Obama’s new actions on gun control and ripping the “cowboy mentality” that allows “open carry” laws like one that just went into effect in Texas.

“Thank God that someone finally has the courage to close the loopholes in our pitiful gun control laws to reduce the number of mass shootings, suicides and killings that have become a plague in our country,” Bishop Kevin Farrell wrote in a column, posted on his website on Tuesday.

the Web Editors 1-05-2016
Sojourners / JP Keenan

Image via Sojourners / JP Keenan

The White House released the details of President Obama's latest executive action on Jan. 4, and the eagerly expected announcement will be suffixed by a live town hall meeting on gun control at 8 p.m. Thursday at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. While some are lamenting that the actions don't go far enough, the measures will tighten up existing laws.

The plan is divded into four topics: background checks, community safety, mental health, and gun safety technology. Here's what you need to know about each.

Talitha Fraser 12-15-2015
Port Arthur memorial garden

Port Arthur memorial garden, by Michael Rawle / Flickr.com

“Death has taken its toll. / Some pain knows no release / but the knowledge / of brave compassion / shines like a pool of peace.”

These words are engraved on the memorial pond at the Port Arthur mass shooting site in Australia. Nearby, a wooden cross is inscribed with the names of the 35 men, women, and children who died here. In contrast, a brochure at hand provides a simple explanation of what occurred in this place; it notably does not name the gunman. 1996: Australia’s last mass gun death.

12-14-2015

This weekend marks the third anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It is the second anniversary of the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath, organized by Faiths United Against Gun Violence, which invites religious communities across the country to engage in prayer, advocacy and witness against the epidemic of gun violence, which claims 30,000 lives a year in America.

Wesley Walker 12-09-2015

Image via /Shutterstock.com

I love my school, and Liberty is not a monolithic place — there are a diversity of worldviews and backgrounds here, and not every student is happy about Falwell’s sentiments. I have met many students and faculty who have helped me develop as a Christian, an academic, and a person. And I applaud the school’s response to the families of the victims of the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Hopefully by reaching out to them, Falwell can still bring some sense of healing to the situation.

But I feel I need to speak out on this issue. I believe opportunistic pro-gun rhetoric is deeply devastating to the Christian message.

Micah Bales 12-09-2015

Image via  /Shutterstock.com

As strange as it may seem, The New York Daily News may have gotten this one right, from a Christian perspective. A snowflake or Christmas tree on our coffee cup isn’t going to make our country a more Christian society. Religious words and calculated condolences aren’t going to restore God’s peace to our streets. The religion of Jesus and the prophets is a sincere faith expressed through positive action for change.

Ruth Nasrullah 12-09-2015

Image via REUTERS / Jonathan Alcorn / RNS

After the San Bernardino massacre, I, like other Muslims, worried about my safety.

I wondered what would happen if I went outside, given that I’m easily identifiable in my hijab. I wondered what that day, or the next or the day after that, would be like for me.

And that, I have decided, is ridiculous. I was not a victim that day.

the Web Editors 12-08-2015

Screenshot via The Late Show with Stephen Colbert / Youtube

After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, politicians and others who offered up “thoughts and prayers” came under criticism for not being interested in a solution to gun violence.

But on The Late Show on Dec. 7, Stephen Colbert argued that thoughts and prayers are still important.

“I’d like to defend thoughts and prayers, as someone who occasionally thinks and prays,” he said.

Image via REUTERS / Sandy Huffaker / RNS

The murderous attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., are too fresh to address at any length.

The brutality and horror of the killings of the innocent and the bloody shootout, the indescribable grief of the families, and the sheer shock of such an incident occurring in an otherwise quiet community demand prayer, reflection, and comfort more than quick and inevitably inadequate pontification.

Sadly, these shootings are not unique. Too often, we have experienced the agony of slaughter in churches, homes, theaters, schools, and other venues of what has been the quiet commonplace.

Yet there is a striking facet of these tragedies that shines brightly amid their grim darkness: The witness of Christians who, in the face of evil, have displayed the love of their savior and the forgiveness he alone can bring.

Abby Olcese 12-07-2015

Spike Lee didn’t plan Chi-Raq’s release to coincide with a year in which the number of mass shooting on record surpassed the number of days in the year thus far . Nobody could have expected that days before the film’s release, the shooting in San Bernadino, Calif., would push the gun debate to (another) boiling point, with cries for legislative action in addition to the frequent “thoughts and prayers” of politicians.

That most people are Chi-Raq with the shootings in California fresh in their minds is a coincidence — one which makes the film’s message all the more immediate.

Chi-Raq is a satirical drama, a modern retelling of the ancient Greek Lysistrata. In Lee’s version of the story, Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris of Dear White People) is the girlfriend of Chi-Raq (Nick Cannon), a rapper and gang leader on the south side of Chicago. He’s also in the midst of a war with Cyclops (Wesley Snipes), the leader of a rival gang. When a young girl in the neighborhood is killed by a stray bullet, Lysistrata rallies women affiliated on both sides of the gang war to demand peace by denying their men sex.

What starts as a protest becomes a movement, taking the city of Chicago and the world by storm.

12-07-2015

 The cover of the New York Daily News on Thursday, December 3, 2015. (New York Daily News)

Adam Phillips 12-07-2015

Image via /Shutterstock.com

According to the Washington Post:

“If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now …,” he said while being interrupted by louder cheers and clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, chuckling.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”

“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

A Christian leader, at one of the most influential evangelical colleges, told a basketball arena full of 18–22 year olds to get guns and carry them around in their back pockets in order to take on any radical Muslims that might make their way down to Lynchburg, Va.

the Web Editors 12-04-2015

1. Pray, Yes. But Then Act.

“We can’t just blame it on the brokenness of the world, pray for peace, and move on, worried that anything more will be seen as politicizing tragedy. What is tragic is that those who have the ability to DO something about this crisis refuse to offer more than simplistic sentiments on Twitter before getting caught in a circular argument about our rights as Americans. It’s time for people of faith to respond.”

2. The 20-Year-Old Ban That Silenced Research on Gun Violence

Because: NRA. “Researchers from federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have largely been mum on the public health issue of gun violence — not by choice, but because of a 20-year-old congressional ban on federally funded gun violence research.”

3. Emanuel: Chicago City Officials to Release Ronald Johnson Shooting Video

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday that the city would release dashcam footage of a Chicago police officer shooting 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III in the back. The shooting happened eight days before officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

4. People Think ‘The Wiz Live’ Is Racist. Twitter Says, ‘Huh?’

Actual tweet: "I just learned there is a Black version of 'The Wizard of Oz' called 'The Wiz.' How is this not racist?" Oy.

Christian Piatt 12-04-2015

Image via /Shutterstock.com

For the first week of Advent, my wife Amy preached about hope. She pointed out that having hope doesn’t mean necessarily that we see a way out of suffering. It does, however, give us a reason to try to keep working through it. We have to believe there’s another side to it. Another possibility. The potential for a new reality.

And that reality will never, ever be realized by responding to violence with more violence. It may make us feel better in the moment. It may seem to offer short-term relief. But ultimately, it makes everyone that participates become a little bit of what they hate. And the cycle continues.

Which story will we choose to try to live into?

Image via Mario Anzuoni / Reuters / RNS

Tashfeen Malik, the female suspect in the San Bernardino shooting spree, had expressed support for the Islamic State terrorist group and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a social media post, according to two U.S. officials.

While there was no indication yet that the extremist group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, directed the massacre in California that left 14 people dead, the posting represents the strongest link yet that the killings may have been rooted, at least partially, in terrorism.

Joe Kay 12-03-2015

The oh-so-familiar reaction started before we knew what had happened in the latest massacre at a conference center. Posts on social media encouraged us to pray for San Bernardino. Tweets went out bearing hashtag prayers.

It’s so damn familiar.

We see the heart-breaking images that are so much like the other heart-breaking images from the other day – different people, different place, different massacre, same sick feeling. We dust off our “Pray for the people of (fill in the blank)” and hashtag a prayer their way.

And then we do nothing to change it. Which means we’re really not praying at all.

Jim Wallis 12-03-2015

The epidemic of gun violence in America has become the new normal. We can’t just blame it on the brokenness of the world, pray for peace, and move on, worried that anything more will be seen as politicizing tragedy. What is tragic is that those who have the ability to DO something about this crisis refuse to offer more than simplistic sentiments on Twitter before getting caught in a circular argument about our rights as Americans. It’s time for people of faith to respond out of their faith and work to stop senseless violence. As Nicholas Kristoff wrote in the New York Times today: “It’s not clear what policy, if any, could have prevented the killings in San Bernardino. Not every shooting is preventable. But we’re not even trying.” Common sense measures like universal background checks — which is supported by 85 percent of Americans — would be a good start.

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