I wasn’t even finished reading a New York Times article on the growing divide in the gun debate when an alert came across my iPad about the Washington navy yard shootings. My outloud comment to no one but God was, “Another senseless massacre that won’t change anything. We continue to invite evil to dwell among us.”
We will never have a perfect society or a perfect anything this side of eternity. But inspite of that, we are still commanded to address and alleviate those things we can do something about. Jesus said, “For you always have the poor with you” (Matthew 26:11), and yet scripture is full of admonitions to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and take care of “the least of these.” Our efforts won’t alleviate all poverty, hunger, or illness, but it will make things better for everyone over the long haul.
Reducing gun violence is one of those areas we can do something about. Universal background checks would help reduce gun violence. Removing assault weapons and the rapid loading/rapid firing capabilities would help reduce mass shooting capabilities and thus reduce gun violence. These are just common sense measures that don’t take away anyone’s right to legally own a firearm and still, with little effort, will reduce the amount of gun violence in the United States.
The more difficult issues that contribute to gun violence, but that aren’t so easy to address are mental illness, domestic violence, and substance abuse. Poverty and joblessness can also be added to that list. Usually there are a combination of these challenging factors that increase the possibility of escalating gun violence. Yet, just because they are more challenging does not absolve us from our responsibility to address underlying issues that contribute or exacerbate these issues – like poverty, access to mental health services, education, a living wage, and economic stability.
What price are we willing to incur by not addresses reducing gun violence and deflecting mental illness, domestic violence, and substance abuse from any substantive dialogue? We continue to invite evil to dwell among us when we don’t a serious effort to reduce gun violence or a serious effort to address issues that contribute to gun violence.
I was updating the list of Gun Deaths Since Newtown and I noticed the names of three year-old girl and five year-old sisters. Their 33 year-old mother was also listed. I was struck because I have two precious granddaughters who are 3 and 5 and my son, their father is 33. I decided to take a look and see how many gun deaths on that list were people who were the same ages as people in my immediate family.
Five hundred forty-four (544) names later, here is what I found. I only selected gender and ages that corresponded to the gender and age of my family member. For example, my Dad is 79. There were 10 names of 79 year-olds, but only 4 were male. I recorded only 4 for his age group, even though there were 6 more 79 year-olds who died from being shot by a firearm.
My Dad, 79 = 4 male gun deaths
My Mom, 78 = 3 female gun deaths
Me, 56 = 12 female gun deaths
My sister, 55 = 15 female gun deaths
My brother who was 52 when he died from self-inflicted gunshot = 105 male gun deaths
My husband, 48 = 67 male gun deaths
My son, 35 = 120 male gun deaths
My son, 33 = 171 male gun deaths
My daughter-in-law, 34 = 31 female gun deaths
My granddaughter, 8 = 5 female child gun deaths
My granddaughter, 5 = 6 female child gun deaths
My granddaughter, 3 = 5 female child gun deaths
Five hundred forty-four gun deaths – plus the twelve massacred at the navy yard and all the other gun deaths since December 14, 2014 – that we all bear responsibility for because we continue to invite evil to dwell among us.