Loving our neighbor in the midst of gun violence

April 5, 2023

Since the Nashville school shooting which left 6 victims dead, we have had 7 mass shootings in the US. A mass shooting is generally defined as an event where 3 or more people are shot in one incident (excluding the perpetrator) at one location at roughly the same time. (Stanford Mass Shooting Project) So – 7 mass shootings since March 27th. That’s 10 people killed and 34 people injured in mass shootings in those 8 days. That does not include the over 10,000 people killed by gun violence this year by homicide (outside of mass shootings) and suicide. That’s more 10,000 people dead by gun violence three months into the year. (ABC News Gun Violence Archive)

I am weary. I am sad. I am angry. I am frustrated.

I am tired . . . every time a mass shooting makes the news, and let’s be honest they don’t always show up in our feeds or on our TVs because they are literally a daily occurrence, I wonder if this will be the one. The one that moves us to change things. To change things in ways that will protect our children. Protect ourselves. I wonder if this will be the incident that causes those who have previously been apathetic, undecided or opposed to care about lives more than guns. So far the answer has been no . . . not this one.

I know this is considered political. That there are entrenched and long held views and beliefs in and around the issue of gun violence and gun control. Just because we are uncomfortable does not mean we shouldn’t engage. We spoke about gun violence in an Uncomfortable Conversation last year. As was made clear in that discussion the problem is immense but there are many people of many different faith traditions and of no faith tradition at all who are leading the charge to protect others by changing laws, hearts and minds. I am so grateful for this. My hope is more of my brothers and sisters in Christ will seek to engage with this important work.

If we are to answer the call of all Christ-followers to be about the thriving of our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:28-31, Galatians 5:14 and so many others) then we have to be concerned, to engage and act when they (and we) are harmed. Gun violence is an epidemic in this country and we must not look away. What does it look like to love our neighbor in a country with more guns than people? What does it look like to love our neighbor when lockdown drills are as routine as fire drills in our schools? What does it look like to love our neighbor when pregnant women in the US are more likely to die by gun violence than any health-related issue? (Harvard School of Public Health). What does it look like to love our neighbor when the leading cause of death for children in the US is gun violence? (New England Journal of Medicine)

I don’t know the precise solution. I don’t have a 1-2-3 step program to follow. I do know that the answer involves paying attention, lamenting, mourning and acting in a way that puts people, people created in God’s image, before guns, before profits, before politics or anything else that stands in the way of love.

“Justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Dr. Martin Luther King

Learn and Engage:

Massachusetts Coalition to prevent Gun Violence: The Coalition’s current work is divided into four areas: Education, Legislative Advocacy, Community Organizing and Member Support.  Gun violence is a complex problem requiring multi-faceted solutions, so the Coalition is continually growing and evolving to better serve the Commonwealth.

MGH Gun Violence Prevention Center: The MGH Gun Violence Prevention Center is a multidisciplinary initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital dedicated to preventing firearm-related violence and promoting safety in the homes and communities of the patients we serve.

Everytown: Nearly 10 million mayors, moms, teachers, survivors, gun owners, students, and everyday Americans have come together to make their own communities safer. Everytown starts with you, and it starts in your neighborhood. By introducing evidence-based solutions in every town, we can end gun violence.



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