On April 17 the U.S. Senate voted on various proposals to address gun violence. All measures failed to pass, including an assault weapons ban and a high- capacity magazine ban. Also failing to get enough support was the Manchin-Toomey amendment, which would have extended background checks to all commercial sales of guns.
Suicide makes up the largest number of gun deaths, yet even an amendment to increase funding for mental health services for suicide prevention failed to reach the 60 votes required in the Senate.
Much of the debate on gun legislation circles around the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we approach the debate in another way: how are we to show the love of Christ to our neighbors? When asked who our neighbors are, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. When all of the religious and political leaders ignore the victim of violent crime, it is the Samaritan, this foreigner, who cares for the victim.
To love our neighbors we must reframe the gun violence debate. We do not start with ourselves and our interests but ask how we can respond to the cries of those who are at the risk of violence.
Gun violence is a complex issue with interweaving causes and concerns. No one cause leads to all gun violence, and no one response can be the solution. Background checks will not end gun violence. Suicide prevention programs cannot prevent all suicides. But they will address some systemic factors that make deaths from guns more likely.
For this reason we must be willing to address these systemic factors and not simply allow them to continue. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul writes, “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4).
This is the incredible challenge of Christian faith. If we have been baptized into new life in Christ, we cannot go on living in the sin that we have died to, nor can we support sinful structures that cause harm. As Christians we believe that God is actively involved in our world through God’s people who are called to be agents of God’s peace.
May we be faithful witnesses to the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed as we pray for God’s grace and continue to work for peace and justice.
Learn more about gun violence prevention at http://www.mcc.org/FearNot/communities.