It Is Enough: A Christian Social Media Campaign Around Gun Violence

I’m pleased to announce a new initiative, coordinated by me and pastor/writer/blogger Katherine Willis Pershey, to provide a consistent Christian voice addressing gun violence and the need for more effective gun laws.

Conversing via Facebook in the days following the Sandy Hook massacre on December 14, 2012, Katherine and I became convinced of the need for a coordinated Christian response that would keep the issue of gun violence on our national agenda; nudge us to think about what Jesus’s life, words, and ministry might say about this particular public health crisis; and provide a simple way to engage with others in dialogue and advocacy.

We have created an informal coalition, called #ItIsEnough, for Christians concerned about gun violence and interested in advocating for stronger gun laws. We invite people to join our coalition. If, after reading the statements of theology, intent, and priorities below, you would like to join our coalition, please take these two simple steps:

1. “Like” the #ItIsEnough Facebook page, which will ensure that you receive our updates and can read and share the contributions of other coalition members.

2. On the 14th of each month, use some form of social media (Twitter, Facebook, a blog, etc.) to raise issues around gun violence and/or advocate for stronger gun laws. You are welcome to focus on any aspect of the problem and proposed solutions. Write a personal story, make an argument, link to an article that you found informative, explain why your Christian faith inspires you to advocate around gun violence, write a letter to your congressperson and invite your friends, followers, and readers to do the same—anything goes as long as it publicizes the terrible toll of gun violence and/or supports more effective gun laws and regulations.

3. Link your effort back to our coalition by using the #ItIsEnough hashtag and/or linking to the #ItIsEnough Facebook page

Our Theology

We believe that a model of personal and communal safety based primarily on self-protection, physical and firepower, and violent response to threats stands in opposition to the values preached and modeled by Jesus Christ.

The phrase #ItIsEnough comes from a story in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 22, in which Jesus, imminently threatened with a tortured execution, cautions his disciples against stockpiling and using weapons to protect him and themselves. When he asks his disciples if they have what they need to go out in the world preaching his message, a disciple mentions that they have two swords (for a dozen people). Jesus responds, “It is enough,” which implies that Jesus recognized a need for armed protection, but saw such protection as both limited and secondary to other ways to achieve personal and communal safety. Jesus, through his words, life, and ministry, showed that people and communities are made safe and whole through mutual dependence, sharing of resources, the offer and receipt of healing, repentance and forgiveness, and acts of care offered to all, including enemies, the poor, the sick, and those reviled by their culture.

#ItIsEnough also sums up the feeling that many of us who have cared about the issue of gun violence for years had upon learning of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012—enough is enough. It’s time to change our culture’s relationship with guns and enact stronger gun laws.

Also in Luke 22, one of Jesus’s disciples attempts to defend him from the Roman guards coming to arrest Jesus by using a sword to cut off a guard’s ear. Jesus replies to this act of armed self-defense by restoring the guard’s ear and warning that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.  We see an echo of this idea in U.S. gun statistics, which show that a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a suicide, accidental shooting, or homicide than in self-defense. (Source: The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence)

As the National Council of Churches has said in a statement on gun violence, “We believe it is idolatry to trust in guns to make us secure,” because it is only through reliance on God and following Jesus Christ’s example of nonviolent, sacrificial, caring engagement with the world that we will truly be secure.

Statement of Intent and Priorities

While inspired to action by the mass murder of schoolchildren and educators on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, #ItIsEnough members are concerned about all gun violence, including suicide, homicide, accidental shootings, and gun-related injuries, believing that the God of peace and healing calls us to protect all human lives from the threat of violent death and injury.

#ItIsEnough members support stronger gun laws that hold promise for limiting the risk of violent injury and death via suicide, accident, and homicide, including universal background checks for gun purchases; licensing, registration, and waiting periods to allow comprehensive background checks and cooling-off periods, for all guns sold; banning of semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; technology to allow law enforcement agencies to trace guns used in crimes; and education around gun safety, responsible gun ownership, and the public health crisis enabled by an inadequately regulated U.S. gun market.

Aware that gun violence and stronger gun laws have not been priorities on our national agenda for a number of years, #ItIsEnough encourages Christians to raise these issues via social media monthly, on the 14th day of each month. We aim to ensure that our leaders and citizens do not forget the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the thousands of other victims of gun violence each year, and continue to work toward stronger gun laws to lessen this toll of injury and death.

If you’re new to the blog, here are a few of my previous posts on gun violence:

For Christians, Gun Control Should Be a No-Brainer

I’m Pretty Sure Today IS the Time to Talk About Gun Control

“There but for the Grace of God?”: Grace, Darkness, and the Sandy Hook Shooting

Let’s Change Our Gun Laws…and Preserve “Qualities of Heart and Spirit”

 

About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at http://ellenpainterdollar.com for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.

  • DaveP

    > We see an echo of this idea in U.S. gun statistics, which show that a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a suicide, accidental shooting, or homicide than in self-defense. (Source: The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence)

    That statistic is false. You are directing your readers to an advocacy site which is attempting to make money off of gullible people.

    Even worse, your paraphrase from the site is inaccurate. You omitted 5 crucial words. The actual quote from the site is “Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.” http://www.bradycampaign.org/studies/view/102/

    You said “… than in self-defense”, but the actual quote was “… than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.” You are making the false equation that “self-defense” is the same as “injure or kill in self-defense”.

    The exact opposite is true. Studies have found that when guns are used in self-defense, 91.7% of the time the result is non-violent. Knowing that a potential victim is armed is usually enough to cause a criminal to flee. https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=162693 “Findings indicated that regulatory measures that effectively reduce gun availability among the noncriminal majority also would reduce defensive gun uses that would otherwise have saved lives, prevented injuries, thwarted rape attempts, driven off burglars, and helped victims retain their property.”

    Notice how the conclusion predicts that “Gun Free Zones” will lead to more deaths — which is exactly what happened in Sandy Hook.

    Christ was “the way and the truth and the life” John 14:6. So I would think that those who wish to emulate him would be more careful about “the truth”.

    Fortunately, though, it looks like the Newtown school district has decided to abandon the deadly liberal “Gun Free Zones” fad, and instead to follow Christ’s teaching to “Sell your cloak and buy a sword” Luke 22:36:

    “Newtown school board votes for armed guards at its elementary schools”
    http://now.msn.com/newtown-school-board-votes-for-armed-guards-at-elementary-schools

    • http://www.ellenpainterdollar.com Ellen Painter Dollar

      I worked closely with the Brady Center staff when I worked for a police chiefs association in DC. If you make another misleading claim about their authority in this area, you will be banned.

      I have no problem with police officers being armed and even being in schools on occasion. They are trained and I trust their training, judgment, and ability to use their firearms appropriately in appropriate circumstances. However, as you know, I seriously question the ability of civilians to make these sorts of split second judgments and only kill or harm the “bad guys” (as if it’s always possible to know who that is). http://swampland.time.com/2013/01/16/your-brain-in-a-shootout-guns-fear-and-flawed-instincts/

      I will correct the quote you mention. That does not undermine our basic concern and the basic fact that suicide, homicide, and accidental shootings are much more common in homes where guns are available, and that far too many thousands of Americans die under these circumstances than is acceptable. There is also a correlation between tighter gun control restrictions and fewer gun-related deaths. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/01/the-geography-of-gun-deaths/69354/

  • DaveP

    > I worked closely with the Brady Center staff when I worked for a police chiefs association in DC.

    DC now has the highest gun death rate in the country.

    > I have no problem with police officers being armed and even being in schools on occasion. They are trained and I trust their training, judgment, and ability to use their firearms appropriately in appropriate circumstances. However, as you know, I seriously question the ability of civilians to make these sorts of split second judgments and only kill or harm the “bad guys” (as if it’s always possible to know who that is).

    Your article says exactly the opposite, that you can’t trust the police to use their firearms appropriately:

    “In the New York City police department, for example, officers involved in gunfights typically hit their intended targets only 18% of the time, according to a Rand study. When they fired 16 times at an armed man outside the Empire State Building last summer, they hit nine bystanders …”.

    Besides, police officers are almost always the last people to arrive on the scene, and have no idea of which bodies on the ground belong to the bad guys or the good guys. For example, the police took almost 20 minutes to arrive at Sandy Hook. As the saying goes:

    “When seconds mean the difference between life and death, the police are only minutes away.”

    Besides, gun training is easy, anyone can do it — people who join police forces don’t have any sort of mythical magical gun powers. In fact, the police themselves are now advising people to arm themselves:

    “Sheriff David Clarke Jr.: Skip 911, defend yourself”
    http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/sheriff-david-clarke-jr-skip-911-defend-yourself-86801.html
    “Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. said on Monday a radio ad in which he urges residents to take a safety course in handling firearms because “calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option.””

    > There is also a correlation between tighter gun control restrictions and fewer gun-related deaths.

    Usually you are pretty good at recognizing the difference between causation and correlation, so I’m a little surprised that you are referencing a biased article by a reporter, instead of a scientific article. For example, the correlation can easily be explained if the underlying cause of both effects is crime-rate: there are more gun incidents in high-crime areas than in low-crime areas.

    Two specific counter-examples to your article are Vermont (a blue state) and Utah (a red state). Vermont has virtually no gun control laws — and in 2009 had no gun deaths. More people were killed by knives and hammers in Vermont in 2009 than by guns. In Utah, anyone who gets a concealed carry permit can carry pretty much anywhere, and:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/27/gun-classes-teachers-utah-ohio-shooting/1793773/
    “Utah has allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on K-12 campuses for 12 years now and, said Aposhian, “We have never had any accidental or intentional shootings.””

    • http://www.ellenpainterdollar.com Ellen Painter Dollar

      The gun death rate in DC has nothing to do with the fact that I worked with a NATIONAL association of police chiefs from major jurisdictions across the country. There is a clear divide on gun laws and regulations between urban police and sheriffs who police more rural areas. Given that our inner cities are the places most ravaged by gun violence, I’m more interested in what the urban chiefs have to say, and they largely favor exactly the sorts of gun laws we are supporting in the #ItIsEnough campaign.

      Yes, police officers make mistakes, which was precisely my point in the first post I wrote here on gun control: We insist on believing this myth of the brave civilian gun owner who will know precisely who the “bad guy” is and be able to shoot that bad guy without any collateral damage to unarmed civilians, even though we know that police officers who go through significant training don’t always get it right.

      Have you ever BEEN to Vermont? It doesn’t surprise me in the least that there were no gun deaths in Vermont. Or that Utah has a low rate of gun violence, for that matter. Both of those places have unique cultures where things like poverty and disconnection from one’s community do not occur in the same way that they do in other places.

      You’ve had two comments. I’ve removed them both from the trash, where my spam filter put them. The next one will stay there.

      And here’s a good article that points out the problems with the Gary Kleck study that you love so very much, along with a bunch of others: http://www.salon.com/2012/12/18/the_answer_is_not_more_guns/

  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    I am really looking forward to the work you and the coalition will do, Ellen.

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