James Atwood admits he has been waiting for 36 years, but that wait (for all of us who have been waiting) is now over: Atwood himself wrote the book. What’s he been waiting for? After he buried one Herb Hunter who was killed by a reckless use of an easily-purchased handgun, he’s been waiting for someone to write a book that theologically reflects on guns in America.
30,000 gun deaths per year in the USA. 30,000. More than the population of the village in which we live. Wiped off the map every year. 30,000.
Where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths. Guns are designed to kill.
In 2008, 17 in Finland, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada, and 9484 were killed by guns in the USA.
Atwood, who owns a gun and is a deer hunter, was asked about five years ago to speak to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Forum about guns and gospel values and idolatry, and that book is called America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé. Atwood is more than a concerned pastor; Atwood has been involved with The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence for 36 years. He’s read all the materials; knows the evidence; has been active in the discussion and social struggle; and he has given us a gift.
What we need is a balance between the right to bear arms and the right to live in safety.
For change to occur, Atwood observes, requires “the leadership of an educated, spiritually aware, and committed community” (xvi). The Gun Empire, he claims, has a stranglehold on America. He sees gun violence as the elephant in the room no one wants to look at or talk about. He thinks the stranglehold is about the “principalities and powers” and are nourished by death.
It is not God’s will that 82 to 84 people die every day as a result of gun violence.
The nonsense of the Gun Empire is that guns don’t kill people and that the answer to gun violence is more guns.
Atwood thinks his previous strategies — through the federal government and legal process to create better laws — didn’t work because he was too naive about the NRA’s use of funds to guide legislators. He thinks now that the way forward in gun violence and the way forward against the Gun Empire is to motivate and mobilize the church, the community of faith, to act on its faith.
Here is how he says it:
On the moral high ground, with confidence in the rightness of our cause, with indisputable facts at our disposal, and with strong biblical and spiritual resources, people of faith will be able to convince those in Congress and in statehouses to vote for fair and balanced laws that they know in their hearts is the right thing to do.