Preventing Gun Deaths – Tell Me Just ONE Thing You Will Do
We could go ‘round all day about the supposed virtues or heretical use of 2nd Amendment. We could debate all night about whether guns kill people, or bullets kill people, or people kill people. We could argue till the cows come home about whether more guns make you safer, or actually lead to more deaths.
I’m no longer interested in those debates.
Because those debates don’t change the facts:
26 people are still dead from someone shooting them with a gun in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
58 people are still dead from someone shooting them with a gun in Las Vegas, Nevada.
1297 children are still dead each year from being shot by a gun.
93 people will die from guns today – and every day – in American.
So here’s what I want to know from you – whether you are a staunch supporter of common sense gun laws, or a staunch supporter of 2nd Amendment gun rights. What I want to know is this:
What is ONE thing you are willing to do to prevent more gun deaths?
Because this epidemic of death-by-gun is a problem that we must all work together to solve. Frankly, I’m not interested in hearing you argue with OR agree with my position on guns. As we argue or agree, bullets continue to fly and bodies continue to fall.
So I’m asking you to tell me just ONE thing you are willing to do to step up and help stop the deaths of 93 people per day. To help lower the number of 315 – the number of people who are shot in America every day.
Your answer will depend, of course, on who you are, what your starting point is on the gun issue, and what your sphere of influence and power is.
The more power you have (I’m talking to you, Mr. President, legislators, and NRA leaders), the more is expected from you to take additional action to stop this epidemic. The more influence you have (I’m talking to you, parents, teachers, clergy, mental health professionals), the more is expected from you to take additional action to stop this epidemic.
Even if you think you have very little power or influence . . .
I still challenge you to do just ONE thing to increase the likelihood that one less person will die from a gun today in America. Whether you are a gun owner or a gun shunner makes no difference. Each one of us can take a step to decrease the likelihood that another person will be shot dead in this country – either by their own hand, or by accident, or by evil calculation.
Whether it’s putting gun locks on your firearms at home and locking them in a gun safe. Or writing to your local, state, and national elected officials asking them to pass legislation to strengthen background checks and ban AK47s. Or standing behind the counter in your gun shop and refusing to sell your wares to someone with a criminal record. Or taking down your gun ad from the Internet. Or reporting your concerns to police about your parishioner who confides that her husband has threatened to shoot her. Whatever you can do to up your game and prevent more gun deaths, do it.
I don’t want to know what you’ve already done.
Don’t brag and feel self-righteous and content about the steps you’ve already taken, because that will just absolve you from doing the next thing. Unfortunately, whatever you’ve done up to this point is clearly not enough. The mass shootings (defined as an event where four or more people die) are happening daily. Yes, every day there is a mass shooting in America. Children die every day from guns. People take their own life every day using a gun. So whatever you’ve done to this point – no matter who you are or what your position is on guns – and no matter how good your intentions have been thus far, none of it is enough.
I’ll admit: what I have done so far is not enough.
After the 2012 massacre of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School – when my children were the ages of those children – I collapsed in utter despair for an entire day. Then I decided to make the commitment that I would never again go hunting with my gun, or have a gun in my house, or teach my children to use guns. Prior to that, I had already made the commitment not to allow guns as toys in my house. That was all well and good, but it’s not enough. Because gun violence is not decreasing. And one death by gun is too many.
I need to do more. So do you.
Now you may want to take issue with the decisions I’ve made. You may want to criticize the actions I’ve taken. Don’t bother. You are not going to change my mind. And it is likely that my critique of your gun collection or idolatry of the 2nd Amendment is going to change your mind. That’s beside the point.
The point is, each of us has an obligation to do just ONE thing that will move the needle down from 93 gun deaths per day in this country.
So tell me – from this point, wherever you are on the spectrum of the gun issue – what is ONE thing you will do to prevent more gun deaths.
Do you own guns?
Then tell me what you are doing – other than what you have already done – to make people in your home safer from those guns.
Do you sign petitions to prevent gun violence?
Then tell me what you are doing – other than what you have already done – to contribute to the work of organizations like The Brady Campaign, Everytown America, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, or the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, or your local gun-violence-prevention organization. Volunteer? Send monthly contributions? Attend meetings?
Are you a member of the NRA?
Then tell me what you are doing – other than what you have already done – to demand your organization to support common sense gun regulations in this country.
Are you a health care professional?
Then tell me what you are doing – other than what you have already done – to frame gun deaths as a public health issue and advocate for resources to address this epidemic.
Are you a Senator or Representative on Capitol Hill who has proposed legislation on gun violence?
Then tell me what you are doing – other than what you have already done – to find more ways to work in the government to prevent more gun deaths.
Do you sell guns as a retailer?
Then tell me what you are doing – other than what you have already done – to enforce background checks and maintain the full waiting period before selling the gun.
Are you a clergy person or a member of a faith community?
Then tell me what you are doing – other than what you have already done – to organize a dialogue in your house of worship about how your faith community can do more to prevent gun violence.
Do you occupy the highest elected office in this country?
Then tell me what you are doing as the president of this nation – other than what you have already done – to use your power and influence to protect citizens from gun deaths in this country.
If you are not willing to do at least ONE thing – that you have not already done – then you are part of the problem of gun deaths in this country.
What am I doing?
As a writer and a citizen:
I’ve written this blog piece. I’m networking with gun violence prevention organizations. And I’m going to submit an op-ed to my local newspaper. I’m also going to send copies of this blog to my local, state, and national legislators, and ask them to commit to ONE thing they will do to prevent more gun deaths in this nation.
As an ordained clergy person and seminary professor:
I’m going to encourage my clergy colleagues and seminary students to host dialogues in their churches about how we can prevent gun violence in our communities, and I’ll recommend using materials from the National Issues Forum: “How Can We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities?.”
There will be more I can do. I will be open to suggestions.
I invite your comments below to share the ONE thing – other than what you have already done – that YOU will do today or this week to step up and take action so that this completely preventable epidemic of gun violence will reverse course. It’s time to move the needle on gun deaths in this country.
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015).
Read more of Leah’s posts on gun violence: