Five young children have been shot in recent weeks, leaving two dead and one grievously wounded – caught in the crossfire of gun violence. A college student lost his life, victim of a stray bullet. Last week, a coach taking his son home after a baseball game, was shot and died on the highway. All of this, not far from where I live.
What each of these have in common, is their innocence. The children were playing or riding in cars. One little child was eating an ice cream cone. The student was out celebrating his college graduation with friends. The coach had only seconds of an encounter, with another vehicle on a rainy night, before he was shot and died on his way home. And there were all the other intentional deaths, as gangs fought for turf or tried to even the score.
These last weeks have brought about a spate of shootings in my area and across the nation. A generation is growing up believing the way to resolve problems is to shoot your way through them. One could point to the media for glorifying violence, absent parents, lack of social supports and economic opportunity, or a shortage of law enforcement . . . But without guns, none of these would have died. There would not have been stray bullets to catch a child, nor shots fired while passing a car on a rainy night.
Many of my rural friends fear any effort by the government to control the use of guns. While those of us who live in metro areas, see gun control as the only lasting solution to the kinds of violence we live with daily. Getting guns out of the hands and homes of troubled youth would go a long way to reduce the violence in our cities.
As often as the mantra that guns don’t kill people, people kill people is stated, the truth is that people with guns kill people. Twenty thousand Americans died from gun violence last year, and nearly forty thousand were injured. An additional twenty-four thousand used a gun to take their own lives. Fifty-one hundred kids and teens under seventeen were killed or injured in 2020. Our cities have become killing fields.
Pretending that guns are not the problem is reckless. It does nothing for the safety of our communities, our schools, our streets and our children. Continuing to deny the problem is unconscionable.
I yearn for the day when distressed people find mental health help as easily to obtain, as a gun today. I ache for the day when gangs become teen clubs and gang wars turn into basketball skirmishes, and all the guns used for killing are melted and made into bridges.
I have no easy answers for this, but I believe it starts by speaking truth to ourselves and to each other. Recognizing part of the problem, and acting on it, is a beginning place for dealing with the scourge of violence creating havoc, pain and loss in our communities.
“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace.” Zechariah 8:16