Seventy-four. It’s a big number. It is the number of school shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary where over 20 little bodies were torn apart by bullets. There have been other shootings in other places along the way, making the number of dead much, much higher than a mere 74. Included of course, is the man who was “carrying,” who pulled his weapon and was shot dead himself last week in Las Vegas. Included, as well, are the uncounted, unnamed people, mostly in our cities, who are targeted or caught in the cross-fire of our violent culture.
The most recent U.S. school shooting in Oregon has touched the Disciples family – again. Members of Lynchburg Christian Church go to and work at Reynolds High.
It is true that a gun does not kill without a person to pull the trigger. But easy gun availability does make it easier for persons to act against their neighbor with deadly force.
The National Council of Churches has said: “In an average year, 100,000 Americans are shot or killed with a gun. Every day (on average) 300 Americans are victims of gun violence, with 85 lives taken daily as a result. The United States is rapidly moving from a land of hospitality and freedom to a land of the fearful and the besieged, with gun violence being the driving force behind this change. We have become a nation at war with ourselves and numbed to the sacredness of human life.”
So, really, it turns out that “74” is only the tip of the iceberg – hardly representative of the scope of the pain inflicted
Surely it’s time to do something about this. Legislation is imperative. We know from our own experience that common sense regulations on firearms reduce deaths. According to the NCC statement, “In the decade following the Federal Assault Weapons Act of 1994 there was a 66 percent decline in assault weapon use.” The Australia experience is even more striking. After a 1996 “massacre,” they enacted extensive gun safety reform. In the sixteen years following, there had not been a single mass shooting.
Again, this latest instance directly affected members of our own communion but touches all of us: “fearful, besieged, a nation at war with ourselves…” When will we stop this?
And so we pray: Lord, have mercy. Comfort those who mourn. Bring healing to our communities and wisdom to our leaders that laws may be changed. Use us as ambassadors of wholeness, the evidence of hope that hearts may be changed. Amen.