I'd like to take the opportunity to feature a leader in our movement, Rev. Rachel Smith.
Rev. Smith first became involved in the gun violence issue through the 2000 Million Mom March. In Raleigh, North Carolina, she helped start a Million Mom March Chapter, and later became a Brady Campaign Board of Trustees member.
As an ordained minister, Rev. Smith also founded the Brady Center project called "God Not Guns," whose mission is to provide clergy and congregations with support, and to encourage them to see gun violence prevention as a ministry in their communities.
Rev. Smith writes a regular blog of her own, and she graciously allowed me to cross-post her most recent entry on my blog, which I include here:
A friend of mine who is a pastor recently visited the home of someone in his congregation. After dinner the host said, "I want to show you something," left the dinner table, and returned with a double barrel pistol. The gun's top barrel was a .410 shotgun and the bottom barrel was a .357 pistol. My pastor friend, who happens to be Vietnam vet, was astounded. What, he asked, does anybody need with a weapon like that?
Some people say that it's their Constitutional right to have a gun, any kind of gun, when and wherever they want it. Because they believe they have the right, they want the gun. Others say they need a gun for protection, that the police can't be trusted to arrive in time to prevent a crime. Still others say that the right to own a gun protects them from government run amok. Whatever the rationale to support a right to gun ownership, the result is over 200 million guns in circulation in the U.S. today. And the result of so many guns? Nearly 30,000 Americans are killed by guns each year.
What do we need with so many guns? What happens when the perceived right to gun ownership is complicit in the deaths of so many?
It reminds me of a similar (though much more benign) situation faced by the Apostle Paul when dealing with the church in Corinth. Some members of the congregation felt it was permissible to eat meat that had been offered to pagan gods while others believed this meat was defiled. The meat-eaters felt superior to those who refused it because they thought their higher knowledge freed them from such restrictions. This conflict was causing great confusion in the church and they asked Paul for advice.
Paul's response was this: "Food will not commend us to God...Take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak...If food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall."
I think we can apply Paul's advice to our contemporary conflict between the right of gun ownership vs. the right to live free from the threat of gun violence. I think Paul might say to us, "Guns will not commend us to God...Take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to another...If guns are the cause of my brother's falling, I will not carry a gun lest I cause my brother to fall."
What a different culture it would be if we followed Paul's advice.