I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting on messaging strategies that engage people to support stricter gun laws. The goal of these changes is to make it harder for guns to end up in the hands of people who commit violent crimes. There is great deal of public support to reduce gun violence but for some reason when the time came for Congress to pass stricter gun laws they failed us.
During the messaging meeting a great deal of the conversation addressed how to better communicate and mobilize support in communities. Some messages resonate with people and others do not. The bottom line is that you have to talk about people and not about guns. Parents and family members of kids on the streets or kids who have been victims of gun violence are not worried about guns; they are worried about their children.
As much as parents, family and community members want guns off the streets; they want their children off the streets even more. A few weeks ago our church was in a season of prayer and fasting. For a week we met every night at the church to pray for each other, our families and our community. One night I passed out note cards and told people that if they were not going to attend one night but wanted us to pray for them, write down your prayer on a note card and leave it at the altar. Every night I gathered up the prayers that were written down and left at the altar. As I read through them I noticed a common theme.
Written on some of those cards were request for prayers on behalf of family members and loved ones. Some requested prayer for a family members dealing with addiction. Others were for family members living the street life and likely selling drugs. There were prayers for family members and friends who lost children to violence on the streets and there were also prayers for young men and women who are in gangs to come home.
People didn't pray to get guns of the streets, lock up gang members, stricter laws or more police on the streets. Their prayers spoke to what they really wanted. They wanted their kids back. The wanted their kids off drugs, off the streets, out of gangs and back home with their families. They prayed asking God to heal people, victim and perpetrator from brokenness, anger, and sadness to come back home.
At the core of the concern of people in communities across the country is the desire for their children to come home, for their families to heal and for forgiveness to take place. In all that any of us to do address policy changes and hold our elected officials accountable to the needs of our communities, our primary message has to be helping families heal and making neighborhoods safe while we work to bring our children back home to their families.
It's bigger than talking about drugs, guns, gangs, and crime. It's about restoring families, helping kids heal, forgiveness of mistakes and seeking a better future for our children.