It was the first time I ever enjoyed being honked at.
A city bus, work vans, a postal truck, family sedans, clunkers, and finally a school bus sounded their horns as I stood in racket-raising vigil with a dozen retirees outside one of the top purveyors of crime guns in the United States. Our goal: to encourage the owner to sign a voluntary code of conduct for gun retailers.
Honk 4 Maryland gun laws
Honk for safe streets
No more straw purchases
We are Heeding God’s Call
Our message clearly struck a chord with those who drove by, since 302 drivers honked, many of them quite boisterously!
I chose a sign that read: Stop illegal gun trafficking. This message is close to my heart and also to my work, since many of the guns used by criminals in Latin America are available because of the gaping holes in our regulations and enforcement in the United States. I’ll never forget the time I was talking with a group of fourth graders at a Presbyterian school in Apartadó, Colombia, about life in the U.S. and one of them asked, “In the United States, are you really allowed to just buy guns?”
This child has felt the damaging ripple effect of gun violence in his own family and neighborhood, even though guns are not for sale to the public in his country. I felt a chill as I told him yes, people in my country have the right to purchase guns, and no, we do not have sufficient laws to penalize or prevent the trafficking of those guns to violent groups. As a citizen of the United States, I am responsible for working to change our laws and practices so that our guns don’t fall into the hands of killers.
The Rev. Jim Atwood, a persistent advocate for ending gun violence, thinks that we have finally reached the tipping point of public opinion regarding the unchecked devastation of gun violence. We cannot afford to lose another classroom-full of children, whether through a mass shooting or through the dispersed yet appalling hemorrhage that snuffs out eight young lives every day in this nation. We cannot afford to sit by and refuse to enact basic changes that will prevent people with mental illness and histories of violent behavior from acquiring guns.
We cannot afford to sit by, so we must rise up. Rise up and speak, rise up to seek out and share solid information, rise up and refuse to sit down again until we create the change we so desperately need.
If you’re wondering what you can do to rise up, I’ve got a few ideas.
- Watch the documentary Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence, or, better yet, hold a screening event at your church, community center, school, home, favorite restaurant, etc. I had the privilege of viewing it last Sunday, and can’t recommend it highly enough.
- Contact your senators and urge them to support S 649, the “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013.” This is the firearms bill introduced this week that would require background checks for all firearm sales.
- Learn about Heeding God’s Call and see if you can join a chapter or start one in your area to give a Christian witness to the need for change in our broken system. The folks I stood with in District Heights, Maryland, are part of Heeding God’s Call. I was only in town for a few days, but they stand there every Monday afternoon, year round, and have done so for almost two years. I saw them in Trigger and knew right away that there was nothing else I’d rather do with my afternoon than join in their witness.
What ideas do you have? How will/do you rise up to end gun violence?