Two years ago I was being interviewed on the set of a TV station in Springfield, Massachusetts about the proposed new gun laws that were going before the legislature in our commonwealth. The young reporter asked me if any of those laws stood out for me. I said, “There is a proposal to limit the sale of guns to one gun per person per month. This is an effort to cut back on a major source of gun trafficking. Think about that.” I leaned toward her and said, “Who needs to buy more than one gun per person per month?” The absurdity of this clearly got her attention and she leaned toward me and said, “Yeah. Like really!”
In 2014 the state legislature passed numerous gun reform laws. Massachusetts has often been called the state with the strictest regulations on guns. But the law barring more than one gun sale per person per month lost. Really.
Since the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been numerous gun laws passed. Sadly, tragically, the nationwide trend has been toward weaker gun laws. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, at least 64 state laws have been passed in the last two years that strengthen gun regulations. In the same period, at least 70 state laws have been passed that weaken regulations, and at least 38 more have passed that had “minimal” impact on regulations. Despite the President’s impassioned plea in the 2013 “State of the Union” address that the victims of Sandy Hook “deserve a vote,” Congress has done nothing.
When President Barack Obama was Senator Obama running for President, he gave an outstanding speech in Houston about church and politics. Senator Obama urged churches to get involved in the issues of the day. He said our great country needs – desperately needs – our moral voice. He offered several criteria for that involvement. These two points are particularly helpful for faith-based advocacy:
- Our arguments need to be beyond denominational lines. We can’t advocate for positions that only make sense to Episcopalians – or Christians, or believers. We need to make our case as something that is for the good of all.
- We need to know what we are talking about. We can’t just say, “God says.” We need to understand the issues and speak from a place of engagement and expertise.
Do we know what gun laws our legislators are debating? Do we know the implications of those laws? Do we know the leaders who will address the “public health issue” that is gun violence? This is not political work. This is religious, spiritual, holy work. This is Reign of God work.
I am told that everyday elected officials ask their staffs how many emails they received “pro” and “con” on particular issues. They are swayed by public opinion – by public passion.
Let’s get passionate about the Reign of God – and follow Jesus in his mission of mercy, compassion, and hope. Let’s learn about the public health crisis that is gun violence and use ourvoice in the political arena. If we shout loud enough, our representatives will listen. Really.
The Right Reverend Doug Fisher
The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts