Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Psalm 73:1-3
"The worst mass shooting in modern American history."
We’ve heard these words before. We’ve heard them far too often only to have the next mass shooting supersede the former. During the night, people attending an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas unexpectedly found themselves assaulted by gunfire from the 32nd floor of the Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Early reports indicate this violence is the work of a lone, 64-year-old, white gunman equipped with multiple assault weapons. It is too early to know whether we will ever have knowledge of his provocation for this deadly act. It is too early to know what life experiences he may have had, or what propaganda he may have absorbed, that might have moved him from hateful thought to hateful action.
But what we do already know, even if we refuse to admit it, is that this lone gunman was able to execute at least 59 people, and wound over 500 more, because our nation’s absolute refusal to enact responsible gun legislation provides easy access to high-powered assault weapons used to kill human beings.
According to data gathered by the CDC, on average there are 12,000 gun homicides a year in the United States, and for every one person killed with a gun, two more are injured. What we know is that of the guns sold in the U.S. one in five are sold without background checks.
What we also know is that soon the predictable rhetoric exhorting the false notion that guns do not kill people will begin again, and gun lobbyists will line up to offer condolences for lives lost without offering proposals of any comprehensive gun reform to lessen the probability of this type of massacre ever happening again. What we know is we will spend our time analyzing the mental health of the shooter while excusing the moral decay of this nation.
In Psalm 73, the psalmist cries out for relief from oppressors while simultaneously acknowledging the temptation to stray from those things we know to be morally just. In this Psalm we are reminded of the necessity to heed the teaching and the love of the Lord, lest we become adorned with pride and clothed in violence.
My heart weeps for those who are waking this morning to notifications of the deaths and injuries of loved ones needlessly gunned down last night. My heart weeps for a nation that will once again gather to mourn the dead without committing to the deeper work of sensible gun reform. May the groaning pains of this nation lift us up from our praying knees to call on our policymakers to demand legislative changes to gun laws in this country. May we stop wringing our hands in helpless disbelief and satiating our hearts with false narratives of lone gunmen. Because until we do all we can to prevent such mass shootings, no gunman acts alone. From Sandy Hook to Texas to Charleston to Virginia Tech to Pulse to Las Vegas…Lord, hear our cries and compel us to act.
Here are eight actions that you can begin today:
1. Start Planning a vigil to #EndGunViolence.
The victims, survivors and the families impacted by gun violence are often forgotten. Therefore, the Newtown Foundation, in partnership with Faiths United Against Gun Violence, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown Survivor Network, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Organizing for Action, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, St Marks Episcopal Church and Women's March on Washington will host the annual national vigil service of mourning and loving remembrance for all who have fallen victim to the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in America on December 6th and nationwide vigils/events from December 6-17th.
- Please complete this form to host a vigil or an event in your town or city and our partners at the Newtown Foundation will send you the 2017 National Vigil Tool Kit to facilitate your planning and to coordinate our collective gun violence prevention message.
- Consider coming to DC to attend the national vigil service to support the families and survivors impacted by gun violence and renew our pledge to fight for gun violence prevention. Please reserve your seat here.
- Direct family members of victims and survivors of gun violence from all 50 states are invited to attend the national vigil service on December 6th at St Marks Episcopal Church. There are travel stipends available. Please forward this registration form to families and survivors who may be interested.
2. Call your Congressional representative.
Find out who represents you in Congress, then let them know that you are a constituent, that you want to make gun reform a priority and that you expect to see them take strong action on common sense gun reforms like legislation to strengthen the background check process and state/federal cooperation improvement needed to make it more effective.
3. Facebook and Tweet your representatives.
Your elected officials are listening to what you say on social media. You can look them up now and let them know what you think.
4. Learn more about why gun violence is an issue for people of faith.
Download the UCC’s Faith vs. Fear: A Faith Response to Gun Violence. This five-part bible study is a good tool for opening up discussion in your congregation. Visit our website for more info on this and on our work to end gun violence.
5. Join a local Gun Violence Prevention group.
National groups with local chapters:
- The Brady Campaign. Click here to find a local chapter.
- Moms Demand Action. Click here to find a local chapter.
Local Groups at the state level:
- States United to Prevent Gun Violence in America. Click here to find a local state chapter.
6. Be SMART
S Secure guns in homes and vehicles.
M Model responsible behavior.
A Ask about unsecured guns in other homes.
R Recognize the risks of teen suicide.
T Tell your peers to be SMART.
7. Ask your local organizations about their gun policies and demand that they publish them.
It is important for your local community organizations to have a gun policy. Ask your local:
- Faith communities
- Public spaces
8. Register To Vote and then Actually VOTE.
The Rev. Traci Blackmon is a UCC national officer, Justice and Witness Ministries Executive, and Senior Pastor of Christ The King UCC in Florissant, Mo.