Blackmon: Our call to discipleship requires more
There was a school shooting in my hometown of St. Louis last week. I wish such an announcement evoked shock and dismay in those who may read my words, but the reality is, according to Education Week, this was the 41st U.S. school shooting this year resulting in injuries and/or deaths.
The shooting in St. Louis happened at Central Visual & Performing Arts High School. Six people were physically wounded and three were killed, including the 19-year-old shooter. He was not yet legally old enough to purchase alcohol in this country and yet was able to legally purchase an assault weapon from a private seller in spite of an FBI ban that prohibited him from purchasing from licensed dealers.
Missouri does not have a red flag law, which means, in spite of earlier pleas for confiscation of the gun from his parents to law enforcement, the parents who signaled concern about their son’s mental health in several ways were left with no options to remove the gun that their son would later use to kill a beloved teacher and a student who was just weeks shy of her 16th birthday.
A New York Times article published in June suggested responsible gun legislation might have prevented at least 35 mass shootings and spared the lives of 446 people since the Columbine Massacre in 1999. Yet we continue to settle for our all too familiar offerings of “thoughts and prayers,” protest marches, balloon releases, go-fund-me appeals, and public criticism of teachers and law enforcement whose human limitations so often fail our superhero expectations.
We will rightfully martyr those who lose their lives to save others, like Jean Kuczka, the teacher who stood between the shooter and her students last week in St. Louis.
But memory of her spouse with whom she would have celebrated 40 years of marriage in a few months, five children, and several grandchildren whose lives are permanently changed will soon fade from public discourse. We will celebrate the survival tactics of children who are taught to prepare for active shooters and ignore our collective responsibility to protect them.
Yet the call to discipleship requires more of us.
The call to discipleship requires that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The call to discipleship requires that we love our children more than we love our guns. The call to discipleship requires more than our thoughts and prayers. It requires our consistent and persistent action toward what is just. It requires that we value public welfare over political partisanship.
According to recent findings by Pew Research, 53 percent of Americans favor responsible gun legislation, and yet our elected officials have failed to act.
Please consider joining us during this election season by contacting your representatives this week and demanding responsible gun legislation, vetting current candidates for their stances on gun reform, and voting to elect those candidates who align with your principles, no matter what party, for the sake of our children.
Understand the issues, find gun violence prevention resources and learn more about General Synod resolutions and actions here.
The Rev. Traci Blackmon is an associate general minister and vice president of the United Church of Christ. She leads Justice and Local Church Ministries.
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