SYNOD ASSEMBLY OBSERVATIONS
This spring I spent time attending to GVP (gun violence prevention) table displays at the St. Paul Area Synod and Northwest Minnesota Synod Assemblies. Many conversations later I concluded these observations.
1. People cared about gun violence (GV) and were seeking solutions. GV was recognized as a serious issue.
2. Statistics were helpful in communicating the seriousness of GV. Yet, it was important to not overwhelm the people. I focused on the 33,000 killed by GV in the USA each year, the 450 or so killed in Minnesota, the fact that over 80% of Minnesota gun deaths are suicides with 90% being committed by white people, that a gun in the house increases risk of suicide by 3-6 times, that similarly a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in suicide, homicide or accident than against an intruder, and increases the risk to an woman being murdered by 3-6 times.
3. It was important to lower defensive responses by stating that ENGAGE is not about taking guns away from responsible gun owners, that ENGAGE supports hunters, sports shooting and the right to self defense. The issue was keeping guns from those who shouldn’t have them, such as felons, those convicted of domestic violence and the severely mentally ill. This is common sense GVP (gun violence prevention).
4. Stress the importance of universal background checks, that states adopting UBC have significantly lower GV. Explain that UBC are to include licensed sellers and ALL private sales of weapons. People seemed to understand this common sense law.
5. Stress that Stand your Ground and Permitless Carry laws were dangerous and INCREASE gun violence.
6. There was strong acceptance that the overwhelming ethic of Jesus Christ is nonviolence. Therefore, as Christians we are called to address GV out of respect for God’s will for life and love for all.
I conclude that the more people are given the opportunity to ask questions, hear the above comments, and know they are being listened to, the more receptive they are to new common sense gun laws. People need time and places for this conversation to take place. Then change happens. This gives hope for significant change.
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)