Our Zoom conversation focused on WAYS FORWARD for gun violence prevention. Those participating represented Protect Minnesota-Interfaith Alliance for Gun Safety, ENGAGE Public Witness of the SPAS, and some with relationships with Mom’s Demand Action. A friend from Colorado shared his concern. It was a timely meeting. AGAIN.
The reality? Minneapolis has historically been the most violent in the Twin Cities. 911 calls about gunshots in Minneapolis have increased by 50% since a year ago. Through last Tuesday, 190 people have been shot across Minneapolis, up 47% from the same time last year. May 2020 has officially recorded the highest number of mass shootings (56) of any month since mass shooting data was collected in 2013. In St. Paul, homicides have surged in 2020, up 100% from 15 to 30 since 2019, the most homicides in 25 years. Yet, ironically, violent crime is down 10% in St. Paul. Background checks in Minnesota spiked in March, recording the most for any month in 20 years. Dr. Bellal Joseph of Tucson, Arizona, says “COVID-19 and gun violence are like super infections. Together they are more deadly.” Then there are the “Boogaloo Bois”. There are an estimated 250 in Minnesota. Michael Solomon, one of the members, posing with an AR-15, says “We know a lot of us are going to get killed.” He describes himself as “an armed redneck. We believe in freedom and absolute liberty for everyone regardless of race, creed, gender, sex, whatever. We don’t care.” One writer describes the BBs true belief as “accelerationists, dismantelling the political order through increased civil disorder.” Another writer says they have two core tendencies: an affinity for totting around assault rifles, and a rallying cry viewed as a code for another US civil war.
Out of these realities, the conversation turned to the question: What ought we do? Focusing the conversation, I read from Romans 12:1-3, where Paul writes “. . . by the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God . . . . Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I then recited the ENGAGE Mission: “To MEDITATE on, EDUCATE about and ADVOCATE for gun violence prevention in the nonviolent Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Wayne shared conversations he has had with folks in Colorado. “People fear their whole lives are slipping away from them.” A gun shop owner of Frontiersman Sports in St. Louis Park, Minnesota was referenced commenting, “People are really scared coming in here.” In these Biblical and human “spirits”, we arrived at actions which all people, urban and rural can do.
- Step up! Speak up! Do not remain silent! Silence only gives assent to the violent oppressor.
- Address the common causes of poverty and lack of education. Most homicidal gun violence has roots in these realities.
- Counter conspiracy theories. CTs generate fear and are mostly based upon false information, only used to promote an ideological agenda. Use facts and question sources.
- VOTE! Work to elect people who will have the courage to support laws that support GVP.
- Promote in-home gun safety measures. Unintentional child shootings have risen dramatically during COVID.
- Work for an assault weapons ban. These are weapons of war which cause massive loss of life, being the weapon of choice for creating gun carnage.
- Push for passage of Universal Background Checks and Red flag Laws (Extreme Risk Protection Orders). These laws save lives and protect the rights of responsible gun owners.
- Push-out the “Love your Neighbor” GVP curriculum throughout Minnesota and Churchwide. LYN will facilitate conversation and build a foundation for action.
- Work with Minnesota Bishops to gain access for stirring conversation in urban and rural area congregations.
- Work closely with other GVP organizations such as Giffords, Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action. United we can be more effective.
- Always empathize that we are not anti-gun, that we support hunting and recreational use, plus safe personal and locked in-home gun safety measures. We believe in responsible gun ownership.
Gun life is fueled with justifications of fear, protection, survival, recreation, relief and domination. People have to eat so they hunt. People enjoy sport so they target shoot. People want protection from violence so they purchase guns at the ready. Groups and gangs want identity and protection in an impoverished neighborhood. Police want to exert control amidst threatening situations. Soldiers train to kill, conquer and control. People cannot endure personal pain any longer so they take their own lives. These justifications must be tempered and perspectived with Biblical Truth. Isaiah speaks of turning “swords into plowshares.” I John 4:18 says “Perfect love casts out fear.” Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Jesus says “Enough!” Jesus says “No more of this!” Genesis speaks “God saw everything [he/she] had made, and indeed, it was very good.” The Garden of Eden was a place of Shalom, of harmony, of balance. God’s Will was for a nonviolent world. People were the final creations. People were created in the Image of God, to reflect the character of God, to continue the creative, nonviolent good of God. Revelation speaks of a time of “no more dying, no more crying.” The WAY FORWARD for gun violence prevention is to surrender to God’s good and gracious will for us and the world, and live in the character of God’s Image.
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)