THE BIG PICTURE of gun violence prevention (GVP) reveals many causal images demanding response. It is right to pass respectful gun safety laws because rightly focused laws save lives while respecting one’s legitimate right to purchase a weapon. Yet, we cannot stop with laws. Human stories paint new causal images.
Remember Jacob Blake, the 28 year-old father who though unarmed, was shot in the back seven times by local police and is paralyzed from the waist down. Remember 17 year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, illegally carrying an AR-15 to allegedly protect business owners’ property during a civil disturbance in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two people and wounding another. Remember Barry Wesley, a 6’6″ 305 pound lineman for the Colorado State University Rams, going door-to-door selling roofing supplies in Loveland, Colorado, threatened by a former SWAT Team officer, carrying two loaded Glock 17 pistols, two 33 round 9mm magazines, four 30 round rifle magazines and two knives, wearing full tac gear, being forced to the ground by the words “Police! Get on the f… ground or I’ll kill you.” Then while on the ground, the retired SWAT man puts a pistol to his head. Thankfully, Barry survived. It was learned later that SWAT Man had visited White Supremist sites.
What is the BIG PICTURE? GVP involves addressing issues of race, White Supremacy, poverty, equal educational opportunity, employment. mental health, stress, and yes, policing practices. We must be honest and admit Black Lives Matter. In 2019, 370 Whites who make up 61% of our population were killed by police, and 235 Blacks who make up just 12% of our population, and 158 Hispanics who make up 6% of our population were killed by the police. Police kill up to six times more Black people than White people. I Googled “Poverty and Violence” and referenced over 500 sites on just 50 pages, and there were more. Overwhelmingly, guns were the major destroyer in the poverty and violence cycle. Studies by the Kaiser Family Institute documents White poverty is roughly one half that of Black and Hispanic poverty. Data from the Brookings Institute show Blacks dying at an 80% homicide rate as contrasted with 15% for Whites. Yet, the suicide rates for both are switched with Whites committing suicide at a 75% rate andf Blacks 15% rate. The WASHINGTON POST reports White men accounting for 74% of suicides.
THE BIG PICTURE of GVP paints a canvas of causes that number the stars creating a universal BIG PICTURE. We must address ALL causes in order to create a safer life for ALL. ALL causes are connected. Jesus is a BIG PICTURE guy, recognizing connections. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Sermon on the Plain in Luke and the pronouncement of the Greatest Commandment to love, Jesus addresses a buffet of societal maladies, calling followers to make real the Reign of God. If Jesus acknowledges connections, ought not we? Ought not now?
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)