The hymn, “God of Grace and God of Glory” (ELW 705), speaks of being surrounded by evil, warring madness and weak resignation. Gun violence is evil, individuals are at war with another, our moral restraints are weak and accidents happen. Our plea? “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage” that God’s grace give us wisdom and courage to choose love, reconciliation and nonviolence in our gun habits.
In the world of gun violence prevention (GVP), families are crucibles for violence. According to the BeSMART program for GVP, nearly 1600 children under the age of 18 die of gun violence each year. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children. 52% are homicides, nearly 40% are suicides and the rest are unintentional. 90% of gun deaths by youth and children occur in the home. 80% of school shooters get their guns from home. There are 13 million households which have at least one gun in the house. Clearly, home and family are places of GV risk and tragedy. What care can be taken to create safer homes and families? This is what BeSMART recommends.
S: Secure your guns. Unload and lock them up. Lock up ammunition in a separate safe.
M: Model responsible behavior. Tell your children if they see a gun, do not touch it and tell an adult.
A: As a parent, when your child wants to play in a friend’s home, ask the parents if they have guns in the home. Ask if they are secured. If they are not secured, invite the friend to play in your house. 4.6 million U.S. children live in a household with at least one loaded, unlocked gun.
R: Recognize the role of guns in suicide. Most people who attempt suicide do not die unless they use a gun. 90% of gun suicides are lethal. 40% of child suicides involve a gun. A survey of high school students found that 17% had seriously considered suicide. 41% of adolescents say they have easy access to a gun.
T: Tell your peers to be smart about gun safety. If you have guns in your home, share the BeSMART guidelines. Encourage taking a gun safety course. Check out: besmartforkids.org
Families are a gift from God. Families were central to God’s creative activity. God promises wisdom and courage to practice gun safety. As the faithful, we are part of God’s continuing love. God wills life and safety. BeSMART!
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)