Communities speak out against gun violence
(MCC Photo/Kemah C. Washington)

In Philadelphia, Pa., MCC supports Anabaptist churches as they speak out about the great cost of gun violence in their communities and seek to prevent it.

Communities are preparing to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Among these services, a simple, interfaith vigil for Newtown victims, family members and supporters will take place at the National Cathedral during the week of the anniversary.

Gun safety advocates are currently pushing for the Manchin-Toomey compromise to be reconsidered in Congress.

It is deeply painful to remember this tragedy of one year ago. The brief moments in which the mass shooting occurred have forever forced victims, families and friends to live the rest of their lives with grief and unanswered questions – all while needing to rebuild their lives.

Even more unthinkable is that 11,000 more people have died due to gun homicides since the shooting at Newtown. While mass shootings such as this and the recent Navy Yard tragedy capture national media attention, countless other deaths due to gun violence go unnoticed. At what point do we no longer accept meaningless deaths in our society?

Following the Newtown shooting, President Obama declared his commitment to push for stronger gun safety measures. His commitments included expanding background checks on gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines, as well as passing strict laws to eliminate straw purchases (purchasing guns to give or sell to people who cannot legally buy them).

But these hopes were quickly dashed in Congress. First, the assault weapons ban was dropped from the comprehensive gun violence prevention package. Further disappointment ensued when a compromise on background checks brokered by Senators Manchin (D-W.V.) and Toomey (R-Pa.) fell six votes short.

Given the lack of progress to enact gun safety laws, it is difficult to remain hopeful for a society without the scourge of gun violence.

In Scripture, we read stories of individuals and communities struggling through hopelessness. Job expressed his agony, “Even when I cry out, ‘Violence!’ I am not answered; I call aloud, but there is no justice” (Job 19:7 NRSV).

Yet hopelessness is not the end story of Scripture. The writer of Hebrews examines hope by reminding readers of two things. First, that our faith is precisely “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Second, that the hope founded in the Prince of Peace enabled those who had gone before us to overcome the enormous challenges of their day (Hebrews 11:23-39). Despite doubt and fierce opposition, these are reasons to hope and be spurred to action.

Gun safety advocates are currently pushing for the Manchin-Toomey compromise to be reconsidered in Congress. This is a step in the right direction. However, this measure should also be supported by comprehensive gun safety legislation that includes reauthorizing and strengthening the assault weapons ban as well as eliminating straw purchases.

Gun violence has not yet ceased in this nation. Yet the Christian hope is not a trite concept with little relevance to our lives and our communal response to injustice. This hope is based upon the real victory over death and evil in the resurrection of Christ, compelling us to act more fearlessly in the pursuit of peace for our society.

Printed with permission from Third Way Café.