I’m writing in the aftermath of yet another terrible event – the shooting deaths of more than two dozen people in a Texas church on a Sunday morning. The shooter was either shot by another man with a gun or took his own life – forensic reports will provide the evidence about that.
Some have wondered whether it might be wise to have more people armed in the event of future attacks, in order to stop the criminal (literally) dead in his or her tracks. It may help to remind ourselves that in places where gun ownership goes up, more people die of gunshot wounds and where gun ownership goes down, fewer people die of gun violence. It is not just true that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ It is also true that only people with guns can shoot and kill others.
Providing training for gun owners is certainly desirable. Yet our news is full of reports about highly trained people shooting and killing others under circumstances which are less than clear-cut. Having more guns being fired only increases the chance that more people will be hurt. And a surprise attack is nothing like shooting a target at the range.
Since 1976, the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has adopted ten resolutions concerning guns and gun violence. In general these resolutions urged the U.S. Congress to implement laws to help decrease gun violence through permitting processes, banning certain weapons, and regulating the trade and transfer of guns. In 2012, the General Convention asked that all parishes and diocesan workplaces declare themselves to be gun-free zones.
The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan has adopted a policy that our buildings are gun-free zones. My counsel is to stay this course and not put our members in the possible position of having not one, but two or more people shooting guns around them.
The Episcopal Church encourages our members to exercise their citizenship by maintaining contact with elected officials – if you think it important to urge members of Congress, State legislatures, or city officials to consider changes in our gun laws or provide for more stringent observance of the laws concerning guns, please make those contacts.
And please, please remember that people of faith and goodwill can and do disagree about all kinds of things, including who should buy, carry, and shoot guns. Please remember that in any gathering there are probably people who disagree with you, and do your best to state your own position without characterizing others in negative terms.
And always, always remember that Jesus did not command us to agree, he commanded us to love each other as he loves us.
Bless you all,
The Rt. Rev. Cate Waynick
The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan