I remember being asked during a worship service to “Raise your hand if you or someone you love has ever had cancer.” Of course everybody raised their hands. It’s very normal to have a loved one with cancer. It’s normal to have cancer. There are so many kinds and it’s almost the exception if cancer has never touched your life.
We are reaching a point when this will also be true in regards to gun violence.
There are many kinds of gun violence. But I want gun violence to be the exception, not the rule.
No one in my family or close circle has ever been shot by a gun. I have never lost loved ones who have been shot. I have never had a loved one die by suicide using a gun. I have never known someone who has been threatened with a gun – either by a stranger or a friend – at least that I’m aware of.
But it’s just a matter of time.
College students in a California dance bar. Worshipers in their own shul in Pennsylvania. A high school student before First Period Class in North Carolina. Two people in a grocery store in Kentucky.
All those tragedies happened over the past two weeks. And it’s an incomplete list.
We fight cancer through research and treatment and educational awareness. Fighting gun violence through research and (mental health) treatment and educational awareness is often stifled by pro-gun organizations. But gun violence is a public health issue as surely as cancer is a public health issue.
I don’t want to be nonplussed if/when the day comes that someone shoots up one of my neighborhood restaurants or one of our congregations or my local grocery store. I don’t want my local Target to become a target. But it could happen in any of those places or in all those places.
People shoot children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults, and older adults. Victims and shooters alike have been black, brown, golden, and white in skin color. I don’t want this to become so normal that everyone raises their hands when someone asks, “Who has personally experienced gun violence?”
What will it take to make gun violence rare? Especially, if you happen to be a gun person, what’s your take on this?
Image from a Hands Up, Don’t Shoot event on a college campus in 2014.