Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Litany on the Tragedy of Gun Violence

(Written for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2010)

We celebrate and give thanks for the life and witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Who proclaimed a vision of all people living together,
And bore witness to the power of nonviolence,

We gather, to remember his words, his commitment, his life
And to rededicate ourselves to addressing the evil of gun violence

which claimed his life and which continues to plague our country and the world.

Some 30,000 Americans die by guns each year in the United States.

And we grieve.

An average of eighty people is killed by guns every day, including eight children.

And our hearts break.

Guns kill some 1,000 people each day in the developing world.

And we mourn.

An American child is twelve times more likely to die by a gun than are the children who live in all twenty-five industrialized nations combined.

And we weep.

The annual economic cost of gun violence in America is estimated to at least $100 billion. Medical costs, decimated families, the court system, our jails and prisons, and security measures in airports, schools, and public buildings all contribute to this sum.

And sorrow sweeps over us.

Since John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, more Americans have died by gun fire within our own country than American servicemen and women who were killed in all our wars of the 20th century.

And we pray.

Faced with gun violence,

We grieve for those are killed and those whose lives are forever changed;
We seek to comfort for those who have lost loved ones;
We pray for a change of heart for those who resort to violence.

Faced with gun violence, may we

And in all the ways we can, work for that day when
Guns and weapons of destruction
Are transformed into instruments of healing.

May it be so.

May we so do.

The Rev. W. Mark Koenig

Coordinator, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program


  1. I worry about the way in which we frequently see the proliferation of guns and gun violence as a symptom of inadequate gun control rather than a symptom of inadequate socioeconomic and political development.

    Yes, it's scary when some crazy person commits an act of horrific violence. And yes, the political right has been using fight-or-flight rhetoric designed to enflame emotions. Enflamed emotions often lead to violence.

    But it is important to consider how much handgun violence happens in urban centers with tough gun control laws. We are as unable to stop the flow of guns as we are drugs. It is worse since legal guns can be converted to illegal guns and aspirin can't be converted to pot. It is also important to consider the degree of gun-related deaths in which the victim is a 'criminal' and the killer is a police officer whose job is to 'protect and serve' us.

    Prohibition of guns is about as tricky as prohibition of drugs, which has proved just as difficult as prohibition of alcohol.

    A lot of death and destruction can be traced to the fact that our basic system of Western morality holds a man's watch as of more import than the life of a man trying to steal that watch. We need to change our legal system so that human life and health are valued above human property. That will allow us a lot more resources to spend dealing with violent crime.

    Crazies on shooting sprees always serve to enflame both sides of the gun control debate, but crazies on shooting sprees don't commit the majority of gun killings. Various terrorist groups (a label which I find convenient for both various criminal gangs AND the police) do.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    There is inadequate socioeconomic and political development.

    There is inadequate gun control.

    We are not unable to slow the flow of guns.

    Loughner bought a semi-automatic legally and the bullets at Wal-Mart. He could fire off 33 rounds before taking a breath.

    That weapon can be controlled. We cannot stop

    1) people from being sad.
    2) the darkness of our hearts.
    3) sin
    4) poverty and angst
    5) violence
    6) gun violence

    but we can slow it and we can make it less damaging. We can do it by naming the weapons that are simply not fit for human use and banning them.

    It is not impossible. We can do this. Individuals do not anti-aircraft guns or machine guns (yet). Why? Because we have laws against them and we can enforce those laws.

    I am not talking about banning all guns, just the most obviously dangerous ones.

    This is not hard. This requires political will and the guts to stand up to the gun lobby.