Seventeen children were fatally shot and at least 15 were wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida. What should have been another typical school day turned into a tragedy that has traumatized an entire community and stunned our nation.
Over my nearly 40 years as a Christian minister, I've consoled many people who have been the victims of tragedy, but none as tortured, as anguished, as crushed as parents of a child who has died. Add the horror of knowing your baby's life was cut short by senseless gun violence and the pain is unfathomable.
We cannot allow ourselves to become desensitized and normalize language that refers to the murder of school children as "just another mass shooting". No other developed nation in the world subjects their children to this kind of violence.
When children wake up in the morning, they should only worry about homework or a test, not whether they will be killed in a hail of gunfire. Parents should only be concerned if their kids will make the bus, play it safe in gym or avoid getting in trouble. No parent should worry that a gun battle will break out or that they'll be met at the end of the school day at the emergency room by a grim-faced chaplain.
There are some who believe the solution to this uniquely American problem is guns in more places, but that is simply not the case. If this were truly the cure-all, America would be the safest place on earth. It is not. Our lax gun laws have set us up to be a nation in which our children have been taught to run, duck and run for cover to avoid gun violence that is, in fact, preventable.
Is this the world we want our children to inhabit? A world where teachers, administrators and volunteers must double as armed security in our schools? This travesty must stop—and stop immediately.
Kids are not bringing hand grenades to school—or sticks of dynamite—or even fertilizer bombs because we have decided as a society to treat those dangerous items with care. It's often a gun in a home irresponsibly stored that makes its way into the hands of a child or a troubled family member.
Yet, we not only make lethal firearms readily available to anyone who wants them for any reason, but the NRA and others—especially the manufacturers that get wealthier every time children are killed—keep pushing for firearms to be accessible for anyone, at anytime -- no questions asked.
An important aspect to our walk of faith is our testimony – our Christian witness to others. Paul again admonishes, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:31-32)." Christians must demonstrate to the unbelieving world the heart, character, and love of God. We are Christ's ambassador in everything we do. What are we showing unbelievers when we cling to our lethal weapons – when we cavalierly talk about not hesitating to "shoot the 'perp' if he messes with me" or "no one is taking my life – I will kill them first"?
In August of 2013, when an armed student entered his Atlanta area high school administrative office and fired a semi-automatic rifle into the floor, then threatened to start shooting everybody in the school, front office secretary Antoinette Tuff prayerfully mustered all the courage she had and talked the young man down, convincing him to surrender. The only weapon she had was her faith, her bravery and her love—and she did what few others have ever done. If given the option, which kind of ending would any parent hope and pray for—a gun battle over their child's head or a brave soul talking a would-be killer into an uneventful surrender?
Can we agree that a country where children are murdered in their schools—or need to be protected from being murdered in their schools—is not the country we wish for them to inherit? Can we agree that easier and greater access to firearms, and so-called "good guys with guns," have not solved this deadly problem?
Sadly, as it currently stands, we won't solve this problem until we face this issue head-on and resolve to keep guns away from individuals who show signs of being a danger to themselves or to others. We no longer have the luxury of putting this off for a more convenient time. If we do not act now, more lives will surely be lost; more children will be killed and maimed; and more communities will be terribly traumatized.
We must continue working to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories. We have a moral emergency in our country. It's time we wake up, face it and fix it. Now.
The Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck is an ordained evangelical minister and president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, located in Washington, DC. He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Faith Evangelical Seminary in Tacoma, Washington and is a senior fellow of The Centre for the Study of Law and Public Policy at Oxford. Rev. Schenck is the subject of the Emmy Award-winning documentary, The Armor of Light and a member of the leadership team for Survivor Sunday, a day of remembrance for the 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence. He is also the author of God and Guns, a part of Zondervan's upcoming book, Christianity Engaged in Culture and the book, Costly Grace, due to be released by Harper Collins June 2018.
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