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The Mothers Who Mourn

Texas church shooting
Crosses are seen near a vigil at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. |

Scores of beloved mothers throughout America cheerfully anticipate a very special day ahead. Most are excited about plans to gather with their children and reflect upon cherished memories and significant lessons gleaned along the twists and turns of typical parenting adventures. Some of these precious moms, however, will not be shedding tears of joy, but instead very painful ones upon being reminded of deep grief from the loss of their precious offspring. Whether those untimely deaths were from illness or other causes, these women can feel a seemingly inconsolable emptiness on "Mother's Day."

My heart will especially ache this second Sunday in May for those who have endured the unimaginable loss of children ripped away in senseless acts of gun violence. Some of these tragedies have occurred in educational institutions – like the Parkland, Florida high school – which intended to hold the promise of a bright and meaningful future. Others transpired in houses of worship, like the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Horrified mothers impacted by these bloodstained events will need special prayer and counsel to endure this historical date of celebration - which has now become their annual day of intense mourning. And even more difficult this day will be for moms in homes where fatalities were impetuously committed with a family owned firearm. For all of these hurting women, Tara Watkins Anderson offers this inspiring bereavement quote: "The strongest person in the world is a grieving mother that wakes up and keeps going every morning."

Sadly, each day in America concludes with additional shooting victims – and more weeping mothers. The USA owns nearly half of all the world's firearms – with the shameful status of #1 in gun fatalities among the wealthiest nations. At this writing, the Gun Violence Archive indicates that over a thousand children have already been shot in 2018. Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered that our teens are eighty times more likely to die from gunfire than in other developed countries. As a parent of five children, I myself am greatly concerned for the future of a society that promotes liberal gun ownership - as if the more firearms accessed, the fewer deaths would occur. On the contrary, multiple studies since the 1980s have revealed quite the opposite.

Just as Christians strongly rally for laws against abortion clinics, we must also support reasonable gun restrictions to save human lives. As former public school teachers, my own mother and I are astounded by proposals to even arm educators – adding the role of sharpshooter to their already numerous responsibilities. With the potential for student aggression and crossfire casualties, those who could die in such tragedies would likely far outnumber the many killed in all the school massacres thus far combined.

This past December marked the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting when twenty young children and six staff members brutally perished. Shockingly, the killer used his own mother's AR-15 style rifle, first slaughtering her, and then firing over 150 bullets in under five minutes upon the frightened school victims. Physicians have remarked how distinctively this type of firearm pulverizes body tissues. Even so, many owners argue for keeping them legal for game hunting and protection – but many states have inadequate restrictions, making it all too simple for someone intent upon mass human destruction. Gun enthusiasts adamantly insist that it is only the shooter– and not the firearm access to blame. We would all concur that this clearly is a heart problem – and yet one in which evil is given the chance to kill with an easily acquired high powered gun. The late Rev. Martin Luther King once judiciously stated: "It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless."

In light of all this, since the Biblical purpose of government is essentially to promote morality and protect citizens, many of our nation's grieving moms – and numerous others concerned about violent repercussions - are wisely demanding legislative action. We need consistent nationwide restrictions on these deadly mass marketedweapons - with well-enforced penalties for violators. Our ultimate goal should be to reduce future civilian purchases of semi-automatics - which are devastating families – and so horribly grieving Almighty God. Perhaps then, America's mothers who lament for their fatally shot loved ones, will be comforted with the hope that our elected officials are being led to honor the Prince of Peace. May we remember these magnificent promises from chapter five of Matthew's gospel - in the greatest sermon given on earth by Christ Himself: "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted... Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy...Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

Elizabeth Barfield is the mother of five children, a military wife to a retired U.S. Air Force officer, a homeschool teacher, and an evangelical Christian. She is the Founder and Lead Administrator of the Christian Gun Conversation, a Facebook group that looks at the issue of gun violence through a biblical and moral lens, and a petition signer of Prayers & Action, which calls for the evangelical community to decisively respond to the nation's gun violence epidemic with both prayer and action. She resides with her family in Georgia.

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