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Dear Good People With Guns

I do not feel our children will be safer in a world with more and more guns.

Man with gun
A gun rights supporter carries his Ruger model SR9 pistol on his hip during a rally in support of the Michigan Open Carry gun law in Romulus, Michigan on April 27, 2014. |

I'm not going to attack you or insult you. I'm not going to quote Bible verses or shame you. I'm not interested in changing your opinions or politics. I would simply like to ask for your help, as a grandparent who has five grandchildren.

I understand that you may feel that the children you love would be safer in a world with more guns, and I respect your opinion. But I do not feel Averie, Mia, Ella, Lucas or Ada will be safer in a world with more and more guns of more and more destructive capacity.

I have shot a .22 when I was a teenager, but I should tell you that I've never owned a gun. I read reports from first responders and doctors at the Parkland High School massacre. Here's one radiologist with 13 years experience in one of the busiest trauma centers in the U.S., who treated Parkland shooting victims: "I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before," said Dr. Heather Sher:

"In a typical handgun injury, which I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ such as the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, gray bullet track through the organ."

"One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle that delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. Nothing was left to repair—and utterly, devastatingly, nothing could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal."

She concludes that "with an AR-15, the shooter does not have to be particularly accurate. The victim does not have to be unlucky. Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable unless the bullet hits the main blood supply to the liver. An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to the trauma center to receive our care."

It goes without saying that as we have more and more assault weapons on the streets, there is nothing any number of armed teachers or police officers can do to prevent this carnage - in a school, in a movie theater, in a nightclub, at a music festival, at a sporting event, in a church. By the time the "good guys" intervene, the bad guys will already have killed dozens.

I understand that for you, owning a gun may feel like an essential element of freedom. But this weaponization of America doesn't feel like freedom and I know many people who own guns who feel this same way. It feels like a police state, or a scene from a lawless gangland movie or a dystopian novel.

That's why I want to ask you, one of the "good guys with a gun," to please speak up to your fellow gun owners, and to the NRA.

Please tell them you do not support their "more guns is always better" philosophy. You might explain to them the idea of "diminishing returns" -- that if everyone owns a handgun, then the only people who have an advantage are the ones who own a more dangerous gun, and then if everyone owns a more dangerous gun, the only people who have an advantage own an assault weapon, and if everyone owns an assault weapon, nobody is safe, anywhere. There comes a point when the capacity for destruction results in less safety.

Please tell them all kinds of rights - like the right to drive, or the right free speech - have necessary public safety limits. You might mention that even a conservative Supreme Court Justice like Antonin Scalia did not believe the right to own guns was unlimited; he described assault weapons as 'dangerous and unusual' and their civilian use subject to regulation or ban under the Second Amendment.

I do not dispute that the Constitution and courts give you a right to own guns, nor did Justice Scalia. But the Constitution also affirms the God-given right of our kids, our grandkids and their grandkids to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Seventeen kids and grandkids here in Florida where I live lost that right recently at Parkland because of a bad guy with a gun, and because too many good people didn't do enough to stop him from owning and shooting that gun.

The other morning, I saw a fellow interviewed on local TV. He said that he owned assault weapons, but he would gladly turn them in if it could save the life of a teenager. That struck me as the kind of thing a "good guy" would say, and it got me thinking: anyone who puts his right to assault weapons over children's right to life has to question whether he or she really is such a "good guy" with a gun after all.

I'm one of those good people without a gun who is asking good people with guns to join me. I know you may be attacked and criticized by some people close to you. I have been through this myself on many issues, and it's not easy. But I hope you will remember that you are - actually, literally - saving lives, when you show that courage.

Any right can go wrong if used without wisdom, common sense, compassion and a sense of justice. So that you can safely own your guns, let's strengthen background checks and close loopholes, especially for people who have already demonstrated violence, including domestic violence.

Let's improve mental health screening and services. Let's raise the age for owning weapons, and let's stop the sales of assault weapons and the ammunition they employ. And while we're at it, let's try to turn down the anger and partisan point scoring so that we can do what's best for all our kids. That's what good people do.

Brian D. McLaren is a best-selling author, speaker, activist and networker among innovative faith leaders. A former pastor, he has written 15 books, including The Great Spiritual Migration. He is an Auburn Senior Fellow, living in Florida.

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