“This week has become a grotesque object lesson in gun culture”

This week has become a grotesque object lesson in gun culture, one that points to a conclusion that we could have and should have drawn long ago—that the surfeit of weapons at our disposal and the corresponding fears that they induce create new hazards. There is no telling how any of these specific horrors will be resolved. But here is what we do know: we live in an age of open-source terrorism. Our inability to respond to mass shootings has meant that, eventually, even law enforcement would fall victim to one. The context of the conversation about police accountability has been irrevocably changed. Black lives matter, but reports that those words were uttered by a gunman in Dallas mean that any movement under that banner may well have met its end. And realism, in the face of tragedy, tells us that there is more ugliness in the offing.

Jelani Cobb, Three Terrible Days of Violence.

Bishop Miller (Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee) urges clergy and laity to support Senate action on gun control

Here”s his letter to the Diocese:

June 17, 2016

Dear Friends in Christ,

Yesterday the members of Bishops United had our monthly phone conference. Our discussion had a renewed sense of urgency because of the Orlando Shootings and renewed efforts to pass common sense gun legislation by member of the Senate.

If you haven’t had a chance to keep up with recent developments, including Senator Christopher Murphy’s 15-hour filibuster that stretched until about 2 am and produced an agreement to get gun violence prevention legislation onto the floor of the Senate, here’s an New York Times story with details: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/17/us/politics/senate-filibuster-gun-control.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

This is perhaps the best opportunity we have had since the defeat of Mancin-Toomey to move gun violence prevention legislation forward a peg or two on the federal level. The horrific massacre in Orlando has changed the climate in which this legislation will be considered.

Today, I write you to ask to contact Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin before Monday at noon asking them to support legislation that will

  • Make it illegal for people convicted of violent hate crimes to buy or possess guns
  • Make it illegal for suspected terrorists to legally buy guns
  • Require a background check for every gun sale, no matter where you buy a gun or who you buy it from

In particular what we are asking is for Congress to pass what is being referred to as Brady Bill 2.0, (S 2934) which would require a background check for any gun purchase and S 551, which would prohibit individuals on the FBI’s terror watch list from buying weapons. (The shorthand here is No Fly, No Buy.)

There are a number of ways to find your senators’ contact information. Here, for instance, is a directory of phone numbers and links to email forms: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ However, probably the best way to be in touch with senators is through the website of one of the large gun violence prevention groups such as the Brady Campaign: http://www.bradycampaign.org/close-the-terror-gap-tell-senate-to-vote-yes-on-brady-bill-20-terror-gap-bill or Everytown: http://act.everytown.org/sign/orlando-congress-petition/?source=etno_ETHomepage&utm_source=et_n_&utm_medium=_o&utm_campaign=ETHomepage.

Both of these pages provide a little coaching instructions for those who would find that helpful. One of the advantages of placing the call with the assistance of the Brady Campaign or Everytown websites is that they are able to estimate the volume of calls they have generated, and those numbers, if they are large enough, can help to change wavering senators’  minds. Additionally, you can sign up for text alerts so you know when it might be helpful to make another call.

If you find that a senator’s voice mail or inbox is full, you can fax them at:  https://faxzero.com/fax_senate.php.  You can call one of the senator’s offices in your state during office hours.

One important point: it doesn’t matter whether you already know how your senator is going to vote on these bills. Volume is important. So please be in touch with those who are co-sponsoring the bills (to thank them) and those who will never vote for it (just so they will know you are out there).

Thank you for joining me in this important work.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller

Bishop of Milwaukee

 

Christians and Gun violence

Today is the Inter-Faith Call-In Day to Prevent Gun Violence. The Episcopal Church is participating in this effort in a number of ways. The Presiding Bishop has released a letter in support. The Episcopalians Against Gun Violence group is on facebook. There’s information in all those places on how to participate.

There’s ongoing debate about “God, Guns, and Christianity.” Andrew Sullivan is worth paying attention to on this. He points out, for example, that if one is pro-life, one ought to be opposed to easy access to handguns. Just as an example: Among the over-20s, 60 percent of gun deaths are from suicides, compared with 37 percent for homicides. The presence of guns in a house makes attempted suicide more likely; and increases the odds that an attempt will be successful. The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the likelihood of a killing.

Sullivan also responded to the outrageous and remarkably ahistorical assertion that “Jesus would have backed the Second Amendment. But many Christians disagree and the Arkansas house of representatives has just passed legislation allowing “concealed carry” in churches.

I think we are sometimes inured to how pervasive violence has become in our culture. Apparently, since 2009, there has been at least one mass shooting every month. Every month! This graphic from Slate reminds us of the approximate toll of gun violence in the US since Newtown.

In Madison, I will be participating in a candlelight vigil at First Congregational Church on February 7 at 7:00pm. More about that here.

Today, President Obama spoke about his efforts to reduce gun violence.