Again

This is not the post I wanted to write today.

But the 355th mass shooting in the United States this year happened yesterday.

Mind-boggling. Averaging more than one a day.

And that horrible toll is dwarfed by the total number of those killed and wounded by guns in the United States through gang violence, organized crime, domestic violence, road rage, all manner of crimes using guns, hunting accidents, suicide, and at-home accidents, including a heart-breaking number of incidents of children accidentally killing a sibling or friend when they find a loaded weapon in their home.

We need to stop this level of violence.

There needs to be much stricter licensing of guns so that people who use them for hunting or target shooting or other legitimate purposes and who know how to properly store and secure a firearm continue to have access, but people who are violent, mentally unstable, or engaged in criminal activity do not.

Some kinds of weapons and ammunition should not be available at all. Guns designed to only kill people, like assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bullets that are designed to inflict extra damage on human victims should be off the market for the general public.

I know that some readers are probably saying, but the second amendment of the US Constitution says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. I would ask those people to consider the whole amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The sentence structure isn’t used much in modern English, but it is a translation of the Latin ablative absolute structure, which means that the first clause is the basis for what follows it. At the time it was adopted, the United States did not have a standing army, so the militia was meant to defend the country in case of attack. For this reason, keeping and bearing arms was not to be infringed.

That is not our current situation in this country. We have a large standing military force, as well as National Guard units and local police forces. Gun regulations for the average citizen do not violate the Constitution.

We have restrictions on gun ownership now in place, based on age, criminal record, and other factors. We restrict the types of weapons people may own. No one thinks they have the right to have an anti-aircraft battery in the backyard or a nuclear weapon in the garage, just in case they need it.

It is time – well, past time, but better late than never – for Congress to act to restrict gun violence.

Too many people have already lost their lives. We must not stand by and watch even more killing.

An ancient call for peace

In my church, today is the Second Sunday of Lent, and, in the current cycle of readings, the Hebrew Scripture passage is from Genesis 22 about Abraham planning to but then not sacrificing his son Isaac.

The deacon who preached this morning pointed out that the Canaanites among whom Abraham lived practiced human sacrifice, specifically of children, so that, by telling Abraham not to kill Isaac, God was highlighting a difference between God and other gods that were of the contemporary culture.

He continued explaining that the prospect of the call to sacrifice Isaac is so disturbing that modern scholars decided to see how the ancient Jewish scholars interpreted the passage.  The ancient understanding of this passage was that God did not want any killing in the name of God. Not just sacrificial killing, or killing of children, or killing of those of one’s own religious tradition, but any killing at all.

It is humbling and horrifying that the Abrahamic faiths did not heed this call over the millennia and into the present day. So many millions of lives lost “in the name of God” with more being added each day.

My prayer today is for the mercy of God and the universal recognition that we are called to peace, love, and respect for one another, not killing.