The right to safety

Preventing gun violence

The right to safety

A T-shirt memorial organized by faith communities in memory of 201 victims of gun violence in Philadelphia in 2013. MCC photo/Agnes Chen

Cherelle M. Dessus

A shooting at a Washington state high school upended the lives of families and the community in the small town of Rockford when a 15-year-old shot four students as a response to bullying. The student had obtained a pistol and an assault rifle from his father’s safe and transported the weapons to his school in a duffle bag.

In an attempt to stop the shooting, one other student was shot and killed. The shooter had shown signs of mental instability during his meetings with a school counselor. The student was reportedly obsessed with watching videos of school shootings and had contemplated suicide.

This unfortunate event raises many questions about current U.S. gun policies. The Second Amendment claims the right for people to bear arms. This amendment has made many citizens and lawmakers reluctant to create more restrictions for owning and obtaining guns. But when 30,000 people are killed by firearms in the U.S. each year, we must look at the issue of safety. Suicide, domestic abuse, homicides and mass shootings all contribute to these deaths.

Currently, federal law only requires background checks for gun sales from licensed dealers. Because many gun transfers take place online and at gun shows, 40 percent of gun sales occur without a background check. Guns can be anonymously obtained from unlicensed dealers, removing the accountability from gun owners to keep and use weapons safely and responsibly.

Federal policies do not require safe gun storage. This 15-year-old student removed his father’s firearms from his safe. Safe storage laws would require gun owners to store their firearms in a locked container or to use a locking device to prevent children and other unauthorized users from gaining access to deadly weapons.

Many support the Second Amendment due to safety concerns. Some believe that owning a weapon allows people to protect their families. But the risk of dying from homicide, suicide or an accidental gunshot increases dramatically when guns are present in the home.

In addition, military-style assault weapons, such as the assault rifle that the Washington high-school student first tried to use, are designed to kill large numbers of people. These weapons play a prominent role in mass shootings and should be banned from the homes of civilians.

As a country, we must recognize the trauma placed on communities due to a lack of common-sense gun policies. Romans 12:15 encourages us to weep with those who weep. Let’s pray and offer support for those affected by the Freeman High School shooting and gun violence daily, as we work toward nonviolent alternatives and urge policymakers to support responsible gun policies.

Learn more: Preventing Gun Violence