As Americans, we must stop condoning gun violence. Now is the time to pass legislation — almost any legislation — proclaiming that we value living our lives without the threat of gun violence. To do nothing condones the deaths of innocents. As a pastor, I highly value thoughts and prayers. But God knows, thoughts and prayers are worthless without action.
The tragic line from Sandy Hook to Las Vegas to Sutherland Springs is clear. It includes stops at Virginia Tech, Orlando, Aurora, San Bernardino and the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek. The guns used are similar. Often these are weapons designed for war. They are legally used with high-capacity magazines so they can fire at least 60 shots a minute.
We know what the next mass shooting will look like, yet we do nothing. We do nothing. It is clear that constitutionally we can do something, but we do nothing. Doing something will not stop all mass shootings or the daily killings by gunfire in Milwaukee and Chicago. But doing something — almost anything — will say that we as a society value life and want this to stop.
In the 1960s, people opposed to civil rights laws argued that we can’t legislate brotherhood. True enough. But we did pass laws that affirm unequivocally that we value brotherhood as a moral principle. To do nothing about gun violence sends a message that we, as a society, are willing to live with mass murder in “soft targets” and with individual murders on our front porches and sidewalks.
This is the message that we send to would-be killers in this country and to the rest of the world. Refusing to do anything about gun violence condones gun violence. We must change that message. The civil rights legislation did not end racial discrimination, but it set a moral standard. We must say, as a moral country: We will not stand for more gun violence.
There is evidence-based legislation that we could pass: universal background checks, a 48-hour waiting period, banning assault weapons designed for the battlefield and high-capacity magazines. And, for God’s sake: banning bump-stocks. All these ideas have been researched, proposed and introduced both in Wisconsin and in Washington. But we do nothing. In Wisconsin, we do less than nothing. We repeal the 48-hour waiting period and propose allowing concealed weapons to be carried anywhere, any time, even in elementary school parking lots.
It is easy — and absolutely true — to say that passing all of this legislation would not prevent gun violence in America. But we can do something. To paraphrase Edward Everett Hale: “We cannot do everything, but we can do something. And we will not let what we cannot do interfere with what we can do.”
Rev. Jerry Hancock, First Congregational United Church of Christ; president, board of directors, The Wisconsin Anti Violence Effort (WAVE).
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