Enough is enough and change is needed to reduce gun violence | Candace McKibben
When I read the sign posted at the St. Marks Headwaters Greenway off Baum Road, I wondered about its wording. It was direct and clear. What I wondered about was the psychology behind the words. How do you communicate a concern about arsonists and their activity that does not embolden them, but encourages them to reconsider?
How do you announce to the public that we have a problem here and need your help in solving it in a way that encourages public support?
It is what I wonder about the ongoing issue in our nation of gun violence, when the ways in which we communicate about the concern seems to make all the difference in whether the public will even read the article or listen to the reporting.
Those who have devoted their lives to finding a way to reduce gun violence wisely encourage avoiding words that are known to create division, but it is not easy to discern how to tip-toe around potentially offensive language.
Thankfully, recent research from Brookings Mountain West Researcher, Mary Blankenship, analyzing 1.3 million tweets after the tragic shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, last summer, suggests “right-leaning respondents who favor gun rights and left-leaning proponents of gun control are starting to converge in their belief that enough is enough, and change is needed.”
Convergence for change
How do we harness this convergence?
At the beginning of a new year, how distressing to know that our nation has already recorded 40 mass shootings according to the “Gun Violence Archive.” When I heard about the shooting at a Lunar New Year weekend event at a dance studio in Monterey, California, I felt stunned. The setting was too intimate, too personal, and I was reminded of the violence at the yoga studio in our own community in November 2018.
How unbelievable that the Monterey tragedy a week ago was not the last recorded shooting this week, with nearly 300 gun violence-related incidents in the country since then, two of which were classified as mass shootings.
While the concern about gun violence is in our public awareness, before it moves to the back burner yet again, how can we make a sustained commitment to “enough is enough and change is needed.” Some of us might commit to learning more about the problem from reliable sources, not simply those that support our own point of view.
For example, the American Public Health Association website has helpful videos, fact sheets, and interventions regarding the public health crisis that gun violence has become. Some faith traditions have created helpful resources online about better understanding the complex solutions to gun violence.
The RAND Corporation’s "Gun Policy in America Initiative" creates resources where policymakers and the general public can access unbiased information. See rand.org.
Some of us might commit to pray or send loving energy to those families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Learning the life story of a singular victim, putting a real person to the name, may help us to be more compassionate in our prayers and intentional about our discipline of remembering them.
Considering that for every victim lost, there are numerous shattered family members and grieving friends left forever changed, deepens the prayers or loving energy we send, softens our hearts, and hopefully strengthens our will to be part of the solution.
Focus on safety
Regardless of one’s belief about owning firearms, perhaps we can all agree that the harm inflicted by the proliferation of guns in our society is a public health crisis that can be improved in apolitical ways.
Focusing on gun safety is one step. I have a friend who spends some of his precious Saturdays training young people in the safe use of guns. Finding the courage to check in with family members and friends who are gun owners and may be troubled or depressed about keeping their guns safe for them might be another step. Asking a physician or counselor to handle this sensitive matter with someone we love and have concerns regarding might be another approach.
An article in the “Annals of Internal Medicine Journal,” December 19, 2017, encouraged physicians to sign a commitment that reads: “When risk factors for harm to my patients or others are present, I will ask my patients about firearm ownership and safety.” 3,664 physicians made the public commitment. And some went beyond the commitment, volunteering to speak at public events, talk to their legislators, and engage society in the remedy.
Firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death among people younger than 24 in the United States, according to a study published in the December 2022 edition of “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. If we cannot find the will to make the necessary changes for any other reason, it seems we could find the will for our children, for our future.
I have long been puzzled by the ardent desire of some to own guns, not just for hunting or as a family heirloom or a collector’s item. There seems to me to be an idolatry of guns and the right to own them by some that I do not understand.
Recently, I read about Emory historian Carol Anderson’s new book, “The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America.” In it she writes, “The language of the amendment was crafted to ensure that slave owners could quickly crush any rebellion or resistance from those whom they'd enslaved. Further, the right to bear arms, presumably guaranteed to all citizens, has been repeatedly denied to Black people.” Learning more about the history of the Second Amendment and understanding better why it is so critically important to some is one of the ways I hope to be a part of the solution.
While the issue of gun violence is in the news and on our hearts and minds, I pray we all can thoughtfully consider how we can make a personal sustained commitment to “enough is enough and change is needed.”
The Rev. Candace McKibben is an ordained minister and pastor of Tallahassee Fellowship.
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Enough is enough: How do we change gun violence trajectory?