"Weekend Reflections on the Recent Events in Newtown, Connecticut"

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A Statement from Pres. Marvin A. McMickle:


Twenty-seven wooden angels commemorating the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

I have waited a few days to write out my thoughts about the terrible events that occurred last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. There are no words that can help us understand the depth of grief that has encompassed that school and those families that lost loved ones, both children and adults. A peaceful community will forever be linked to other sites of mass killing like Oklahoma City, Columbine, Aurora, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and a mall in Tucson where public officials and innocent bystanders were shot and killed.

The fact is, what happened in Newtown is different in its targets, but not different in its causes and consequences. Innocent lives were taken by a disturbed individual that was in possession of a weapon of mass destruction. In Oklahoma City it was an explosive device. In all of the other cases it was guns. Not a pistol for target practice or self-defense or a rifle designed to meet the needs of sportsmen in the woods. In every case the weapons of choice were high-powered, automatic and semi-automatic weapons more suited for a battlefield than as part of the culture of a 21st century industrialized society. Without easy access to such guns it is possible to imagine that none of these horrific events would ever have occurred. Crazed and/or cowardly people do not become mass killers without access to such weapons.

Supporters of gun control gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, during a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., and to call on President Obama to pass strong gun control laws. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

I am comforted by the fact that our public officials extend their "thoughts and prayers" to the families of those that have lost their lives in this spiraling cycle of gun violence. Now I wish those same public officials would expand the breadth and depth of their courage and invite our nation to embark upon a serious discussion about gun control. I can already hear the response from the gun lobby that "guns don't kill people; people kill people." The easiest response to such a knee-jerk comment is that people without assault rifles and other automatic guns do not kill nearly as many people as we have seen in the last few months and years in this country.

Did the founders of this nation really mean that the Second Amendment should give us the right to purchase, own and carry around guns that can penetrate the bullet-proof vests of police officers? Could the patriots of the 18th century–whose weapon of choice was a single shot musket–blame us for wanting to control guns that discharge 10-to-12 bullets per second?  Is it too much to expect that a criminal and mental health background check be performed before a gun can be purchased? We demand an ID to buy alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, but do not expect rigid but reasonable guidelines for purchasing guns. Bear in mind that this is not a call to criminalize guns in America; it is a call to wake up to the fact that the level of violence we see in this country on account of the ease with which guns can be acquired is out of control.

Jillian Soto uses a phone to get information about her sister, Victoria Soto, a teacher at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, after a gunman killed more than two dozen people, including 20 children. Victoria Soto, 27, was among those killed. (Jessica Hill/AP)

It may be that our political leaders lack the courage to actually lead on this issue. Maybe they come from districts and regions of the country where gun enthusiasts are plentiful. Apparently the mother of the young man who killed 26 people in Newtown was herself a gun enthusiast. Her son killed her with one of her own guns. Despite the tragedy and irony of that fact, CRCDS and other seminaries and divinity schools ought not be muted in addressing this issue simply because it is politically incorrect. We are not running for reelection to a position in government. We are not looking for a 100% approval rating from the National Rifle Association. We are called to be prophets of protest in a sinful society where many are now saying that the best response to gun violence in the schools is to arm teachers with guns of their own. Is that really where we as a society are headed?

We are in the midst of the Advent season. The themes of Advent are joy, hope, love and peace. All of those themes have been challenged by events in Newtown and other communities. Someone must challenge the nation to reflect on its values and repent of its views. Rather than rush out to buy a gun, may I invite us instead to ponder the lines of the song that says, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." This is our calling. This is our mandate. This must be our moment to stand up and be counted! As Edmund Burke said, "The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing."