Early this morning I opened Facebook, just as a way to ease into the day. Instead, I was confronted with a picture that won’t leave my mind: An adorable, chubby-cheeked, 8-year old little girl smiling into the camera. She lived just a stone’s throw from where I attended college. And she died at the hands of the 11-year old boy next door with a shot gun.
I know there’s many perspectives on this issue. I know there are legitimate reasons to own and carry guns. I know many trustworthy people who do so.
I know that the basic problem is a conundrum. While I feel safer with less guns, others feel safer with more. We aren’t both entirely wrong… or entirely right. What makes one person safer (like a Dad who sleeps with a gun under his pillow) puts another in danger (like the little kid next door who accidentally comes across it.) Pass a law to prevent the mentally ill from owning a gun, and the young woman being treated for depression following a rape is an unintended casualty, now unable to protect herself.
It’s complicated. I get it. But tonight I’m grieving a little girl. So I have some things to say.
First, about kids.
Guns harm kids far more often than they protect them. A gun in the home will accidentally kill a child, or be used by a teen to commit suicide, many-fold more times than it will be used to ward off an intruder. So please accept that a gun simultaneously protects AND endangers your family.
Children can be taught to shoot, load, unload, clean and store a gun. But they cannot truly comprehend the meaning of “forever dead.” Time and again, kids involved in shooting incidents say over and over and over again that they thought their Mom or Dad or sister or friend would get back up after they said they were sorry. They do not.
Kids can’t drive or work or volunteer at the puppy shelter till they are 16. Can’t buy cigarettes or a lighter or vote till they are 18. Can’t buy alcohol till they are 21. Can’t rent a hotel room without an adult till they’re 25. Why? Because while an 11-year old may possess all the physical dexterity and intelligence needed to drive a car, his brain isn’t ready for the responsibility.
So don’t tell me that parents just need to teach their kids about guns, anymore than parents should just teach their toddlers about the poisonous chemicals under the kitchen sink. While most kids will stay away from guns when told to, some won’t. And if they don’t, they might die. Or maybe the 8-year old girl down the street will die, instead.
Second, about Jesus.
There are lots of legitimate arguments for owning and carrying a gun including (but not limited to) self-protection, sport, and constitutional rights.
Jesus, however, isn’t one of them. He never gave us instruction or permission to kill someone else before they have a chance to kill us. Instead, he told us to turn the other cheek, give the coat off our back, walk two miles instead of one, love our enemies, and go out into the world as lambs among wolves. When his disciple used his sword in an attempt to protect Jesus, he reprimanded him, healed the injured soldier, and spoke words that should echo loudly in our hearts and minds today:
“If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.”
Jesus taught that we die in order to live… not that we kill in order to not die.
The teachings of Jesus are often hard to swallow… and so many folks might simply conclude that this is one they don’t buy. They might simply choose to disagree with him on this point. Every human being is completely free to choose what they believe is right and true and good. So if you want to own a gun as an American… or a Southerner… or a hunter… or because of your fears… or because of your rights… then you absolutely have grounds to do so.
What you should NOT do is lump gun ownership and usage in with Christianity. Keep your gun, but leave Jesus out of it.
Tomorrow I will have writer’s remorse, and I will feel bad for the obvious points I’ve overlooked, the unchecked passion, and the people I’ve offended.
But for tonight, all that really matters is a blonde-haired, brown-eyed little girl.