On gun control: safe practice, as well as policy | By the Rev. William “Bo” Bryan, Jr.

The Rev. William “Bo” Bryan, Jr. of Prosser United Methodist Church invites the discussion on gun control, with special focus on laws, gun availability, and personal responsibility.

There’s been a great deal of talk lately about guns and gun violence. In early 2013, the week after a school shooting at the Lone Star Community College in Houston, the news reported that there had been a significant number of gun-related deaths in the US since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012. It is past time for us to have a serious discussion on what to do about gun violence.

Unfortunately, much of the attention has been on Second Amendment rights and restricting guns. This is a discussion we’ve been having for a while now, and it tends to get bogged down in trying to decide where the balance lies between the safety of the public and the individual’s right to bear arms. Just as there are limits to our rights of free speech and a free press, there are limits to our right to bear arms. I can’t just drive to Bleyhl’s in Grandview, Wash. or Cook’s True Value in Prosser, and buy a bazooka. My right to do so has been judged as secondary to the duty of our country to protect our lives. The discussion about which weapons fall inside or outside of our right to bear arms is ongoing, long-term, and important, and should be continued. But it should not be the only discussion going on with regards to gun violence.

Conversation about the other half of the phrase “gun violence” should happen as well. Violence comes not out of the guns themselves, but from the people who use them. One area of discussion on which David Keene, the President of the National Rifle Association and US President Barack Obama agree on has to do with the enforcement of existing laws. For example, the low rate of background checks in certain areas of the country done during the sale of a gun is astounding. Background checks are required by law and its enforcement and the enforcement of other laws could lower the number of guns used in violent situations by those who shouldn’t have them to begin with. But we have to be willing to fund the enforcement of these laws if we want them to work. One point of discussion then is how we should fund them.

How the shooters get their guns is another aspect of the gun control issue. Sometimes they buy them, as with James Eagan Holmes, the suspected perpetrator of the Aurora movie theater shootings. But in other instances, as with Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook or members of “The Trenchcoat Mafia” at Columbine, the shooters “borrowed” weapons from family members. Another point of discussion, then, needs to be how we train and teach gun owners to keep their weapons and ammunition safe from unintended use by others. I think many gun owners are already aware of this, but it takes just one minor oversight to create a lot of trauma and a lifetime of “what-ifs”.

What I’m getting at here is that if we want to reduce the number of deaths due to gun violence we need to focus more on practice than policy. Smokey the Bear was right, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Washington D.C. can’t do it for us. We are the ones who can prevent gun deaths, whether it’s by choosing not to own a gun, or by keeping the guns we choose to purchase safely away from harming people. That is what we need to be talking about.



This article was originally published in “The Grapevine”, the newsletter of Prosser United Methodist Church.
Please note: this article has been edited and formatted for the PNW News Blog.

The Rev. William “Bo” Bryan, Jr. serves as the Pastor for Prosser UMC.

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