By the Rev. Jan Bolerjack • Photo by Jesse N. Love

Not one more victim of gun violence in our communities.

This is the rallying cry of those seeking to lower deaths from gun violence by instituting universal background checks for ALL gun sales.

If you are like me, you thought that policy was already in place. To buy a gun, you needed a background check. That’s true if you buy it at a gun shop – but online, from the trunk of a car or at some gun shows that is not the case. Anyone – convicted felons just released from prison, persons with a history of violence, and those with a mental illness that leads to unstable thinking and distorted reality can purchase a gun.

I was amazed when I learned this. Of course, I’ve never wanted to buy a gun, so why would I know?

I was reminded by a friend that to drive a car we need to take tests– both written and practical – and they check our background.  Seems to handle a gun one should at least pass some kind of check. Cars kill and so do guns. In fact in Washington state more children were killed last year by guns than by cars. Did you know that?

Not one more! A cry from the families of members who have been lost to gun violence? Not one more! A plea from the victims who have lost mobility, freedom, and stability to gun violence. We have to do what we can to stop the random shootings that are claiming our school children, our university students, and our community members. Having a gun has not proven itself to be protection but more so a liability.

In case you aren’t convinced that gun violence is a problem in this country, look at some statistics:

56 mass shootings in the last 4 years
33 Americans die by gun violence EVERY DAY
9146 deaths by guns in the US last year; in Great Britain 19; in Canada 178; in Australia 30; in Japan 11

And yet we call ourselves civilized. On the other hand states that have passed universal background check laws have significantly improved their statistics*:

38% fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners.
49% fewer firearm suicides, while the rates of suicide by other methods remain the same.
17% fewer firearm aggravated assaults
39% fewer law enforcement officers are shot to death with handguns.

At Annual Conference this year, voters will have the opportunity to lend their support to “Yes on 594” that will come before the Washington voters in November. It is an appeal by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility to the voters to do what the legislature has not been able to do – require universal background checks on all gun purchases.

Our opponents will try to confuse us. They will try to tell us that our civil liberties are threatened. They will bring big money into our state to defeat the will of concerned and compassionate voters. Stay informed and stay focused. Send the message that the people of our communities are valuable and worth protecting from random gun violence.

Take the information back to your communities. Talk to your church members and friends. We can make a difference and save lives – maybe even someone in your own family.

Stand together – Yes on 594 – Not One More!

*Statistics collected by FBI and CDC 2010-11.

The Rev. Jan Bolerjack serves as the pastor of Riverton Park UMC in Tukwila, Wash.

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