By the Rev. Sandy Brown | Photos by Jesse N. Love
The horrific shooting on November 5 at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church brings the gun violence debate closer to home than ever. If our Baptist cousins aren’t safe in their church in Texas, how could we be safe in our churches, here?
A sad truth about gun violence is that nobody is truly safe as long as we allow unfettered access to firearms. Another sad truth is that even as mass shootings like Sutherland Springs or Las Vegas Strip or Sandy Hook Elementary happen around us, we fail to make the policy changes that would keep people safer.
With strong support from the religious community, Washington State has recently made progress in preventing gun violence. Initiative 594, passed in 2014, expanded criminal background checks while Initiative 1491, approved in 2016 allowed courts to take guns away from people seen as a clear danger by their loved ones.
These hard-fought initiatives are now being implemented county-by-county in Washington State and they’re bearing fruit. On November 8, a non-denominational Seattle church contacted Seattle police after receiving an email threatening gun violence. A court authorized a search for weapons, and when authorities arrived at the potential perpetrator’s house, they confiscated an AR-15 assault rifle. We can be proud that Initiative 1491 provided the legal framework that allowed law enforcement to prevent a potential catastrophe.
It’s sad to note that Initiative 1491 failed to pass when originally proposed to the Washington State Legislature. It became law only after a hard-fought campaign that succeeded with nearly 70% of the vote, but at a cost to proponents of over $6 million dollars. Its predecessor law, I-594, cost of over $11 million to pass. Our legislators should be smart enough and brave enough to pass common sense gun laws on their own, without requiring concerned citizens to go directly to the voters.
With a new legislative session coming soon, it’s time to call for legislators to step up and prevent needless and tragic deaths. “Our Call to End Gun Violence”, Resolution #3428 (2016 Book of Resolutions) clearly states our agenda for action. Please tell your legislators that we demand safe communities, and that they can help us by passing smart laws that make us safer in our schools, homes, and churches.
*The Rev. Sandy Brown speaks during the Stand Up Washington march against gun violence, 2013.
Sandy Brown is Lead Pastor of Edmonds UMC and is co-founder and board member of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation, a non-profit working to prevent gun violence. He became active in gun violence prevention following the Sandy Hook shootings.