We applaud President Obama for engaging in serious, reasonable conversation about gun violence. He is doing this on the heels of issuing an Executive Order to expand background checks for gun sales, something that Americans overwhelmingly support. However, his Executive Order only goes so far and there is more that needs to be done. The next steps require soul searching and honest conversation.
The President’s “Town Hall” meeting approach opens up the conversation in needed ways. Clearly, no one is advocating that the rights of Americans to possess a firearm be rescinded. Indeed, not all concerns will be solved with regulation. Smart gun or smart lock technology might be a better way to keep guns safely away from children. However, restricting access to guns for people with mental health issues and for criminals requires regulation.
Most Rhode Islanders are not gun owners and many of us do not know some of the nuances of gun ownership and gun safety. For example, we may not know that 82 percent of teenage suicide by firearms involve guns left poorly secured or foolishly unprotected by members of their own families. On average someone being shot by a child, often a toddler, occurs twice weekly in America. Reasonable people believe that there is a solution to this problem.
As religious leaders, we know the carnage and the heartbreak that accompanies gun violence. We do the funerals. We provide the pastoral care to families during their moments of anguish. We want this needless and senseless violence to stop. We know of no religious tradition that defines freedom as unfettered license to do as one pleases. We join with the President and call upon all people of good will, particularly gun owners, to engage in serious, sensible conversation about gun safety.