We Must Speak for Them: A Message Shared at the National Interfaith Vigil Outside the National Rifle Association in Remembrance of Sandy Hook

sandy hook

The scripture tell us. “Speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.” The children massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary school cannot speak for themselves. We must speak for them.

The teenagers gunned down at Columbine High School cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

The college students slaughtered on the campus of Virginia Tech cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

The young adults murdered at the Pulse Night Club cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

The martyrs at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

The people killed at work in San Bernardino, California and the people killed on vacation in Las Vegas cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

There is an old activist saying, “I’d rather be a guard rail at the top of the hill than an ambulance at the bottom.” We need responsible public policy. We need more guard rails and fewer ambulances.

86% of Americans believe that universal background checks is the responsible thing to do.

83% of Americans agree that preventing people with prior violent crime convictions from obtaining guns is the responsible thing to do.

76 % of Americans believe that requiring gun owners to have a lisences in the same way car drivers do is the responsible thing to do.

We need more guard rails and fewer ambulances.

These are just of few of our options. There are more. The way forward will require deliberation, debate and disagreement but we must move forward not backwards. We must do something not nothing. When the National Rifle Association is for violent anarchy we must be for peace and freedom.

There is a prayer in Alcoholic’s Anonymous, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I refuse to accept that 27 killed in an elementary school is the new normal. I refuse to accept 49 killed in a nightclub and 58 killed at a concert is the new normal. We must refuse to accept the things that we can change. We must have the courage to change the things we can.

We need to enforce the laws we have. When the Air Force failed to follow procedures to report domestic violence allowing a violent offender to obtain a gun and shoot down 26 people in church on a Sunday morning in Texas it was not just a bureaucratic blunder. It was a failure of national security. We need to enforce the laws we have. We need leaders who take seriously our national security.

We need new laws, ones that will prevent someone from firing 600 rounds per minute into a concert crowd, church, nightclub or elementary school.

The words “too soon” are often used to keep us quiet. After a violent massacre we are told it is “too soon” to talk about responsible public policy when in fact it is too late. Now is the time to speak and act before the next tragedy. Now is the time to act before the next Sandy Hook, before the next Columbine, before the next Virginia Tech, before the next tragedy, before it is too late.

The gun lobby is very powerful today just the tobacco lobby was when I was a child. Did you know my junior high school actually took us on field trips to the cigarette factory? The power of the tobacco was unassailable and unquestioned. However, today we are protected from the dangers of second hand smoke so if we act responsibly today we can be protect future generations.

We are told to focus on protection not prevention. We are told that what this country needs is more armed security guards. However, the armed security guard at my high school was killed with his own weapon. A theater manager who is a member of my church was shot with an armed security guard standing right next to her. A police officer (the stepmother of a member of my church) was gunned down by an assault rifle while she was wearing a bullet proof vest.

We need prevention and not just protection.

You may wonder why the clergy would speak out on this issue. The reason is simple. We are the ones who do the memorial services. We comfort the grieving family. We minister to the traumatized communities. We are the chaplains at the bottom of the hill and that’s why we know we need guard rails at the top.

On July 27, 2008, a man opened fire in my church in the middle of a children’s play, a production of Annie Jr. Two people, Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, were killed, eight others were injured and all of us were traumatized. Had the man had an automatic weapon like the assailant in Sunderland Springs, the carnage would have been far worse.

Today, I am mindful of the mothers who pushed their children down to the ground and sheltered those children with their bodies. I am mindful of the men who rushed the gunman and tackled him preventing further loss of life. I am mindful of the children who were in the play who surprised us all with their spirit when at a healing service the night after they stood up at the end and began to sing, “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

Today we too must be brave. We must speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. We must have to courage to change the things we can.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough.

We must pray with our work.

Pray with our organizing.

Pray with our energy.

Pray with our activism.

Pray with our voice

Pray with out votes.

Pray that our world will be safe for our children.

Pray that the sun will come out tomorrow.

(The Reverend Chris Buice shared this message at the first national interfaith clergy vigil outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association on December 14, 2017, the 5th anniversary of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.)

 

 

 

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