By the Rev. Scott M. Kershner, University Chaplain
I write this days after the massacre of 58 people and the injury of over 500 by a shooter in Las Vegas.
The sheer scale of what happened in Las Vegas is terrifying, made more terrifying by the fact this person rained bullets on people from 32 stories above.
These events bring the now predictable public exchanges about gun control, with Democrats arguing that for legislation that would tighten gun availability, and Republicans rebuffing these initiatives as unwarranted and unnecessary.
But, no matter what one thinks about gun control, the sorrow and fear these events inspire is common to all. I, personally, am both a gun owner and a proponent of gun control. I believe the buying and selling of guns should be regulated to keep them, as much as possible, out of the hands of the wrong people.
I am also a pastor. Part of the work of a pastor is to speak with conviction on matters of conscience, not because being a pastor makes my opinions correct, but because earnest moral dialogue is essential for a healthy society. Whether we agree or disagree, we won’t get anywhere without the conversation.
I believe we need to start here. We have a gun problem. No amount on invoking the second amendment takes away that fact. Gun related deaths in the US far exceed that of any other developed country. More guns mean more gun deaths, by homicide, and even more commonly by suicide.
How can we address our gun problem together? Even more, how can we acknowledge, across the political divides, this very fact that we have a problem? How can we establish and work from, what some communication experts have called, a “pool of shared meaning”? What might that shared meaning be?
Can we agree that no one, no matter their stance on gun control, wants to see guns used to kill and injure innocent people? Shared meaning is essential if we are to find shared solutions.
Those on the political right frame the issue of guns in terms of individual liberty, and tend to see any restriction on gun ownership as a slippery slope to some sort of government tyranny. Those on the political left tend to frame the problem of gun violence in terms of public health, and see gun control measures as a means of reducing preventable, violent deaths.
Until we find way to arrive at a pool of shared meaning, and see one another as partners in solving a common problem, we will continue to be victims of a problem of our own making.
For better and for worse, we’re all in this together. All our blood runs red. Lord, have mercy.