It began as a normal day. After finishing breakfast Lorraine placed a peck on the cheek of her husband, uttered a quick “I love you,” before heading out to the grocery story to purchase milk to replenish the jug emptied at breakfast. Other family members had already left when she picked up her four-year old granddaughter to deliver her to preschool. What she encountered when she returned home turned her normal day into a life-shattering one.
The day was eleven years ago, but the memory was just as fresh as if it were yesterday’s as Lorraine told me of descending the basement steps, approaching the refrigerator, and seeing her husband’s lifeless body. Utterly shocked, she ran screaming into the yard where neighboring business owners and passersby on the busy street flocked to her side.
Before long Lorraine’s yard and house were filled with the presence of extended family, town police, the county sheriff and concerned church members. Her husband, who was an active deacon at the main street Baptist church, had taken his own life using a pistol.
The pistol is one of two that “he’d had for years,” shared Lorraine. The one he used that day he had purchased and the other had belonged to his daddy. Jim had never been one to do target practice, she offered, but his uncle had repeatedly told him, “Someday someone might break in on you.” The guns were there for protection.
Sixty percent of gun owners in the United States say they own them for personal safety and protection. There is evidence that a handgun in the home makes the home less safe, and the handgun is more likely to be used to wound or kill residents of the home, their families, friends or neighbors than serve as protection. This day — and countless other days — these devices deemed protective become death-dealing instruments of terror, violence and pain that devastate families, congregations and communities.
Yet most of our congregations and communities remain silent as more of our citizens are killed by guns than all U.S. service men and women killed in all foreign wars combined. Approximately 30,000 people lose their lives to guns in the United States every year. A high percentage of those killed by guns are our children; it is the second-leading cause of death of young people ages 1-19 in the U.S. And many of these senseless deaths are preventable.
Faith communities across my state of North Carolina are participating June 17-19 in Stand Up Sabbath. In honor of the nine lives lost at “Mother Emanuel” African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., who were gunned down during a Bible study one year ago, congregations are encouraged to pray, sing, educate — give witness — that people of faith care about saving lives through common sense gun laws. Will you join us?
Start a conversation with the study resource produced by Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America: What Your Church Can Do About Gun Violence. Talk about our culture’s misplaced trust in guns. The church must not remain silent; too many lives are being damaged or destroyed by the use of guns.
“I don’t have a gun in the house any more. I don’t want to have a gun in the house.” So was the passionate testimony offered by my now singing-choir-companion when we talked about the day her husband died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Lorraine’s experience has led her to adamantly refuse to have a gun in her home and to emphatically declare, “It ain’t worth it!”