The scriptures remind us of God’s desire for abundant living: “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10). Abundant living is difficult to achieve in a society where headlines are driven by the slogan “If it bleeds, it leads.” In 2010, the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a policy statement calling for a reduction in gun violence entitled “Gun Violence and Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response toGod’s Call". Since then, the PCUSA Office of Public Witness has vigorously advocated for Congress to act. But, consistently, in congressional office after congressional office we have been met with statements about the American people’s opposition to any type of gun legislation. Ironically, when I visit many of these same congressional districts, constituents consistently ask, “What is your office doing about gun violence?” I concluded long ago that inaction on this issue is representative of a lack of courage.
Last night, President Obama demonstrated that abundant living is grounded in a feeling of being safe and secure and that in order to live abundantly we must have the courage to implement its requirements. The President signed an executive order implementing common sense gun laws. His executive order includes:
· Keeping guns out of the wrong hands by requiring that anyone in the business of selling firearms have a license and run background checks on all purchasers of weapons (this includes online purchases)
· Making background checks more efficient and bringing an outdated background system into the 21st century
· Getting more ATF personnel trained, hired, and equipped to investigate and assist with reducing gun violence
· Offering additional assistance for people with mental illness so that they can get the help that they need (The vast majority gun deaths are a result of suicide)
· Boosting new technology (smart technology) to improve gun safety
President Obama’s executive actions will likely be challenged in the courts. But, I am deeply impressed with his courage to stand up for the requirements of abundant living, even at the risk of being misunderstood or maligned. I pray that we will witness the same courage in state and local communities. May this bring new energy to constituents who are willing to speak truth in love to power and continue to press for laws to reduce gun violence in the United States - 50,000 gun violence incidents and 312 mass killings in 2015 alone.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness will continue its support of measures to reduce gun violence in the United States. More importantly, we will continue to lift up the prophetic vision of witnessing peace abound – a day when men, women, boys and girls will engage in abundant living and not kill one another anymore.