Response to a reader, from Presbyterians Today

In the June, 2005, issue of Presbyterians Today, dealing with peacemaking, there was a side-bar about PPF. Our emphasis on handgun control was mentioned, and a reader responded with objections. Jim Atwood, a member of the PPF National Committee who is very active with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, made the following response.

Yes, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship works along with The Presbyterian Church, USA, to restrict the use of handguns in the US. That has been our church's policy for decades.

All of us grieve the deaths of almost 1,700 servicemen and women in Iraq in these three years of war. In that same three year period of time, 90,000 people have died at the barrel of a gun in our own country. Check it out. . .30,000 people die every year from guns, and the biggest single killer is handguns which are brought into homes and neighborhoods to protect the owner and his/her family from "dangerous people" who would do them harm. We see the tragic loss of life through accident, mistaken identity, suicide, or plain brutality every day in our newspapers. Common sense is severely lacking, and some say, "Guns don't kill; people kill."

In fact, I encourage you to go to an almanac and The Defense Dept. for statistics and discover that more Americans have died from gun violence in this country since 1933, when we first began recording their deaths, than have died on all of the battlefields in all ours wars since 1776. That is a fact impossible to refute.

That is one reason why The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship works to restrict the use of handguns which are made for only one purpose . . .to kill or maim another human being made in the image of God.

Lest you think I am a crazy gun hater, I own three guns. I use long guns for hunting deer and ducks and pheasants. Restricting the use of killing machines to those who know how to use them, to those who are not felons or terrorists, or who would stalk their spouses in the night, makes very good sense to the highest courts of our church since the 1960's. Moreover, such restrictions do not infringe my right to hunt or own a gun.

No one in the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship believes that more guns will make our streets or homes safer. To the contrary, we look at the statistics and conclude, that the more handguns and assault rifles we have on our streets, and in our homes, the more at risk we become. In our country, over 40% of gun owners keep their guns unlocked and loaded to provide "better security". Actually, it provides an accident getting ready to happen.

You mentioned that Canada, England and Australia have seen major increases in crime since more restrictive gun laws have been passed. With all due respect, that is simply not true. I have just returned from Australia, and I attach with this letter documents that prove that the crime rate in Australia has dropped precipitously since more restrictive laws have been imposed since a madman massacred so many people there. (This is available from Jim Atwood.)

Yes, some in Congress are looking into reducing the gun restrictions in Washington, DC. No one, seemingly, is more concerned about them than Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, of Texas, who is apparently running for Governor of her state. Her sudden deep interest in the District's gun laws are not unrelated to a desire to curry favor with those Texans who have never seen a gun they didn't like. Her home town, Dallas, has the highrest crime rate in the nation for seven consecutive years while boasting some of the nations most liberal gun laws. I'm afraid the NRA has said to her, "Jump" And she has asked, "How high?"

You said in your concluding paragraph, that a commission established by Pres. Clinton found no positive results from gun laws passed. I'm not familiar with that commission's work, but I must honestly liken the quote to the recollections of my college days. I graduated from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, in Leon County. It was a dry county at that time. But, I recall that students regularly drove 16 miles to Georgia to buy whiskey and beer. Imagine that! The dry county laws did little good, because there were gallons of booze just 16 miles away. In some of our cities, like Washington, DC, there are strong gun laws, but their effectiveness is hampered because folks can drive 10 miles to a gun store in Virginia or Maryland, and even get a straw purchaser to get a gun and go back home and kill a neighbor. It happens every day. That's why we need strong national legislation to prevent kids and terrorists from getting these instruments of death. That's why the PPF invites you to work with us to stop the killing and the maiming. We've seen too much of it. Come help us, lest our country become an even greater shooting gallery.

Yours in Christ's love,

Jim Atwood (Rev.)