By: Rev. Deanna Hollas
Another weekend of gun violence has captured the public’s attention as an 18 year old white male went on the hunt targeting Black bodied people shopping for groceries in Buffalo NY and a gunman opened fire during a lunch of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church meeting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. While shocking, these shootings are not surprising in a country that values gun industry profits over public safety.
The United States has always been a country that values the wealth of a few over people’s lives as the right to enslave Africans for free labor and to commit genocide of the native population for free land was institutionalized in our constitution through the second amendment. Those in power in our nation have created myths that romanticize gun ownership in order to avoid facing the violence and racialized domination that is at the core of our nation’s founding. White people, especially, want to dismiss the 18 year old gunman in Buffalo as a lone wolf, but the truth is, the ideology that drove his violence is as old as the founding of the United States and he is absolutely not alone in his thinking.
If we want to end gun violence in the United States we must be engaged in dismantling white supremacy.
We know that Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. They are 10 times as likely to experience gun homicide and 3 times as likely to be the victims of fatal police shootings as white Americans. This is because of the violence of white supremacy that protects itself with our culture of policing and because we have thousands of neighborhoods that are historically underfunded. We need legislation and funding but with close to half a billion guns already in the hands of individual civilians, we need more. We need an uprising of the people to say enough to guns and the harm they cause.
In order for gun manufactures to sell their non-consumable product in a saturated market, they created the lie that guns make us safe. If that were true, the United States would be the safest country in the world. Instead, the United States’s gun homicide rate is 26 times that of other high-income countries and the research has shown again and again that having a gun in the home increases the risk of unintentional shootings, homicide and suicide rather than be used for self protection as the gun industry wants us to believe.
While the news of unrelenting gun violence and inaction by lawmakers can leave us feeling helpless, churches across the country are taking action with other gun violence prevention groups on June 11, 2022 by holding Guns to Gardens events. A Guns to Gardens event is where churches use a chop saw to dismantle unwanted guns for gun owners. With the help of the organization RAWtools, churches send the gun parts off to be forged into garden tools or other works of art. Because guns are non-consumable products, they don’t get used up like toilet paper or wear out like a washing machine so often the only option a gun owner has to rid their home of a dangerous weapon is to sell it. By turning unwanted guns into garden tools, churches give gun owners the assurance their gun will not be used for harm and we send a message to lawmakers and the gun industry that we chose a different way. We choose to to embody our Baptismal promises of turning from violence (evil) and towards life (Christ) by putting flesh on the words of the prophet Isaiah: they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)
We call on predominantly white congregations to begin to chop up guns.
We must dismantle white supremacy; by hosting a Guns to Gardens event your church creates an opportunity for the community to examine our reliance on guns. You create an opportunity for your mostly white church to examine the well-toned muscle that reacts when we believe we are under threat, and instead turn toward a different understanding of safety.
When the people of Australia experienced a mass shooting in 1996 where 35 people were killed and 23 others were wounded in Port Arthur, Tasmania, they responded by standing up to the gun lobby and enacting gun reform. The only way lawmakers will stand up to the gun lobby in the United States is for the people to demand a change. Join us in showing lawmakers that we want gun reform by signing up for our next Guns to Gardens action circle training here. Let’s show the gun industry that we reject the world they have created and instead will join with God in making the kingdom of heaven manifest here on earth by getting a chop saw and dismantling guns.