Stand with the Nine

This weekend I finally got to sing with the choir – or actually choirs, 20 of them – at the Festival by the Sea in Charleston. I have a few friends at Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church, so I joined with the choir for the Sunday service as well. I did not know about this going in, but they were participating in Stand-Up Sunday. I was glad to be there with them as they joined 1300 congregations in South Carolina who agreed to stand for:

  • The 9 killed at Emanuel AME in Charleston.
  • The 9 in our state who are killed by guns every five days.
  • The 9 out of every ten South Carolinians who want background checks on all gun purchases, according to the most recent statewide poll.

Gun Sense South Carolina organized the event. It’s not about trying to outlaw guns. Pastor Spike said they affirm Second Amendment rights for lawful citizens to own guns. And they want mandatory background checks for all gun sales in South Carolina. The one does not have to exclude the other.

What stood out most for me was when he said 90% of South Carolinians want mandatory background checks. In such a conservative state, where most people probably own at least one gun of some kind, 90% of people favor background checks, including 85% of gun owners. That cuts across Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, and liberals. Not many proposals you can say that about these days.

Now I imagine some people would have some questions, like:

Is it appropriate to talk about a political issue in church? Sometimes. In this case, Pastor Spike said he was grateful to belong to a reasonable congregation. He was probably nervous about presenting this idea to the church, knowing that some of the members owned and loved guns. He had to present the idea to the worship committee, Session, and then to the whole congregation for approval, and every step of the way they were on board. The sentiment most commonly expressed was this is about loving your neighbor, and that is absolutely appropriate for a worship service.

Is this some anti-2nd Amendment stunt? Well, this pastor said he supports 2nd Amendment rights to gun ownership for lawful citizens, and 85% of gun owners support this move—people who would be the first to object if they thought any proposal would infringe on their rights—so I’m gonna say no.

Will one more law really make any difference? In this case, yes. Mandatory background checks that include closing the gun show and online loopholes have worked.

  • From 1984 to 1993, gun murders increased by 55% in the U.S. After background checks were required on the federal level, gun murders decreased by 32% from 1993 to 2006 (Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 2008).

But we still have to deal with a loophole where in many states, background checks are not required for sales at gun shows or over the Internet. I call this the gun show/online loophole. One estimate places the number of these sales at 40% (U.S. DOJ, National Institute of Justice Research, 1997).

  • California closed this loophole in 1990, requiring background checks for all gun purchases. By 2013, California experienced a 57% decrease in its firearm mortality rate (Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Griffin Dix, 2015).
  • Missouri, on the other hand, repealed a state requirement for background checks for gun purchases in 2007, and subsequently experienced a 23% increase in its gun murder rate
    (Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy & Research, 2014).

As one of my friends who proudly says she owns guns told me, this isn’t about creating another law. This is about enforcing the laws on the books, which is what gun rights advocates keep saying we need to do. Why? Because by closing the gun show/online loophole, we will force all gun dealers to follow the same laws. Because if you are a gun seller, how are you supposed to know if your customer is a convicted felon or deemed mentally ill and a threat to others if you don’t run a background check? “I have no problem going through a background check if it keeps guns out of the hands of the wrong people,” she said.

Mandatory background checks for all gun sellers. Closing the gun show/online loophole. It’s supported by the vast majority of people, even gun owners. It’s statistically shown to reduce the number of gun deaths. It’s necessary to enforce the laws on the books. It does not infringe on the right of citizens to bear arms. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

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