Thursday, May 31, 2018

As we approach the second anniversary of the Pulse shooting and as South Florida heals from the Parkland mass shooting, when will enough be enough? by Rev. Paul Werner, Pastor at St. Andrew UCC, Sarasota, Florida

JUNE 2018

Paul's Pondering

Thoughts and prayers...
...and actions

In a couple of weeks, it will be the two-year anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. As a result of the mass shooting at Pulse, 49 people lost their lives and 53 were injured.

Nothing was done, except for "thoughts and prayers" offered by elected officials.

Unfortunately, this is what happens every time there is a mass shooting in the United States. A mass shooting event occurs, people decide that they want to talk about our way-too-easy access to guns, NRA-backed officials say it is "too soon" to talk about way-too-easy access to guns, the same officials offer "thoughts and prayers," and then nothing happens. Just more shootings and more "thoughts and prayers" afterwards.

As we approach the second anniversary of the Pulse shooting and as South Florida heals from the Parkland mass shooting, when will enough be enough?

At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 little kids and six staff members lost their lives in a mass shooting back in 2012. Ever since this horrific incident brought this phenomenon to the forefront, the only actions taken by our elected officials were "thoughts and prayers."


The United Church of Christ has responded to the epidemic of gun violence in our nation (click here for more information). Locally, our friends at First United Church of Tampa keep a regularly updated gun death tally sign (above) that passers-by can see on East Fowler Avenue in Temple Terrace.

Our nation has a problem with way-too-easy access to guns and a high level of gun violence. Certainly, no one wants to take away anyone's right to own firearms (for the record, I support the right to own firearms); however, something must be done, besides "thoughts and prayers," to make sure that only properly trained firearm owners own properly regulated firearms. The Second Amendment mentions a "well regulated militia." But where is it?

As a former high school teacher, I am impressed by the young people of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They are teaching our lawmakers and business leaders (and us) a few things, because the adults elected to represent them do nothing but offer "thoughts and prayers." When they discovered that Publix was giving massive amounts of money to an NRA-backed gubernatorial candidate in Florida, 
the students held "die-ins" at Publix stores. Publix ended up suspending its political donations because of this. (If only Publix would listen to the farmworkers' repeated requests for improved working conditions and compensation...)

As a result of the Parkland students' work regarding an issue that touched their lives directly, our governor enacted minimal reforms by signing a bill into law that raised the age to buy a rifle to 21 years and included a mandatory three-day waiting period to buy a gun.

What can we do? The UCC has some suggested ways we can reach out to our elected officials as well as other resources for addressing and preventing gun violence (click here).

I'm glad our young people are showing us the way forward by taking risks and actions for positive change. I'm grateful for their wisdom. Sometimes we grownups need to step aside and let our young people show us the way.

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