“They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east,
they shall run to and fro,
seeking the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.” Amos 8:12
Last Saturday night June 11, Kate and I sat under a clear sky at Kansas City’s Starlight amphitheater swaying to the mostly familiar words of singer, songwriter Paul Simon and his band. Most of the audience joined in the last song of the second encore, “Sounds of Silence”:
“Silence like a cancer grows,
hear my words that I might teach you,
take my arms that I might reach you,
but my words like silent raindrops fell
and echoed in the wells of silence.”
Three hours after we sang “Sounds of Silence” at the concert, the gruesome siege of party goers exploded on the night in Orlando. As in most of the recent mass murders, the assailant used a military style assault weapon whose sale in the United States is not only legal but on the rise. While sales of other long rifles have risen 3% in recent years, sales of the AR-15 and other “modern sporting rifles” have risen 27%.
For whatever reason – the unprecedented number of victims, the evidence that loathing of gays dominated the perpetrator’s psyche, the steady recurrence of mass shootings making use of such weapons – there is renewed concern in this country over continued marketing and sales of the AR-15 gun model. Re-enacting in Congress the ban which expired in 2004, or passing a stronger ban with fewer loopholes, will not, however, be easy. The National Rifle Association (the NRA), the most powerful lobby working for gun manufacturers and gun retailers, now refers to the AR-15 as “America’s rifle”.
How could this be many of us are asking? How could a rifle which was originally manufactured as the M-16 for soldiers in the Vietnam War now be marketed to and widely purchased by civilians? How could the nation with the largest number of Jesus’ followers permit sales of a weapon which has killed dozens of schoolchildren, movie goers, co-workers and party goers in the last five years?
But the nearly unfettered sale of assault weapons to civilians in the U.S. may not be so surprising to our friends in Mexico. Since the Mexican Revolution at the turn of the 20th Century, the U.S. has supplied most of the guns for revolutionaries resorting to violence, for the Mexican army and police forces and for our neighbor’s criminals. An estimated seventy percent of the deaths during Mexico’s “drug wars” were due to weapons imported from the north. Signs at the border reminding visitors that it is illegal to bring guns into Mexico are a weak defense against the dangers resulting from Mexico’s proximity to the country which exports far more weapons than any other in the world. The well known saying, “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States” has taken on new weight in the aftermath of 80,000 plus “drug war” victims.
In Mexico, research teams continue to pursue what really happened to the 43 students of Ayotzinapa. In the U.S. we know very well how 49 young people died in the Orlando nightclub. We may never know what primarily drove the killer to act but we know he acted alone that night and we know his primary weapon continues to be advertised using militaristic language like “get your man card” and “the opposition will bow down”. We know that using the AR-15 model Sig Sauer MCX he was able to fire into the night club crowd 24 shots in nine seconds. We know that in 2012 the Newton, Connecticut 20 year old who fired 154 rounds of bullets in less than five minutes in an elementary school killed 20 children and then killed his mother, who had purchased the Remington Bushmaster for him.
Lacking the sweet, high voice of Art Garfunkel at his side, Paul Simon did not sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the concert last Saturday night. But thousands of people this past week in vigils around the world sung the lyrics in solidarity with friends and family members of the Orlando victims:
“When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.”
We who live in and love this country stand in gratitude for the words of solidarity, of comfort and consolation that have been offered by persons worldwide. But after this latest in a long list of horrific acts of violence suffered from San Bernardino to Orlando, from Roseburg, OR to Newton, CT, we also stand in need, seeking “the word of the Lord” for this nation at this time.
Senator Patrick Murphy of Connecticut stood in the U.S. Senate chamber this week speaking for 15 hours before Republicans consented to talks about acting on gun control legislation that remains pending. That legislation has to do primarily with background checks on those purchasing guns. None of it calls for reducing or outlawing sales of military style “modern sporting rifles” within the borders of the United States of America.
for an excellent Boston Globe editorial published Thursday, June 16, 2016 titled “Make It Stop”