During a time of discord and rebellion in the ancient Holy Land, the biblical prophet Jeremiah recorded the grief of a bereaved mother. “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Too often today, we find ourselves weeping as Rachel did because God’s children are being taken from us by a rising tide of gun violence. As the Episcopal bishops in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we lament this senseless carnage and the inaction of too many of our elected officials who allow it to go unchecked.
Recently, however, we have found hope in the Biden Administration’s strategy to reduce gun violence and crime. We commend President Biden’s executive order to reduce the sale of privately made ghost guns, encourage red flag laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who present a danger to themselves or others, regulate equipment that turns pistols into more deadly rifles, and require federal research on the scourge of illegal gun trafficking. We join him in urging Congress to pass, at long last, expansion of background checks for firearm purchases and a federal ban on assault weapons. And we welcome his administration’s commitment to invest in evidence-based community violence interventions, including programs and employment opportunities for teenagers and young adults and help for formerly incarcerated people reentering their communities. We applaud this wise allocation of public resources for the common good.
The Episcopal Church has long advocated with local, state and federal leaders for sensible laws that would help end the public health epidemic of gun violence. As faith leaders, we have also invited gun manufacturers to work with us in addressing this issue together for the well-being of our communities. Yet shootings in Massachusetts and across the United States continue to surge: 2021 is on track to be this country’s deadliest year of gun violence in two decades. Without these new initiatives to address both the guns that flood our streets and the root causes of poverty, racism, and hopelessness, we fear that the epidemic of violence will only worsen.
Another ancient prophet, Isaiah, showed us a better path when he wrote, “You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” With the support of elected leaders and the courage of faithful advocates, we pray that we can bring about an end to weeping and repair the breach caused by gun violence here in Massachusetts and across the United States.
The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Diocese of Western Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Diocese of Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Diocese of Massachusetts