Anytime I take a public action, there is community feedback. It is part of the job.
Therefore, I know the drill: The onslaught of friend and follow requests, the messages appearing in my Facebook Messenger, the barrage of “discussion” in the comments section of news reports.
I must say I am not a gun owner. It’s not that I have a problem with people who are; it’s just not for me.
I must also say I grew up around very responsible and fervent gun owners.
My father owns guns (plenty of them); he has a concealed carry permit and carries regularly. He also opposes permitless carry.
As a responsible and aware gun owner, he recognizes the weight of responsibility necessary to carry a firearm safely.
He actively locks his guns away and does not carry when he is around my very inquisitive 4-year-old daughter. He maintains licensing standards and training. He takes it seriously.
This is my frame for gun ownership. Responsible, aware, intentional, respectful.
Therefore, I was caught highly off guard by the response to opposing a law that was counterintuitive to the kind of appropriate gun ownership that has been modeled for me.
Almost immediately, the messages arrived. The comments section of various news articles lit up in passionate “debate,” reminding me why we should never read the comments.
And although I’m usually pretty good about brushing things to the side, a particular message stood out to me: “When you come face to face with someone with a gun, I hope you die because you don’t have one.”
An avid church member in a local community of faith, who puts Jesus memes on their Facebook wall and offers public prayer requests, just told me they hope I die.
Is this where the gun debate has brought us? Have we arrived in some sort of world where people of faith are actively telling people they want them to die? Have issues in our world become so fervently politicized to the point where “winning” is more valuable than our humanity?
I have so many questions.
What is it about guns in the United States that has turned the faithful followers of Jesus Christ into those wishing for violent death?
Yes, we have rights to protect ourselves with guns if that is what we choose. But don’t we also have rights to safety?
Just as a person has the right to carry a gun, a person has the right not to and still be safe.
The argument that I have to carry a gun, lest I be doomed to attack by someone else with a gun does not work. The wish that if I find myself in that circumstance that I die is most definitely not loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Just to be clear: I have not and will not carry a gun in public. It’s just not for me.
This does not mean I oppose the Second Amendment. It does not mean I oppose your right to carry a gun if that is what you choose to do.
Arguments against permitless carry do not require opposition to the Second Amendment; they don’t even advocate for stricter parameters.
Arguments against permitless carry simply request that we not make it easier for people to carry a firearm in public. It asks to keep some shred of structure to who can.
Not new structure mind you, it’s already there. The state of Oklahoma already has some of the most open gun laws in the nation. We simply ask that we not make them more open.
The state of Oklahoma is also the self-proclaimed buckle of the Bible belt, home to a vast number of faithful citizens who love God and our faith.
It is not lost on me that one of the states with the most self-identified Christians in the nation can be so alarmingly un-Christian in its actions and words toward one another. All because of a gun?
What is it about access to bullets and a trigger whenever one desires that makes us turn our words into literal bullets toward one another? What deep emotional and loving tie to firearms has made us forget the deep love we are supposed to have for one another – for one another’s well-being, safety and happiness?
I ask because I really want to know. Because, clearly, we have missed a step.
Clearly some reprioritization is in order because there is no version of this faith that would affirm treating one another like this. All because of a gun?
Shannon Fleck is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minster who is executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.