Of all the millions of words contributed to the gun violence debate since Newtown, there is one scripture that seems most relevant to me that I have not heard anyone cite. Come to think of it I have not heard anyone in our “Christian” nation quote Jesus on the matter at all. I understand the fear that motivates people to want to protect themselves and the ones they love. When in mortal danger it is quite natural to want to defend oneself. When Jesus was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by heavily armed Roman soldiers his disciples quite naturally wanted to defend and protect him. One of them drew a sword and “struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear” (Matt. 26:51). Jesus’ immediate response is to rebuke his disciple, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (v. 52).
That verse came to my mind again this week when I read one of most tragic gun violence stories yet. It is hard to shock us these days when we have seen and heard about far too many violent deaths, but this one really amazed me. Ironically, In the May 2nd edition of The Columbus Dispatch (p. A3) the AP story appeared right next to a story about the NRA convention being held in Houston this weekend. A 5-year-old boy in Burkesville, KY accidentally shot and killed his two-year-old sister this week. As tragic as that is, it gets much worse. Kristian Sparks was playing with his own rifle, a gift someone gave him last year, and his mother thought nothing of it until she heard the gun go off and found her 2-year-old daughter Caroline had been hit with a single fatal shot to the chest. The story says, “Kristian’s rifle was kept in a corner of the mobile home, and the family didn’t realize a bullet had been left in it.”
And it gets worse from there. You can’t make this stuff up. “In this case, the rifle was made by a company that sells guns specifically for children.” (The company “Cricket Rifles,” I discovered, has taken down its web site for obvious reasons that won’t do Caroline any good.) You can Google “my first rifle” to find all kinds of national reactions to this tragedy.) The AP news story goes on, “’My First Rifle’ is the slogan—in colors ranging from plain brown to hot pink to orange to royal blue to multicolor swirls.”
Christ have mercy. Somehow I don’t think marketing hot pink rifles to 5 year olds was what the 2nd amendment was designed to promote. The haunting refrain of an old Peter, Paul and Mary song, “Where have all the flowers gone?” keeps running through my head as my heart breaks for Kristian and Caroline and their family. The old folk song asks over and over again, “When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?”