Violence at Home and Abroad

By Bill Mefford

This past weekend in the span of two days donald trump announced that he is pulling the United States out of the Small Arms Trade Treaty and then, the next day, there was a shooting at a synagogue in San Diego that killed one person, injured three, and terrorized hundreds if not thousands more. The shooting was by a white man, using an AR-15 assault weapon, who had predictably written a 4,000 word Anti-Semitic screed. He also claimed that he had set fire to a mosque just weeks prior and both the attempted arson and the mass shooting were dedicated to Brenton Tarrant, the shooter who murdered 50 people in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

I know, I am sick of hearing about this crap too. I am even sicker to see Congress not do a damn thing to end gun violence unless the one who perpetrates gun violence happens to be undocumented (and of course they would have to Black or Brown) and then they scream bloody murder - not about guns, but about immigration! The only missing from the NRA and the elected members of Congress in their back pocket are the white hoods.

But what made this mass shooting different was donald trump’s announcement just the day before, as he spoke to a frenzied and friendly crowd of NRA thugs, that he intends to pull the United States out of the Small Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT establishes common standards for the international trade of conventional weapons and seeks to reduce the illicit arms trade. The small arms trade is a $100 billion dollar business and experts call small arms the most dangerous weapon of mass destruction around today. The presence of small arms in civil wars and national conflicts heightens those conflicts, makes already violent conflicts especially deadly on a large scale, and makes violence almost inevitable.

The nations most responsible for the proliferation of small arms throughout the world? China, Russia, France, Great Britain, and the United States. What else do these nations share in common? They are also the five permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations. Thus, it was a fairly big deal when the United States, under the leadership of Secretary of State John Kerry, signed the ATT in 2013. And because the treaty was never ratified through passage by the US Senate - something the NRA lackeys in the Senate would never allow - it is up to the whoever is in the White House to keep us as a country in it. And for now, we are stuck with someone who absolutely refuses to give one damn about public safety. Not. One. Damn.

Here are some other ways the ATT is indeed vitally important:

  • The ATT will prevent human-rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms. And it will help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools. Tragically, civilians make up the overwhelming number of those killed by illegal small arms; far more than actual war participants.

  • The ATT is barred from regulating any trade of small arms within nations. It only applies to international trade.

  • Because small arms are easy to trade and easy to use small arms often go hand in hand with human rights abuses, exacerbating violations in often brutal ways. More human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other weapon.

  • Small arms are the greatest interference to food insecurity and nations encumbered with violence from small arms face the greatest obstacles to delivering social services to those who need them the most.

  • Violence caused by small arms can cause forced displacement, destroy infrastructure. impede investment in reconstruction, facilitate corruption and the trafficking in drugs and persons, create a climate of impunity,, and make reconciliation irrevocable.

If you care about justice then you should care about not only sustaining the ATT, but you believe that the ATT should be ratified by the Senate. But donald trump does not care about justice. And that is why we are out.

Now, I see the latest shooting by a white supremacist in a synagogue and the announcement by the white supremacist in the White House regarding US withdrawal from the ATT as directly related. Not causal. But yes, they are related. Here is how I view this.

We have a party in power in the Executive branch and one half of the Legislative branch (as well as the Judicial branch if we are being honest) that has decided they will not do a thing to keep people safe from gun violence, no matter how epidemic mass shootings and intimate partner killings have become. Considering that mass shootings seem more and more to be aimed at members of racial or religious minority groups, and considering that Republicans and some Democrats approve of unlimited access to guns, you have a recipe for an increase in hate crimes and race-based violence. Once again, the only time trump and his Republican party cry out about gun violence is when the person who is killed is white and the person holding the gun is a person of color and/or undocumented.

This is racism. This is injustice.

Now, I do urge you to make calls to your Senator of member of the House of Representatives to urge donald trump to not back out of the ATT, but beyond this we often throw up our collective hands and cede the argument to the side whose twisted passion to own assault weapons is, for some reason, greater than our passion for human life. This should not be the case, but I have seen it far too often to not acknowledge it.

But one way to increase our passion while we also increase our biblical and missional understanding of gun violence is to take our Wesley Foundations, campus ministries, Sunday school classes or other networks through a three week Bible study on Micah 4:1-4, which looks at domestic and international gun violence. This study will provide a common theological and missional lens with which to discuss gun violence. You can print it off or email me for a downloadable copy.

Whatever form of action you take, you must take action. Or just sit back and watch the body count.

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