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The only way I know not to become the victim of a mass shooting is not to become part of the masses. Even before Columbine (my last year of seminary), I’d never been comfortable in crowds. Over the years, the feeling has grown into an outright fear of being surrounded by large groups of people. I don’t know if psychiatrists have a “scale” for agoraphobics, as physical therapists ask their patients to measure their pain levels. If they do, I’d say, given the events of recent years, I’m a solid six trending toward a seven. A ten would never want to leave the parsonage and preach from behind a computer screen or bulletproof glass. It’s a scary time to be alive, and one can’t help but feel that life is a lottery. One day, we will be somewhere, and the bullets will start flying. Will a simple trip to the bank or grocery store be the day I don’t come home? I will either be the statistic or the person on the news calling for gun reform to which no one in Washington will listen. That’s how I feel.

The paralysis caused by gun violence, the easy access to guns, and the fear of the unknown cannot stop us from living our lives. Life must go on. But with an average of two mass shootings a day since the beginning of the year, it is getting harder to go outside, walk into a crowd, drive down the road, be passed by an angry driver on a double yellow line, and wonder: is this person mad enough to shoot me for going “to slow,” they were reckless enough to kill me with their car nearly? I guess I’m saying this: we’ve moved out of the theoretical realm. At a moment’s notice, any of us could be shot by an unstable person with a gun over nothing. These things happen so often, with daily regularity, and everywhere. It is only a matter of time before everyone in America will know someone who was in a massacre or is a victim of mass gun violence. One day soon, mass shootings may be so common they won’t even make the news.

I do not want to live in a world where that level of brutality touches everyone. Yet, here we are. What might we do?

I want “run, hide, and fight” to be something historians; hundreds of years from now, cannot believe our society imposed upon its children.

We must:

Stop the killing. In the name of Jesus Christ, who came to bring peace, that all may live, stop the killing.

Put the guns down. In the name of Jesus Christ, who came that no more might die, put the guns down.

Beat our swords into plowshares. In the name of Jesus Christ, who came that we might love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Beat our swords into plowshares.

Become the answer to our own prayers. In the name of Jesus Christ, become the change we want to see occur in our communities.

Live despite anything and everything. In the name of Jesus Christ, say no to the powers of death.

We shall not make for ourselves idols in the form of anything. In the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: stop offering worship and human sacrifice to the false idol of the Second Amendment.

–Richard Bryant

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