Moral Leadership in a Special Session

Moral Leadership in a Special Session

We had a very successful ministry fair on Sunday. I want to thank everybody who worked hard to make it happen. We have so many ways for you to get plugged in to the life of the church. Getting involved is part of our discipleship process.

This week the Tennessee legislature is convening for a special session focused on issues of public safety. Governor Lee should be commended for calling this session even though many leaders have opposed it. Moral leadership is not easy. Our governor has shown courage in bringing these legislators back to Nashville. The issues around firearms and public safety is an emotional one for many reasons. The debate can quickly become heated, divisive, and uncivil. In a recent article in The Atlantic, David Brooks said “The most important story about why Americans have become sad, alienated, and rude is simple: We inhabit a society in which people are no longer trained in how to treat others with kindness and consideration. Our society has become one in which people feel licensed to give their selfishness free rein.” It is hard to argue this point.

The public safety and firearms conversation is one that has been happening for many years. In the state of Tennessee, gun violence continues to be the leading cause of death for youth under the age of seventeen. This is not OK. The Tennessee Department of Health recently reported that in this state, the rate of firearm deaths among children is thirty-six percent higher than the national average. More than half of all suicide deaths among Tennessee children (54 %) were the result of firearms. The firearm debate is a prime example of where extremes continue to rule the day. Over 80% of Tennesseans, Republicans, and Democrats, would like to see sensible gun safety laws put into place. So why doesn’t it happen? That is the question legislators will be wrestling with this week. Clearly, there is strong support for the Second Amendment in a red state but being a gun owner should come with responsibility. Cities (Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga) also have a major problem with guns being stolen out of cars and then used to commit a crime. These statistics have been steadily on the rise.

Voices for a Safer Tennessee is a bi-partisan non-profit that was founded after the tragedy at Covenant School. The organization has done an incredible job raising awareness around issues of gun safety and has been very intentional in letting many voices and perspectives be heard. This is a politically balanced and educated group. Many of these conversations and debates have happened in churches and faith communities which is very encouraging. Christianity and the major world religions advocate for peace and the common good. In terms of the special session this week, Safer Voices is speaking out on three specific issues. The first is temporary transfer laws that would allow authorities to temporarily restrict access to firearms from people who pose a risk to themselves or others. Due process must be honored. The second issue relates to stronger firearm storage where lost or stolen weapons are also reported. The third issue has to do with consistent background checks, linking computer systems together across the state, to help keep firearms away from dangerous people who do not need to own them. These ideas are not radical and could keep our children and communities safer. They should be given serious consideration.

Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen this week, it is important that we have this conversation and do it in a civil manner. Lives have been lost. Children have been robbed of their future. Families are still grieving and have empty chairs at the dinner table. It is possible to support the second amendment while also advocating for basic responsibilities. Government has a responsibility to work to keep its citizens safe. Many faith leaders have spoken out. If any of these ideas can help do that and change these alarming statistics, don’t we have an obligation to try?