On Sunday afternoon, I found myself not 20 feet away from 40 people carrying loaded firearms …

547831_847924770191_648639734_nI’m a pastor so Sunday is always a busy day. I lead worship, pray, sing, and preach twice in the morning, catch up in conversation with dozens of people, and often stay for a potluck lunch in our Fellowship Hall. This Sunday was busier than usual because after our Traditions worship came to a close, I hurried downtown to be part of an Open Carry event on Cleveland’s Public Square.

 

You may have heard about Open Carryindex events. They have been in the news lately — at Chipotle and Jack in the Box Restaurants and in the parking lots and aisles of Home Depot and Target. This was Northeast  Ohio’s version billed as a protest against Cleveland’s Mayor Jackson’s proposal for stricter gun regulations. Proposals that seem common sense — and common safety in an urban area — to me. A gun registry for those convicted of gun offenses. Securing guns for kids to be safe at home. A limit on the number of guns purchased in a year’s time. But even these common sense regulations incur the ire of Open Carry folks. Hence, the rally. Downtown Cleveland on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon. Come on down –– from all over the state of Ohio because very few if any of these gun-carrying people were Clevelanders — and by all means, bring your loaded guns.

No, I did not hurry downtown so I could carry my gun.

10517450_10203498352886656_5199377979382088640_nI went to be part of a counter-rally called Open Carry Guitar. Organizers billed the event as: Clevelanders taking to the streets of public square with their “axes” (violins, guitars, kazoos, flutes, harps, trumpets, WHATEVER) in support of music, and in10526069_10204423559415289_6862082923746665586_n opposition to open carry gun policies.
Modeled after similar rallies in Texas, this one was hastily put together and drew musicians and interested others — many of whom had never attended any other sort of anti-gun violence event before.

Unlike me — a well-seasoned veteran of ending gun violence events.  Together with my husband,  David Eggert, I have marched, phone-called, petition-signed, lobbied in the halls of Congress and the DSC_6661ED1 copyOhio Legislature, protested at gun shows, blogged, boycotted, read names of gun victims, preached, presented, and prayed.  I’m not new to this game.

But Sunday was the first time I was 20 feet away from perhaps as many as 40 armed men.  Mostly men, but there were armed women with children as well.  I will not repost photos with young children and guns in strollers and alongside them as I find them disgusting.

I’ll be honest and say that I know precious little about guns.  I did not grow up with them.  My ex-husband owned a hunting rifle and some sort of handgun for home protection.  I was uncomfortable with both being in the house, and did I mention, he is my ex-husband.  I will never own one, and if I were raising my children today, I would ask every time they went to play at someone’s house if there is a gun in the house, and if there is a gun, is it safely stored away.  But I don’t have to know much about guns to know that they are killing machines — whether the target is an animal or a person.

And yet, there I was, not only standing my ground but voicing my belief that my city should not be cowed into submission and acceptance that people can just take over Public Square armed with loaded weapons.  I discovered this about myself — while I am frightened of guns and what gun violence is doing to our country, I am not frightened enough to stand silently by.  It’s legal to open carry and it takes absolutely not a speck of training or the regulation of a license to do so.  So who knows how much that open-carry-er knows about gun safety or whether he/she could pass a background check.  And me?  Unarmed, but not backing away.

This is just too important.  Every year, 31,000 Americans are killed by gunfire — not in wars across the ocean but here in our cities and countryside.  600 of those are children under 12 years old.  Children in our country are 11 times more likely to be shot than in any other advanced nation, and there are currently no federal laws to require gun owners to safely store their guns.  The children in my church have lived through Chardon — some literally as they were at Chardon High School the day T.J. Lane shot and killed 3 students and injuring others.  They survived Newtown, states away, while on that same day, some of them were on school lockdown for a gun found in a locker at their middle school.  They all know the drill.  Shouldn’t that bother us enough to act?

10439347_10204423585255935_373974881229774368_nOn Sunday, I recognized a few of the people who were openly carrying.  I remembered a previous encounter with them.  It was at a small city park in Oberlin, OH.  So small that only local families with young children would find it an interesting place to be.  That did not stop a group of weapon-carrying out-of-towners from forcing themselves into this peaceful place on a Saturday morning.  Why did they need to carry guns in a child’s park?  To protect their own children, they say.  What about Oberlin’s children who had their safety compromised without their consent?  The families who left their park that morning in fear and disgust.  As a Christian faith leader, I must advocate not just for my own children and grandchildren, or even the children I serve as pastor — but all children. I am convinced the answer for them is not more guns, nor is it about openly carrying in public places.

My gun violence activism gets alot of criticism from open carry gun people.  They generally don’t like women who are involved with Moms Demand Action as I am involved.  I have been the target of some very hateful misogyny that seems to come with gun violence activism.  And because I’m a pastor, they  also like to throw scripture back at me.  My response is that I am a pastor who preaches and tries to live The Beatitudes.  I follow a Jesus who said that we are called to be peacemakers and that we are to love our enemies.  Nothing about that suggests arsenals of weapons openly carried in our streets.

10377245_10101239382973772_3406754593990371946_nThe good news is this.  The momentum is growing on the side of ending gun violence.  The good news is this.  Any one person can become involved.  If you’re not ready to stand on a downtown corner with loaded weapons just feet away from you, you don’t have to start there.  On this blog I have several links to organizations — national and local — who will gladly welcome your voice, letter-writing ability, activism experience, passion, prayer, and peace-maker’s sense of purpose.  -ce846ccc6cef2630

 

 

 

Peace –

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist. 

 

This entry was posted in Activism, Christian, Ending Gun Violence, God Before Guns, gun safety, Loss of Child, Moms Demand Action, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to On Sunday afternoon, I found myself not 20 feet away from 40 people carrying loaded firearms …

  1. Al Wasco says:

    Thanks for your courage and energy. The gun folks are good at intimidating us. I know I think twice every time I make an anti-gun comment. So I truly appreciate what you’re doing.

  2. Susan Greene says:

    What a wonderful response to evil – to open carry music! Gun non-sense seems intrinsically evil to me. I very much admire your courage and this response. You give me hope and maybe the courage will rub off. Thanks for posting. And a shout of “Thanks” to Al Wasco for posting on FaceBook about you and this post!
    Susan Greene, Cleveland, OH

  3. MJ says:

    Thank you for posting your thoughtful and wise comments. We all need to speak out .

  4. Stacy Sigler says:

    Good for you and everyone else who made the common sense agenda visible in such an awesome way!!! Wish I had known about it, I would’ve been there with you!!

  5. Regular reader/sharer of Art = Ammo, I am so grateful to have seen this. Of course, I am biased. I believe that Moms Demand is the next wave of the women’s movement, that it is our zeal for a safe world that will overwhelm the uninformed gun worshippers.

    Last fall at a rally in Portland, Oregon, I stood with gun carriers nearby. Had never been so close to weapons. Felt far from the world I knew best in New York City. There I might only be near a police person with a gun. I wish we here in the northwest would get as energetic about gun control as you have in Ohio. Our Federal legislators have the right values but we are stymied by the few in the state legislature with too great an allegiance to hunters.

    Reading along your powerful description of the rally, I suddenly gasped. Oberlin! My alma mater–back in mid 20th century. Hard to envision Tappan Square as you describe that incident. But I believe it is possible: the uneducated who oppose gun control are people without appropriate boundaries. Thanks for your words, your work. -naomi

    • Pastor Kris says:

      Thanks for the link to Art=Ammo. Will check it out. I agree about Moms, and David and I are both active in the Ohio Chapter. We were part of their conference in Indpls when the NRA Convention was meeting there too. We are also the founders of God Before Guns, here in northeast Ohio. http://www.godbeforeguns.org and we are on FB and Twitter. Really appreciate your kind and supportive comments. Maybe our paths will cross again in this cause!

      Kris Eggert

    • Pastor Kris says:

      Thanks for your comment. We are just back from a visit to NYC, and I agree. I felt safer on those streets than I did on the street corner on Sunday afternoon!

      And yes, OBERLIN! People who know Oberlin just ache when they find this out.

      Kris Eggert

  6. William Moorer says:

    Power to you, fellow pastor lady…from a retired pastor guy!!

  7. Kelly says:

    Interesting read, very thoughtful perspective and I support many of your points. I own firearms for sport and defense, but I’m not a fan of people parading in public with loaded firearms. Those that do so are only asking for confrontation and conflict in false notion that it’s a right given to them. I see it as a privilege bestowed after demonstrating responsible ownership and training. I applaud your efforts and courage. I stand with you for common sense and reasonable conversation.

    • Pastor Kris says:

      Thanks, Kelly. Always good to hear from a gun owner. We are not anti-2nd Amendment, and guns at home are a person’s individual choice (as long as they are safely secured!). We are founders of God Before Guns here in northeast OHio. http://www.godbeforeguns.org and on FB and Twitter. We believe too many gun owners have made idols of their guns and God is supposed to come first!

      Kris Eggert

  8. Joe says:

    Wow over 40 loaded weapons in one area. Did any gun violence break out? From the news reporting a there wasn’t a single incident. Maybe you should focus you irrational fear of guns and become an activist and lobby towards keeping guns out of the hands of criminals not everyday law abiding citizens, now that is gun sense. Or maybe you should join with the NRA and help develop a plan to keep children safe. I don’t know, something like teaching children the difference between a real and a toy gun and what to do if you come a crossed one.

    • Jeff Clark says:

      Joe-The fact that there was a goon squad of 40 strangers toting loaded guns in a crowded public place with children present does NOT even remotely suggest “law abiding citizens” to a rational person. So in the name of “gun sense”, I can organize 40 people with machine guns to stroll around the local daycare center where your kids are, and that would make perfect sense to you? Yeah, Right! I, personally, do not have an “Irrational fear of guns”, but a fear of “irrational People carrying loaded guns in public places”.

  9. I’m puzzled — what Scripture do they throw back in your face? “But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matt. 5:39)? Or perhaps, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’ ” (Matt. 26:52)?

    The idea of a Christian claiming holy warrant for gun violence is blasphemy. As St. Peter Damian wrote nearly a thousand years ago, “If, therefore, it is never permitted to take up arms in defense of the faith by which the universal Church lives, how may armored hosts revel in bloodshed for the sake of the earthly and transitory possessions of the Church? Moreover, if when holy men prevailed, they never killed heretics and idolators, but instead refused to flee death at their hands for the sake of the catholic faith, how can a Christian wage war against a Christian over the loss of trivial things, since he is not unaware that the other was also redeemed by the blood of Christ?”

    • Pastor Kris says:

      It would take too long to list the scriptures! But sometime Google, if you’re interested, Jesus and Guns, Christians and Guns, Guns and the bible, etc. There are some really nasty Google images along those lines too. Churches have gun giveaways to encourage attendance. I could go on and on.

      But that’s not the Jesus I follow.

      KE

  10. Pastor Kris says:

    My fear is not irrational, and there is MUCH more to gun safety than teaching children the difference between a toy and a real gun. Did you watch this? http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/inside-young-guns-diane-sawyer-special-22312421

  11. Glenn Friedman says:

    It is sad that some folks truly see the world and their community as so scary and unpredictable that they feel compelled to carry (open or concealed) frequently/always during their daily routine….and as irrational as this is they cannot be dissuaded or even recognizing that it is driven by fear seeing it rather as ‘being prepared’.

  12. Julie Collins says:

    i don’t see this as a christian issue whatsoever. this is a constitutional issue – you know, that piece of paper this country was founded on. just as you have the right to practice whatever religion you please others have the right to carry their weapon of choice. it’s not up for debate whether you would like it to be or not. i have attended numerous gun rights rallies and have never once seen any gun violence. i know hundreds of people who own guns and not one has ever used their gun in a violent way. as was said before, you need to concentrate on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals instead of targeting law abiding citizens. and as for your ridiculous statement that it is unsafe to carry guns around children – hogwash! these children are more safe with parents who carry because the parents understand the concept of protecting themselves and their families and not relying on somebody else. not to mention that these very parents take the responsibility of teaching their children what guns are all about and to respect them instead of fearing an inanimate object.

  13. Mary Lynn Benda says:

    The entire event is sad. People wanting to control others out of fear. People who don’t want to be controlled by others responding in a way that; while doing nothing inherently dangerous, presents an image that we are now being programmed to believe is dangerous. Censorship, hiding from reality, oppressing others because of fear, causes more damage than what is. Was anyone killed in this display. How many other people were carrying concealed weapons that you were totally unaware of, and yet tell me in this demonstration – how many were killed. You all have avoided the entire issue of mental health concerns. This and the media overkill sensationalizing ever event which in turn glamorizes and encourages the next unstable person to seek their “15 minutes of fame”; these are the issues that have been at the heart of every major issue in the media in the past several years. Someone intent on doing harm is always going to find a way to do that harm. Here is a question for those you want to oppress others ability to defend themselves. If you are successful, what are you going to ban next when guns are gone and killing continues? What freedom are you going to take away next?

    • Pastor Kris says:

      Hmmm … people wanting to control others out of fear. Sounds exactly like people who open carry. People act differently when they have a loaded weapon, and people (who are not unnecessarily fearful — the THREAT is real) react to that. The conversation on Sunday could have been different had there not been loaded weapons. That view of the 2nd Amendment grossly interferes with the 1st Amendment of freedom of speech. Guns don’t add to the conversation — but they can sure inhibit it, especially when people want to keep themselves and their children safe.

      I choose not to be frightened. It is an intentional choice that I would not expect of anyone in my family.

      Keep your guns at home, thank you very much.

      KE

  14. John says:

    Did you get shot by someone? Of course not. Because those were law abiding citizens exorcizing their rights. They were not intimidating with fear I do not own a gun but I do believe that the people who were in attendance feel more secure having a weapon to protect themselves if need be. You being so “disgusted” is a bit disgusting. These people have rights just like you I don’t think they are doing anything to deserve having any of those rights taken away. You may also find that the vast amount of gun violence is perpetrated by people who do not have any legally obtained guns and many of those were likely to have never been legally obtained.

    How often have there been victims of crime hurting not just the victim but their family, friends, businesses and neighborhoods pastor? You want to live in that utopia which cannot exist and you are not willing to consider an individuals wish to protect themselves as the times dictate. The Lord himself took violence into his own hands when he deemed it necessary everyone should live as the bible teaches. Be tolerant, be peaceful, be loving but do not allow theft to be taken from you and stand up for what’s right. Disgusted! If you are so disgusted then stay home and pray for the guidance to “judge” correctly if you must judge.

    • Pastor Kris says:

      I have approved your comment, John, even though we strongly disagree, because you did not engage in name-calling and misogyny. It’s borderline. Disrespectful, perhaps, to the 90% of Americans who favor universal background checks. Engaging in bullying tactics as those who openly (and concealed) carry do towards the majority of us Americans who do NOT. Gun violence is a complex issue that will not be settled in this conversation between the two of us.

      But as for what our Lord said about violence, here’s a link:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/no-jesus-didnt-command-we-own-weapons/#ixzz37fd6gPE7

      Being peaceful and loving does not have a “but” — it is our Lord’s commandment.
      Blessings, sir
      PK

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