The subjects of peace, violence and gun rights are converging this week in Louisville, a city whose latest parade was interrupted by gunfire.
Arun Ghandi, a grandson of one of the world’s most celebrated peacemakers, spoke yesterday at Actors Theater on a panel called “Love Thy Neighbor” with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.
The discussion was part of the Festival of Faiths, whose theme this year is “Pathways to Nonviolence.”
Across town this weekend, the National Rifle Association is gathering for its annual meeting at the Kentucky Exposition Center. Its website invites participants to “celebrate the National Rifle Association and Freedom’s Safest Place with 500,000 sq. ft. of spectacular firearms displays.”
And on Saturday, families from around Louisville plan to gather hand-in-hand along Broadway to stand against violence, especially the gun violence that plagues this city. St. Martin de Porres Church in West Louisville and Epiphany Church in the East End plan to participate in Hands Across Louisville. The festivities will begin near St. Martin de Porres in the 3100 block of West Broadway.
Gun violence has long-been a problem in our cities, but as one bystander quipped at the scene of a shooting in West Louisville Tuesday, this is “murder May.”
Shootings have bloomed as numerously as spring bulbs this month. And none were as frightening to the general public as the double shooting May 5 during the Pegasus Parade. Two 15-year-old children shot two other teenagers at Fourth and Broadway as the parade passed by.
There’s no excuse for 15-year-olds wielding guns.
There’s no excuse for mothers to find themselves huddled over their children, terrorized as a parade marched along.
Regardless of where you stand on the Second Amendment, people with a modicum of compassion and sense must acknowledge that the all-too-easy access to guns and the violence they bring must stop.
When will we have the sense to put some breaks on the proliferation of firearms? We’re not talking about getting rid of all guns here; what we need is sensible gun control.
The U.S. bishops have taken a clear stand for gun control, rooted in the desire to build a culture of life. In testimony submitted to the U.S. Senate in 2013, the U.S. bishops reiterated their stance on gun control, calling on lawmakers to:
- Require universal background checks for all gun purchases;
- Limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines;
- Make gun trafficking a federal crime; and
- Improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence.
While the wheels of the lawmaking machine grind slowly on, there’s something that every person can also do to help curtail violence in their community: Get to know your neighbors, help one another, become accountable to one another. Live, in short, as a community.
A half hour after the shootings at the Pegasus Parade, TV personality Dawne Gee stopped commenting on the still-passing floats to offer an impromptu and impassioned plea on air:
“We’ve got to stop this,” she said. “When you see somebody, say hello; say hello to faces that look different to you. Help somebody if they need anything. … We’re better than this.”
Her words echoed the advice Police Chief Steve Conrad gave at Christ the King Church in West Louisville in late December.
Christ the King and five other West Louisville parishes held a prayer service aimed at ending violence Dec. 2. The chief of police thought it important enough to attend.
He told the congregation, “We are obligated as a community to address the root cause. To do that we’ve got to come together; we’ve got to watch out for one another.”
Conrad also told his listeners they must trust one another and act with civility and compassion.
And add this to his advice: Reach out across racial lines, across socioeconomic and education lines. Get to know people unlike yourself. Hands Across Louisville is a good place to start.