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KellyGram – A Human Rights Crisis

 

 

Last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, really rocked the fabric of this nation. Though I’m generally reluctant to take on political topics in the KellyGram, I’m making an exception this week for the critically important issue of gun control. 

Let me confess upfront: I am not a gun owner and probably never will be. I have many friends with guns, and as an attorney of 40+ years, I respect the American Constitution and the Second Amendment right to bear arms. But given the increasing violence and bloodshed in this country, there need to be limits—we must strike a balance among the rights of American people. Is the right to own an AR-15 more important than a person’s right to life and limb? Thirty-one people died last weekend alone in mass shootings. On Wednesday, Amnesty International issued a travel warning to those entering the US to exercise caution due to “rampant gun violence” that “amounts to a human rights crisis.” These shootings continue to kill, injure, and terrorize the people of the United States, and thoughts and prayers simply are not sufficient to address this epidemic. They will not prevent this from happening again, and again, and again. What we need, more than anything, is leadership and change.  

I think we need two major actions from our political leaders in Washington. The first is to restrict access to guns of any sort by individuals with mental illness placing them at risk for violence and by people who have a known propensity to use guns inappropriately; this can only come in the form of background checks. The second one is a no-brainer – we need an outright ban on assault weapons of all types. I came across two things this week that made a lot of sense to me. The first of these was an op-ed piece, written by a gun owner and retired veterinarian from North Carolina, emphasizing that there is no logical reason why the general public should have access to assault rifles designed to kill mass numbers of people; the bottom line is it’s contrary to the interests of public safety. 

Another source of inspiration for writing this particular KellyGram came from my priest, Mitch Smith, in his sermon last Sunday morning at my beloved home church, St. Martin’s-in-the Fields Episcopal Church. Mitch had originally planned to deliver a stewardship sermon, but when he woke up Sunday morning and grabbed his phone, he learned of the dual tragedies. When he ascended to the pulpit, he confessed that he is seldom nervous when delivering a sermon, but he was actually trembling because really didn’t know what words would come out of his mouth. It was one of the most moving sermons I have ever witnessed—and I’m pretty sure he did it without notes! It made me realize that sometimes speaking from the heart is better than some scripted response, and sometimes we need to speak from the heart when an issue is important us—even if others may not agree with what we have to say. 

And so I say: it is time to step up, speak out, and spark change. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Mike Kelly

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