Time to stand up to lawmakers blocking gun law reforms


As many of us in downtown Atlanta were in lockdown this week because of yet another example of gun violence, it dawned on me. The violence we are seeing is not the result of the NRA, but the work of some of our own elected officials – and it is time we focus on the actions of these specific extremists in the U.S. Congress and the Georgia General Assembly, who, time and time again, have chosen to ignore the wishes of their constituents and the country.

Extremists representing Georgia have battled against gun reform by spreading false and misleading information about gun violence. These elected officials have incorrectly claimed that mass shootings are not the result of inadequate gun control measures, but rather a lack of mental health services and the prevalence of video games and movies. This narrative ignores that the overwhelming majority of mass shooters in the United States have easy access to firearms and that many have a history of domestic violence, substance abuse or other red flags that should have prevented them from obtaining guns in the first place.

This week we saw the reaction to the horrific gun violence that interrupted our way of life. Georgians, Democrats, Republicans and independents throughout the state prayed for the victims and prayed for sensible, moderate reforms to end the violence.

Yet our extremist electeds have chosen not to join us and have continued to undermine fair measures that the great majority of Americans agree to, such as strengthening background checks. They have also opposed efforts to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, claiming that they are necessary for self-defense.

These are not policy solutions to address what we witnessed this week in downtown Atlanta, they are roadblocks. Close to 70 percent of Americans support these simple, fair and moderate solutions, yet a small minority of extremists hold our country hostage – and through these actions, they have become the true enemy of democracy and our children’s future.

Meanwhile, as children are being killed in classrooms, these same extremists have prioritized book banning, censoring history classes and bullying students in the minority.

Blaming the NRA is precisely what these pro-gun elected officials want Americans to do because it lessens their actual accountability, allowing them to refuse compromise, ignore the cries for help and change and roam our sacred halls of power with a determination to follow a bizarre extremist philosophy.

The results have brought our country death, violence and fear and our children’s blood is clearly on their hands.

When wrongs such as these need to be righted, it has always been our democratic values, the wishes of the majority and the election of leaders willing to find compromise that has brought us solutions. Creating sensible and meaningful change to address gun violence in America is desperately needed, but it will not happen if we continue to focus on the NRA.

Until we clearly aim our frustration, resources and time specifically challenging the extremists who have been elected to Congress and the state legislature, nothing will change.

During Sunday services, weekday bible study, or the many one-on-one discussions I have had with people across the state, conversations and reflections of faith have filled me with hope and inspiration during some of our most desperate times and have often served as a seed in growing needed solutions to some of our most pressing challenges.

There was a point not long ago that, when tragedy struck, prayer and exchanging love, thoughts and support provided great spiritual significance and needed sustenance during times of need.

But now, as we are witness to killing after killing because of gun violence, offering thoughts and prayers has become, at worst, a joke and, at best, a cliche. This is the ultimate legacy of these extremists in the U.S. Congress and the Georgia Legislature, and to those who ignore our wishes and look to control our country at all costs, we must stand up now.

Bishop Reginald T. Jackson serves as the presiding prelate of the 6th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), which comprises 534 churches in Georgia, totaling over 90,000 parishioners.

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