the day we launched a community conversation around gun violence

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Floyd McKissick answers a question

So don’t throw away your confidence—it brings a great reward. You need to endure so that you can receive the promises after you do God’s will… But we aren’t the sort of people who timidly draw back and end up being destroyed. We’re the sort of people who have faith so that our whole beings are preserved. – Hebrews 10:35-39

  • (Note: this is why posting three times a week just wasn’t working for me! There’s just so much that is thought-provoking and important to talk about!)

Tuesday evening our church (along with local Methodists, Episcopalians, and “Moms Demand Action NC”) hosted an event designed to launch an ongoing conversation around community safety, the connection between the ready availability of weaponry and deadly violence, and how we can work together to both respect 2nd Amendment rights and protect our children, going forward.

Summary:

1-DSC_0152The format was a panel discussion – guided by a respected moderate voice. We heard three stories/testimonies from individuals with relevant life experiences, and there was a continuous flow of written questions gathered from the floor.

Over 160 pre-registered, and somewhere between 175 and 200 from the community showed up, representing a strong balance of views. The event lasted from 6:30 through almost 9:00, and there was a lot of constructive dialogue (facilitated by coffee and snacks) between people in the audience.

1-DSC_0172I will identify the principal participants (some in the photo gallery), and I’ll share my response under, “Does anyone ever change their mind?”

  • Moderator Rick Glazier (Executive Director, NC Justice Center) was thoughtful, well-informed and extremely positive; but he could have done a better job of keeping the conversation moving (90-120 seconds max per panelist per response would have been more effective).
  • Panelists Rep. Darren Jackson (NC General Assembly), and Jennifer Copeland (Exec. Director NC Council of Churches), were attentive, informative, knowledgeable, and gracious listeners. Both demonstrated that – with the right leadership – common ground is certainly possible.
  • Panelist Senator Floyd McKissick (NC General Assembly) however, arrived almost an hour late and was obviously not prepared. He rambled, strayed off topic, and appeared more interested in his own story than the stories of the presenters.

The evening was absolutely a success. Other than a mildly petulant group who showed up with the sole purpose of calling out “No compromise” whenever possible, the atmosphere and the good conversation went a long way toward achieving the advertised “First Steps.”

Does Anyone Ever Change Their Mind?

You already know my M.O.. I described it in yesterday’s post as, “open spirit, observer, listener, student, and journalist. There to learn, to gain fresh perspective, to ask questions, and to have my eyes opened.”

I have to tell you that listening did cause a shift in my thinking during the evening. I listened hard and I will continue to as the conversation continues.

  • I heard the testimony of a teacher and a high school student, both wondering when an event like Parkland will happen in North Carolina.
  • I heard stories about the difference between a farm kid leaving his or her hunting rifle in the pickup truck and a city kid stuffing a handgun in his/her backpack.
  • I heard about homes where gun-safety is second nature.
  • I heard about rights compromised by irresponsibility.
  • I heard about school safety legislation that’s afraid to even mention the word “gun”.
  • I heard about kids who take their parents’ guns without permission and then horse around with their friends.
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Alicia Campbell recently lost her son

And, heartbreakingly, I heard an anguished plea for action from a mother who recently lost her teenaged son to just one bullet, a shot not even close to being intended for him, because someone was playing fast and loose with something too many of us are unwilling to recognize as a very real threat to all our children.

I heard enough discrepancies and differences to lead me to conclude that while I believe federal and state governments must take decisive action, the ultimate answer resides in better parenting, better conversations, a deeper sense of community, and more shared responsibility.

the ultimate answer resides in better parenting, better conversations, a deeper sense of community, and more shared responsibility.

We cannot legislate morality and we cannot pass a bill that stops irresponsibility. But we can work together to be more of a connected, concerned, supportive, accountable, mutually encouraging community.

Conclusion:

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attentive listeners

We absolutely must continue this conversation. We must understand that none of us have the right answers all of the time. We must remember that nothing in government or in community ever happens outside of compromise. We must practice more humility.

Above all, we must listen, and it is imperative that we love one another with more direct, merciful, generous, encouraging, mutually submissive love.

You know, the Jesus kind.

You see, “We aren’t the sort of people who timidly draw back and end up being destroyed. We’re the sort of people who have faith so that our whole beings are preserved” (Hebrews 10:39).

The following photos capture the spirit of the event. You will meet the storytellers, and I believe you will enjoy taking a look at the beginnings of something constructive and good.

Peace, and I mean that in so many ways – DEREK

 

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