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It Could Have Been My Daughter!

Gun Violence at Michigan State

On the evening of Monday, February 13th, a gunman entered Berkey Hall (later, he went to the student union) on the campus of Michigan State University, where he shot and killed three young Michigan State students (five others were injured).  Later, he took his own life.

My younger daughter teaches Political Science at Michigan State, and when she teaches or is in meetings on campus, often she is in Berkey Hall.  On this particular evening, she was not on campus.  She was home.  Obviously, we were relieved to learn she was fine.  But the point is, it could have been her.  As Americans, in the midst of the gun insanity in our country, this is the way we have to look at it.  It could have been my daughter, or your daughter or son, or anyone else’s daughter or son.       

I cannot tell you how furious I am with the politicians in our country, in both chambers (mostly Republicans), who stubbornly (thinking only of themselves) refuse to enact significant gun reform legislation.  I am not talking about the soft legislation they proudly point to, which passed in 2022.  I am talking about serious reform to include extensive background checks and a ban on all assault weapons. 

Steve Kerr, coach of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, lost his father (a diplomat serving in Lebanon) to gun violence when Kerr was playing basketball at the University of Arizona.  He remains an outspoken advocate of radical gun reform.  At a pre-game press conference, a day or so after the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas (where 21 persons, mostly children, died), Kerr was in no mood to talk about basketball. 

In a word, as he said it, “I’ve had enough.”  “Enough” thoughts and prayers for the victims.  “Enough” of the 50 senators in Washington who refuse to even bring to a vote the need for background checks.  “Why?”  Kerr asked.  “Because they want to hold on to power.  They are more concerned about holding on to power than about protecting the lives of our children.” 

I share coach Kerr’s passion for significant gun reform.  Like him, I am exhausted at people hiding behind the Second Amendment.  Does anyone even know what it says?  It is brief and the historical context for its enactment has totally changed.

The Second Amendment

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,

the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. 

That’s it–27 words, in a historical context where there was understandable concern (again, at this time in our history–late 18th century) about the possible need to counteract a tyrannical federal government.  In an effort, no doubt, to modernize the amendment, it was expanded in 2008 in a landmark Supreme Court ruling affirming that Americans have a constitutional right to own guns in their homes.  However, the constitution does not grant people the right to own assault weapons.  Indeed, there was a ban on assault weapons which expired in 2004 and, mindlessly, was not reinstated.  To be blunt: what were politicians thinking?  They weren’t thinking of our children. 

The Josh Abbott Band performed October 1st at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, hours before a gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing more than 50 and injuring over 500.  In the aftermath, Caleb Keeter, the band’s lead guitarist, made headlines for his change of heart surrounding conversations on gun control.

“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life,” he wrote on Twitter.  “Until the events of last night.  I cannot express how wrong I was.  We actually have members of our crew with concealed handgun licenses and legal firearms on the bus.  They were useless.” 

As Christians, what are we to do?

In the grip of the mindless gun violence in America, how are we to live out our lives as Christians.  In response to this, our Christian story talks to us about LIFE, life with a capital “L.”  In the big picture of the Bible, starting with “in the beginning” in Genesis 1, in six consecutive pronouncements, God calls the world to LIFE.  Later, in Genesis 2:7, God breathes the “breath of Life” into Adam (Eve comes later, from a rib of Adam).

In our covenants with God over the centuries, LIFE is God’s overarching concern.  We see this in the Ten Commandments where violation of commandment truth introduces a distortive element into our relationships, working against the Life to which God calls us.  We see it in Moses’ exhortation to Israel in Deuteronomy:

I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before
you life and death, blessings and curses.  Choose life so that you and
your descendents may live … .
  Deuteronomy 30:19

And we see it also in Jesus where, in John 10, he tells us the purpose of his coming:

I came that they (you) may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

As a nation, we Americans have to ask ourselves to what extent our guns serve the purposes of LIFE to which God calls us. 

Gun advocates always want to emphasize that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  They’ve got it all wrong.  Guns kill people.  In the gun violence insanity that has swept across our nation, guns are the variable we can potentially control.  As a society, we’re always going to have “crazies” in our population.  It’s the human situation; it is a constant.  However, gun ownership is a variable we can control.  We simply need to enact the appropriate laws in congress.  If congress had the will, they could pass laws (tomorrow) to control the availability of guns, as well as the kinds of guns people can own (like assault weapons).  As a nation, we must demand results on gun reform legislation.  A litmus test for anyone running for political office ought to be their firm commitment to significant gun reform legislation. 

Moving forward.  My daughter was traumatized by the mass shooting at Michigan State.  Imagine the countless millions of others over the years who have been similarly traumatized by the horrors of mass shootings.  Indeed, what are we doing to the mental health of our nation by tolerating the status quo on gun reform?  

The morning after the shooting, my daughter recalled how hard it was to drop her two children (my precious grandchildren, ages 12 and 10) off at school.  As I write this, it’s been a week now; and yet, I still cannot stop thinking how It could have been my daughter.  It wasn’t–this time–but it could have been.  Makes me furious.  Friends, God calls us to the sanctity of LIFE, not to guns.  As a society and as people of faith, we have got to do better.   


The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Frantz is a retired United Church of Christ minister.  He had long-term pastorates in San Diego County and in Miami Lakes, Florida.  His service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama in the late sixties spurred his commitment to social justice ministries and to a spirit of ecumenism as a local church pastor.  He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Pacific School of Religion. He is also the author of The Bible You Didn’t Know You Could Believe InThe God You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In and his just-published book: The Jesus You Didn’t Know You Could Believe InDr. Frantz and his wife, Yvette, are now retired and living in Florida.

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