Commentary: Peace, justice through tighter gun laws

Most people remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in January for his birthday. We certainly do at Fairview Community Church. We always hold a special service in honor of his legacy.

But remembering his birth and remembering his death are two different things, just as remembering Jesus' birth and death, at Christmas and Easter, are two different things. We celebrate birthdays — and we love to celebrate Christmas — but most people feel uncomfortable facing Good Friday and the crucifixion of Jesus. We have to remember his death and why he died: because he believed in God's realm for all, he dared to speak out for justice, and he dared to change the status quo.

MLK died for the same reasons.

At 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968, while standing on his balcony at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis Tenn., King was murdered because he was unwilling to remain silent in the face of injustice.

I cannot help but hear the gunshot ring out with the piercing painful sound of injustice! An American hero died at the hand of a gunman. How many American heroes have been shot and killed? How many unknown have been shot and killed? When will the shootings stop?

His death haunted me Thursday.

Like you, like every American, my heart broke at the shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December. The massacre of children should never have happened. Just like the killing of King should never have happened.

Mark Shields reported on PBS in December that more Americans have been killed by guns since King died 45 years ago than in all the wars of our nation's history. This is nearly unfathomable. We are at war with ourselves.

There is a way to end the war. We have the ability. Our legislators have the power in their hands. We don't have to take it anymore. Enough is enough!

When I heard the call of an organization called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, I felt a strong stir to respond.

I gathered with nearly 300 people in Irvine to send a message to our legislators that we will not tolerate these shootings anymore. In a community where it is rare to see protests in the streets, citizens rallied to make loud and clear the fact that we need stronger federal gun laws.

Democrats and Republicans, young and old, people of faith and community members came together, convinced that action is necessary. The urgency was palpable.

It reminds me of King's urgent plea to open our eyes to the injustice of our nation. He cries out to us now, echoed in the voices of hundreds in Irvine, thousands in Orange County and millions across the nation. The time is now.

Let us not just celebrate birth, but let us mourn death together, so that we too might be inspired to speak out and act for peace and justice for all.

The Rev. Dr. SARAH HALVERSON is a pastor at Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa.

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