Sunday, April 1, 2012

Guns Don't Kill People. But They Help.

A young friend texted my son yesterday, requesting that he read the Metro section. Section B, page two, above the fold. We don't usually read the paper, so it wasn't until this morning that I fished yesterday's Oregonian out of the pile at Starbucks and turned to page two.

Our friend's father is the choir director at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church here in Portland, Oregon. His assistant conductor, Brian Tierney, was shot last Wednesday night while driving home from choir practice. Brian is 29 years old and the father of a two-year-old. He was found in his car on the side of the highway, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds. He is not dead. He is in critical condition, his kidney shattered, the extent of his internal injuries unknown, but he did not sustain brain damage and he may recover. He is a musician, so his wife and child will have to do without his income, and the medical expenses will be staggering.

The police have no clues as to who shot him, other than it was somebody with a gun.

The church and choral leadership are organizing meals and help with the garden and a fund to help financially. Other than that, what can we do?

This on the heels of the more global grief I've been feeling about the death of Trayvon Martin. I didn't know Trayvon. But I have a teen-age son myself, and I can't imagine what Tray's parents are going through. What happened in Florida is inexplicable. A self-appointed "neighborhood watch volunteer" can shoot an unarmed teenager to death and not even be arrested? The most dangerous thing this child did was to be black, wear a hoodie and carry a bag of Skittles and walk through a gated community? Death penalty for being a young black male and wearing a hoodie? If there were such a thing as a law that said it is illegal to be a black teenager, wear a hoodie and carry Skittles, and a judge can sentence you to death if you break that law, there would still be due process before an execution was carried out. This was murder, carried out because someone with an opinion had a gun.

Oh my God.

So stepping from the particular to the national to the big picture:

The U.S. Department of Justice has recorded an average of 29,500 gunfire deaths every year nationally for the last 30 years. Compare that to the 6,000 military personnel lost in all foreign wars during the same period of time. From 1976 to 2006, over 100,000 children have been shot to death. The National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Report reports similar statistics for 2009.

According to the Eighth United Nations Survey on crime trends (2002), Albania had 135 firearm murders in one year. Albania, now there's a safe haven. Zimbabwe, 598.

I don't know about you, but I've had it with the NRA's take on how guns make our lives safer. I don't buy it. I've managed to ignore this issue for awhile, mostly by avoiding reading the papers, but Brian and Tray got my attention.

As gun apologists like to say, guns don't kill people, people kill people. But as my favorite commentator Eddie Izzard once said, the gun helps.

A fund has been established to help Brian Tierney's family pay his medical expenses. If you want to help, you can write a check payable to "SMAA" with the notation "Brian Tierney Fund" and mail it to St. Michael & All Angels Church, 1704 NE 43rd Ave, Portland, OR 97213.

If you would like to sign a petition to the Florida 4th District State's Attorney asking for the arrest of the man who murdered Trayvon Martin, go to

I'm not much of a praying person, but I'm going to start praying for the soul of this country that I love. During this week when so many of us celebrate the living message of a man that many of us call a prophet or the Son of God, the message that we should take care of each other and love each other, even those who harm us, I will pray that our hearts and minds be open to the idea that the fountain of firearms available to us doesn't make us safer.

You can join me if you like.