top of page

Worship Service Message

June 9, 2024
3rd Sunday after Pentecost

End Gun Violence

Mark 3:20-35

Rev. Dr. Jaegil Lee

Since one of our parishioners just gave us brief history of Wear Orange and updates us on recent developments in Rhode Island legislation, I will keep my message short, but just a little shorter than usual. 

I found it disturbing that during the pandemic, there was a notable increase in the sale of firearms and gold. Somehow, the pandemic forced us to painfully recognize where we, as a nation, would find our safety and security in times of crisis.

In 2020, amid the pandemic and social justice protests, gun sales in the United States spiked to a new record with the FBI tallying a new high of 21 million background checks over the year, making a 26% increase over the previous record set in 2016. The surge in gun purchases was particularly high in March when the pandemic and lockdowns became widespread and in June at the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Unfortunately, our search for security and safety in guns comes at a high price. Our pursuit of security through firearms increases insecurity and unsafety in our society. I will share some shocking statistics on gun violence. 

I will ask “yes or no” questions to introduce each piece of inconvenient information. If you don’t know the right answer, just say “yes” even though you don’t feel comfortable saying “yes.”

Q: Is it true that the number of people who have died by gun violence in the United States since 1968 is higher than the number of military personnel who have died since the American Revolution?

The answer is “Yes.”

The statement is mostly true. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.5 million Americans have died in gun-related incidents since 19681. In comparison, the total number of U.S. military personnel who have died since the American Revolution is estimated to be around 1.2 million. This includes both battle deaths and other deaths related to military service. Therefore, the number of people who have died by gun violence in the United States since 1968 is indeed higher than the number of people who have died since the American Revolution.

Q: Is it true that on average there are more than 100 firearm-related deaths a day in the United States?

The answer is “Yes.” In 2023 alone, there were approximately 39,700 deaths due to gun violence in the United States. That is about 109 people dying from a firearm-related injury each day. The year with the highest number of firearm-related deaths in the United States was 2021, with a total of 48,830 deaths. This means that on average 134 people died every day due to gun violence.

Q: Is it true that approximately 17.4 million guns were sold in the United States in 2022 alone?

The answer is, of course, “Yes.” Over the last 20 years, the average annual firearms sales in the United States have significantly increased. From 1997 to 2000, the average annual sales were approximately 3.5 million firearms. This number rapidly increased, hitting a record 21.8 million in 2020. Thankfully, it has since decreased, but it has not returned to the pre-pandemic rate.

Predictably, due to the increased number of firearms sales in 2020, that year and the following year, the number of people died due to gun violence hit the record.

Q: Related to the previous question, is it true that the number of civilian-owned guns is higher than the number of people in the US?

The answer is “Yes” again. “There are an estimated 393 million civilian -owned firearms in the United States, which is more than the number of people in the country. This means that there are approximately 120 guns per 100 residents in the United States.” Because of this notorious fact, although the US has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it owns 30-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

Moreover, civilians in the U.S. own significantly more firearms than the military. As mentioned earlier, while there are approximately 400 million civilian-owned guns in the U.S, about 4.5 million guns are held by the military. Once more, this vast difference highlights the prevalence of gun ownership among civilians in the country.

The last question for today: Is it true that the number of mass shootings nearly doubled from about 300 in 2018 to about 600 in 2020, and has it remained relatively stable since then?

Unfortunately, the answer is “Yes” once more. In 2023, the number of mass shootings reached the second highest on record, surpassed only by 2021, which had 689 incidents. This was a slight increase from 646 in 2022. The mass shootings in 2023 resulted in 712 deaths and at least 2,692 injuries. Mass shootings, defined as incidents where at least four people are shot, have surged by more than 150 percent since 2013, when there were 255 such events.

What’s even more heartbreaking is that firearms continued to be the leading cause of death among children and teens in the United States in 2022. That year, 4,590 children and teens aged 1-19 lost their lives to gun violence. While this number was slightly lower than in 2021, it remained alarmingly high. The CDC's provisional mortality data for 2022 reported over 48,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States, with more than half being suicides and more than four out of every ten being homicides.

So, what does this mean? It means that in our country, children and adolescents are more likely to be killed by guns than by any other cause, including car accidents, drug overdoses, and even cancer. This is a sobering and devastating reality that we must confront.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus was accused of being possessed by a demonic spirit, the head of all the evil spirits. Why was he facing accusation? Because he had challenged societal norms and conventional beliefs, which only served the socioeconomical stable. Jesus provocatively and constantly challenged religious rules which became a means of exclusion and condemnation.

Similarly, in our context, we must confront the uncomfortable truths about our reliance on guns for security. Just as Jesus stood against the misguided priorities of His time, we are called to reevaluate where we place our trust and how we can create a safer, more compassionate society. The answer lies not in more weapons, but in embodying the love and care that Jesus exemplified.

Of course, it is important to change the laws and regulations concerning firearms and to advocate for such changes. However, what is equally, if not more important, is to make our society less fear-driven. Fear often drives us to seek security in material possessions, such as firearms, which paradoxically make us less secure. By fostering a community grounded in love, understanding, and compassion through our small and big actions, we can address the root causes of violence and fear.

Beloved St. Paul’s, as followers of Christ, we are called to be peacemakers and to trust in God's protection rather than in the false security of weapons. Let our faith, hope, and love reveal to the world that true safety and security come from living in harmony with one another, respecting each person’s dignity, and striving for justice and peace. May God use us to end the gun violence and prevent the precious loss of lives.

bottom of page