In the Spirit
The Rev. Martha Hubbard
---- — “This American Life” is one of my favorite shows on National Public Radio. This weekend the title of the show was “You have the right to remain silent.” That title really grabbed me. I had just come back from a conference day with 350 other Episcopalians where we participated in a variety of workshops on the topic of how to “Be Peace” in our communities. Working for Peace and non-violence is a central call for our Diocese (184 parishes in eastern Massachusetts) as one of our own young people, Jorge Fuentes, was murdered in his Dorchester neighborhood about this time last year. In the wake of his death we hear God calling to us to respond with efforts to bring peace through personal and systemic change.
One of the workshops I attended Saturday was run by representatives of an organization called Citizens for Safety (www.wheredidtheguncomefrom.com). Two of the women who presented the workshop referred to themselves as Lipstick Women — LIPSTICK being the acronym for Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killings. One of these two women had a son killed by gun violence in their neighborhood.
During the course of this hour-long workshop our presenters shared information about the source of guns used in inner-city Boston violence that made me take note. We learned that many of the guns involved are purchased not by the persons who use them, but by “straw purchasers.” A straw purchaser is someone who buys a gun on behalf of someone who cannot pass the required background checks. We also learned that though Massachusetts has fairly strict regulations on gun purchasing — including background checks, registration and testing — neighboring states such as New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont have much looser laws that do not require background checks. Here’s a startling statistic — 60 percent of guns used in Boston crimes come from out of state.
If there was one thing the LIPSTICK women wanted us to take away from the workshop, it was the compelling question, “Where did the gun come from?” They rightly pointed out that when a shooting happens, the media focuses almost exclusively on the shooter and the victim. Certainly the story of the crime needs to be told, but if we end the story there we ignore the tragic realities of how gun trafficking is providing easy access to weapons that are used in these tragic and preventable shootings. So, we need to begin to ask, after every shooting, “Where did the gun come from?”
As I rode home on Saturday to Newbury from the conference in Roxbury, I realized that I would soon be immersed in the busy pace of an active parish and family life, and I could easily let the urgency I felt about this issue get buried under the surface. But the LIPSTICK women really got to me. Their question rings in my ears — “Where did the gun come from?” I live not far from I-95. At night when I lie in bed if I listen carefully I can hear the traffic going past. The last couple of nights I lay there wondering, how many of those vehicles going by are carrying guns south to Boston that will be used to kill people in the inner-city? I know I have the right to remain silent … but should I? The ship of silence has sailed for me. As a follower of one who came embodying peace and healing for a hurting world, I feel compelled to speak out and encourage each of us to keep asking, “Where are the guns coming from?” Then let’s dare to wonder and pray for guidance for doing something about it!
The Rev. Martha Hubbard is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newburyport.