September 30th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

My Take: Getting in the way of gun violence

Editor's Note: Shane Claiborne is an author and activist and an architect of Philadelphia's Simple Way community. His books include "Jesus for President" and the bestselling "Irresistible Revolution."

By Shane Claiborne, Special to CNN

Last week there were gunshots again. This time, four people were hit with bullets. One was 3 years old.

I don’t live in Afghanistan or Iraq, but in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a place where 5-year-olds know how to distinguish the sound of fireworks from the pops of a gunfire.

Nearly every night this week there have been gunshots. And it’s been only about six months since we heard gunshots on our street one cold February night and looked out the window to see a 19-year-old kid stumbling down the block with blood pouring out of his body. We held him, prayed with him and watched him die.

Martin Luther King, Jr. remembered the good Samaritan story in the Bible and said in effect (my paraphrase): We are all called to be the good Samaritan and lift our injured neighbor out of the ditch… but after you lift so many people out of the ditch, you start to say, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be re-imagined.

For over a decade in North Philly, my faith community has been actively teaching kids nonviolence rooted in the truth that it is more courageous to love our enemies than to kill them (a truth I have learned from Jesus).

And we have been trying to create jobs so that kids on corners have other options than the drug economy. But there comes a point where we start to ask deeper questions, like “where are they getting the guns?”

As we dug into that question, we began to discover that there are a handful of irresponsible gun shops that illegal guns get tracked back to.

I’ll admit, my first instinct was not to try and push for legislation and laws and regulation. That is why I was excited to learn about a “Code of Conduct” drafted by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. These are 10 steps of ethical business that several hundred mayors agreed would cut down gun violence if gun shop owners would commit to them.

We began to approach gun shop owners with an opportunity to take this step of integrity. Eventually, hundreds of folks in Philadelphia and beyond joined a movement to ask gun shop owners to sign onto this code.

Some did. In fact, the largest gun dealer in the world, Wal-Mart, signed onto the code. But some did not.

Many religious leaders in Philadelphia felt they were left with no choice but to peacefully put our bodies in the way of the trafficking of guns onto the streets, and we began holding prayer vigils outside gun shops.

In one case we had a little revival outside one of the most notorious gun shops in Philadelphia, Colosimo’s on Spring Garden Street.

About a dozen Christian clergy and other people of conscience were arrested as they did a sit-in (or a “pray-in”). In a showcase trial, they were found not guilty, and in the ensuing days the gun shop owner pleaded guilty of trafficking guns, his license was revoked, and the shop was closed down.

So miracles can happen. But I’m a strong believer that so often we wait on God, and God is waiting on us. We throw our hands in the air and say, “God why don’t you do something”… and God is saying, “I did do something … I made you."

So we have begun that same conversation with the owner of the gun shop around the corner from my house in North Philadelphia, The Shooter Shop. It was listed in a 2004 survey by Americans for Gun Safety as one of worst gun shops in America because over 200 guns used in violent crimes were tracked back to it.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the owner to agree to the code or another miracle to shut this one down, 3-year-olds are getting hit with stray bullets.  Like I said, my first instinct is not legislation but to hope that gun shop owners like Mr. Haney at the Shooter Shop will let their conscience help clean up the Jericho road.

But I do wonder if there are laws that can help, sort of like guard rails on the highway.  To use a hunting analogy, maybe there is no silver bullet, but there may be a silver buckshot. We need responsible teenagers, and we also need responsible gun shop owners and responsible laws.

One of the pieces of legislation that seems like a no-brainer is sometimes called the “One Handgun a Month” law, which would not get in the way of the Second Amendment right to bear arms but simply says maybe 12 guns a year are enough.

It rests on the premise that if folks are buying more than a dozen guns a year, they are probably doing something other than giving them away as Christmas presents.

The sad thing is that powerful lobbyists are against some of these sensible laws, which is why folks can still buy 50 guns at a time - some of them undoubtedly landing on the streets and killing 19-year-old kids like Papito, the kid we held back in February as he died.

We can do better. We can re-imagine together the road to Jericho. Everyone has a role to play, whether it be a Christian pacifist like myself or a responsible hunter like the “Hunters Against Gun Violence” who have been working for an end to violence on the streets.

I saw a recent study that unveiled the terrible state of our Jericho road here in the U.S. when it comes to gun violence.

In 2006, guns killed:

• 27 in Australia
• 59 in England and Wales
• 60 in Spain
• 190 in Canada
• 194 in Germany
• and 10,177 in the United States

Firearms are the second leading cause of death (after motor accidents) for people under the age of 20. Eight American children under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.

The kids of our world know we can do better and are dying for us to do better. A few days ago, a new family moved from California into our neighborhood with a 4-year-old.

As they passed by the gun shop here in my neighborhood, the child asked, “Why is there a gun shop here when there aren’t any animals to shoot?”

A beautiful question. May that question haunt us and inspire us to transform the Jericho road, or Allegheny Avenue in Philadelphia, so that our streets look a little more like the world we all want to live in.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Shane Claiborne.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion • United States

soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. tula

    Its not the guns that kill people, people kill people, there r so many ways of doing so. i agree that there should be better safety requirements for them but i think the government should actually try to keep the ones who want to kill off the streets and stop worrying bout how much money they r losing. if they kept them off the streets they would save more money cuz people might actually think twice before killin if they know they cant get away with it. Its all bout politics and money.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • Muneef

      People would kill peoples only if had guns since guns gives faluse courage and feeling of superiority.

      October 4, 2010 at 4:36 am |
  2. Lou

    "You state how few people guns kill in Australia and the UK. But why do you skirt the FACT that violent crime has actually increased in both of those countries by a substantial amount after guns were banned???"


    October 3, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  3. Enough Already


    October 2, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
    • Muneef

      Small and tough go for it:

      October 3, 2010 at 1:03 am |
  4. Muneef

    An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman were caught by partisans of a downtrodden Arab sheik,
    who decided that they must be shot.
    The three remembered that the partisans were scared to death of natural disasters,
    and that it might be possible to escape.
    The Englishman was taken out to be shot, and suddenly looked to the left and yelled, "Flood!"
    There was instant chaos and the Englishman escaped.
    When order hand been restored, the Scotsman was taken out to be shot.
    He suddenly looked to the right and yelled, "Sandstorm!"
    Again there was chaos, and the Scotsman escaped.
    Then the Irishman was taken out. He looked straight ahead at the troops and yelled, "Fire!".
    And they did...

    October 2, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  5. Enough Already


    October 2, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • Muneef

      Life is not God, life Is a drop of Heavens Rain Water sent down by God to Earth., as the Quran reads:
      Sura 02:22 
      Sura 02:164
      Sura 06:99
      Sura 07:57
      Sura 13:17
      Sura 14:32
      Sura 15:22
      Sura 16:10 
      Sura 16:65
      Sura 20:53
      Sura 21:30
      Sura 22:05
      Sura 22:63
      Sura 23:18
      Sura 25:48-49
      Sura 27:60
      Sura 29:63
      Sura 30:24
      Sura 31:10-11
      Sura 32:27
      Sura 35:27
      Sura 39:21
      Sura 41:39
      Sura 43:11
      Sura 50:09
      Sura 56:68 to 70
      Sura 78:14
      These all above speaks of Water being from Allah so those thinking of Trees should forget about it since it is useless with out a drop of water. I wish if you would read to discover what else about Rain water in our lives, what a challage God has for us and for those looking for a Marathon kindly join in. Thanks

      October 2, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  6. hillary

    Our right to bear arms is a right given to us when we needed protection from the British troops during the revolutionary war. I am not too worried about British troops but I am worried about loser thugs breaking into my home and putting a gun into my face to rob me of my belongings. I am worried because this happened to me. Forget hunting, its all about lazy, thug jerks that want to make the easy dollar or get revenge. Guns, knives and crazy, unstable people are awful and they do not need access to guns, ever. I'm just sick of it. People kill people with guns, and rob people and those people do not deserve rights.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
    • peace2all


      I agree with your post whole-heartedly..... And attempting to determine the 'crazy and unstable' one's, unless they are either in jail, or in some kind of insti–tuiton would be a bit difficult to discern, as well as attempting to take their rights away from them, as well as weapons.

      Again, I am all for it... and agree with your post.... As I also come from a family of 'law-enforcement'... I would love to hear your plan of how to do this.....?


      October 1, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • Muneef

      @hillary. So much agree with you in some of your views but wondering if you are to take them of the streets it means building them Prisons that at times are few stars hotel with free meals all that costing the government a lot of money but prisoners never become better and some learn more evil in prisons. So you are stuck with them both ways? So I am sorry to say that since there is no fear of breaking laws continuously and repeatedly then the only choice is to apply Sharia laws and only then will the Sheep sleep under the shadow of a wolf. In my country since the republic laws has taken over the Sharia laws things since has changed and no longer feared causing corruption's and crimes of all sorts. God has all ready told us how to deal with the situation in the Holy book of God the Torah and bet Christianity had some thing but the Quran has it all but it's people have stopped doing it in the name of some rights and now over flow with such people who latter at most probably become as Organized Crime Gangs or Pirates or Terrorists. Except those who repent and go the right path. But many do not like the word Sharia and do not want it to be applied so there is no other choice but accept all that and live with it's moments of happiness,fears and sorrows.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
    • Muneef

      @hillary. No need to compare it with Sharia in other Islamic countries which are not doing it right nor study it well, as in my personal view that at the times these laws were introduced the situation in those countries were quite different and Jail might have not been a common thing but now it is possible to give moderating it by giving chances and leave as the final option to cure society from filth is to apply the Sharia law card.

      October 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
  7. hillary

    Our right to bear arms is a right given to us when we needed protection from the British troops during the revolutionary war. I am not too worried about British troops but I am worried about loser thugs breaking into my home and putting a gun into my face to rob me of my belongings. I am worried because this happened to me. Forget hunting, its all about lazy, thug jerks that want to make the easy dollar or get revenge. Guns, knives and crazy, unstable people are awful and they do not need access to guns, ever.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  8. Muneef

    Wise words.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • Muneef

      Another wise words.

      October 1, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  9. Dancing With Trolls


    If you're "not sure where the poster got his info" then you might want to validate it for yourself rather than accept what he's offering without question...

    CDC vrs. WHO vrs UN vrs. Brady vrs NRA.... and guess what .. the numbers are all different. Some age-adjusted, some inclusive of suicide or war wounded, some not, some in terms of a % per 100,000 of population, some in terms of rural vrs. urban.. the list goes on.

    Do you have any idea how many times that guns were used effectively as defensive deterrents by private citizens? Do you know where to find this information?

    If I could concealed-carry a TASER I would – but that's a physical impossibility. Contact stun guns are too dangerous because you have to get close to use one. OC or CS spray is ineffective; It can back-spray, jam, be blocked by hand, or be stripped from you. If an attacker has ever been sprayed (like all of the military and police personnel have been.. repeatedly) it's not really an effective surprise..

    So I carry a .38, and so does my wife. Concealment isn't a problem, revolvers don't jam, and a bad guy is less likely to attempt a takeaway. The b@stards are going to damage you anyway... Or, you can simply move to a state that has a progressive concealed-carry law. You don't even have to carry a gun... you can just mooch the benefit off of those of us that do. The crime rates in our state are comparatively very low... unless you live in the cities.

    This is one of the most complex issues in our country. Please research and validate the 'statistics' for yourself. They are usually manipulated to the benefits of the reporter. (Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics... ) Consider both sides of the issue. Most importantly.. ask a cop, preferably in a state that authorizes concealed-carry. Ask someone you know in any branch of law enforcement on the state, county, or city forces. But don't bother a Fed – depending on their agency, opinions there may differ.. But you may get a response similar to what my relative (a fed..) said to me when I asked him what he thought of citizen concealed carry... "I officially cannot confirm or deny... " with a smile.

    October 1, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  10. WomenOnGuard

    The article was not very interesting until I got to the amount of people list, killed by guns around the world!!! This is UNBELIEVABLE! I'm not sure where this poster got his information, but it sure opened my eye.
    A GOOD THING: Cops now use TASERS so they kill far fewer people than they use to, since they don't use guns as much now. I'm all for non-lethal weapons and a believer that only police officers should carry firearms and only in life threatening situations.

    October 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • Frank

      Tasers DO kill people. They deliver 50,000 volts of electicity to those unlucky enough to be on the other side. The pigs (yes, PIGS!) use them on people with heart conditions, elderly people (including those on respirators!!) and even children. There have been numerous deaths from the use of tasers.

      October 2, 2010 at 7:18 am |
    • Frank


      October 2, 2010 at 7:20 am |
  11. Dr Bill Toth

    Shane apparently has joined the group that ignores the facts and harps on the emotional and irrational imagery relating to guns.
    How about we have him go speak with people who lived in Poland in 1938 and 1939.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  12. JJ

    Wow! These guns sound dangerous. They just kill people for no reason. I mean look at the quote-
    In 2006, guns killed
    ...and 10,177 in the United States
    We need to do something about these guns! Wait. What? Oh guns are inanimate objects that only be used to hurt people because other people are operating them. Well then, nevermind.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:14 am |
  13. Keith

    Frank, Are you just as sick of seeing millions of defenseless babies aborted every year? You know the same as you are by another news story of a kid being gunned down?

    October 1, 2010 at 7:23 am |
    • Frank

      Of course. As a Catholic, I am called to respect life. I am also against the death penalty and war.

      October 1, 2010 at 7:32 am |
  14. Frank

    Goodnight, Muneef. Hahaha.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:37 am |
  15. honestanon

    @ Muneef

    Don't you have to go to work? What time is it there, about 9 AM?

    October 1, 2010 at 2:58 am |
    • Muneef

      @Honestanon. Hi how are you so sign of you for couple of days now. Actually I am finding difficulty to giving it up it is becoming like addiction and my sleep flys away so I am with out sleep up to now but after all it is Friday today and no work for us. It is already afternoon at our time now.

      October 1, 2010 at 5:27 am |
    • Muneef

      Well guess will retire now and get some sleep so bye now.

      October 1, 2010 at 5:35 am |
  16. Muneef

    @Frank. Well said thank you.

    October 1, 2010 at 2:38 am |
    • Frank

      You're welcome. May the peace of God be with you always.

      October 1, 2010 at 2:42 am |
  17. Muneef

    The following signs are ascribed to Ali in the forthcoming of Dajjal:[5]
    People will stop offering the prayers
    Dishonesty will be the way of life
    Falsehood will become a virtue
    People will mortgage their faith for worldly gains
    Usury and bribery will become legitimate
    Imbeciles would rule over the wise
    Blood of innocents would be shed
    Pride will be taken on acts of oppression
    The rulers will be corrupt
    The scholars will be hypocrites
    Adultery will be rampant
    The liars and treacherous will be respected
    There will be acute famine at the time
    There will be no shame amongst people
    Children would challenge their mothers
    Youngsters would perform marital relationship with their mothers
    Many people would worship Satan
    there would be no respect for elder people
    [edit]Defeat and death
    [edit]Sunni beliefs
    As before, through the medium of the Hadith, the event of Isa’s (Jesus Christ) return and all that follows has been accurately recorded. He will descend on Mount Afeeq, on the white Eastern Minaret of Damascus. He will descend from the heavens with his hands resting on the shoulders of two angels[6]. His cheeks will be flat and his hair straight. When he lowers his head it will seem as if water is flowing from his hair, when he raises his head, it will appear as though his hair is beaded with silvery pearls[7]. He will descend during the time of Fajr and the leader of the Muslims will address him thus, ‘O`Prophet of Allah, lead the prayer.’
    Isa will decline with the words, ‘The virtue of this nation that follows Islam is that they lead each other.’ Implying that he will pray behind the imam (leader of the Muslims) as the deen of Allah was completed after revelation of Qur'an and Muhammad being the last prophet of Allah[8].
    After the prayer, Isa will prepare himself to do battle and shall take up a spear. An army shall return from a campaign launched before the arrival of Isa. Isa shall set out in pursuit of Dajjal. All those who embraced the evil of Dajjal shall perish even as the breath of Isa touches them. The breath of Isa shall precede him as far as the eye can see. Dajjal will be captured at Lud. The Dark Messiah shall begin to melt, as salt dissolves in water. The spear of Isa shall plunge into Dajjal’s chest, ending his dreaded reign[9]. The followers of Dajjal will be rooted out, for even the trees and rocks will speak out against them. Isa will break the cross and kill pig (the animal), which will be an indication that his teaching did not include legitimacy of these two. Then all battles shall cease and the world will know an age of peace. Then truly the sheep will lie in the shadow of the wolf without fear. The rule of Isa will be just and all shall flock to him to enter the folds of the one true religion, Islam.

    October 1, 2010 at 2:22 am |
    • Frank

      Well, as I am Catholic, I cannot agree with you completely on this. But think you for this posting. It is informative and for the most part, correct in its estimation of the state of this world. Personally, I believe the most important thing is to turn your heart toward the Creator and prepare for eternity by striving for righteousness through good works, spiritual study and spiritual exercise, no matter the religion. The Church believes that they all have at least some truth in them (except utterly false 'religions' like the Anton LaVey created Church of Satan and its ilk for obvious reasons). We are to view Muslims as our brothers and sisters in the worship of God. Same for Jews. So God bless you, brother. God will sort everything else out.

      October 1, 2010 at 2:36 am |
  18. Frank

    Oh, okay. That's heresy. Jesus isn't going to kill anyone. God does not destroy His creation. To think that He would is craziness. He will change it and make it perfect again, but not destroy it. What they're doing is taking some verses in Revelation out of context and misinterpreting them.

    October 1, 2010 at 2:12 am |
  19. Muneef

    Sorry a spelling mistake it meant to chase and kill. Any way take this like to know what is it all about:

    October 1, 2010 at 2:07 am |
  20. Muneef

    Although if you make search on google for the words the corrupted messiah you will get many links but not sure if of the same thing.

    October 1, 2010 at 1:51 am |
    • Frank

      Change and kill people? Sounds like something a backwoods fundamentalist church would teach.

      October 1, 2010 at 1:55 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.