HB40 Statement - Rev. James D. Brown



NOVEMBER 19, 2009

I am the Rev. James D. Brown, pastor of the Market Square Presbyterian Church here in Harrisburg.  The denomination to which I belong, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), at its most recent national meeting adopted this pastoral recommendation for all Presbyterians.  We are encouraged to: "monitor diligently the political processes in cities, states, and the nation for opportunities to work for the passage of laws that control gun access and to seize those opportunities to support legislation that will make our streets, schools, and places of worship free from gun violence."

It is in this spirit that I come before you today to argue that HB 40 does not meet the standard of lessening gun violence in our nation.  To the contrary, to grant a legal right to use lethal force, including gunfire, against any person felt to be threatening, is an open invitation for more carnage in a country where 80 persons die from guns every day, including an average of 8 children.  Are you aware of a finding by the FBI that the family handgun purchased for protection is 22 times more likely to be used against a family member or friend than to stop an intruder?

To take the life of another person is a soul-shuddering event.  Presbyterians believe in the right of self-defense, but we also believe in a common sense philosophy of life.  To turn our citizenry loose with a shoot first, ask questions later approach in a day and age when we are awash in handguns in a city like Harrisburg is an endorsement of ever increasing violence as a way of life.  We citizens are not equipped in terms of training or temperament to make life and death decisions in this fashion.

I’ll use one pastoral illustration out of my ministry.  I counseled a police officer who was called into a domestic dispute and in the confusion and violence of that situation shot and killed a man.  He was placed on leave and then exonerated.  But he spent the rest of his life agonizing over what he had done.  Had he fired too quickly?  Was his a necessary use of lethal force?

Here was a man with superior training who killed another human being and was left with agonizing doubt.  Surely we can’t expect our untrained citizenry to exercise the necessary common sense and good judgment to make the life and death decisions required if HB 40 were to become law.  I urge you to vote no.