Submission to Bishop Susan’s message: “For the Sake of God’s Kingdom” by Jerry Coughlan

Dear Bishop Susan,

Thank you for your message. It is beautiful and sets out some important points.  I waited to write to see if my anger would lessen, but it has not. So here goes. The gun violence issue is personal to me. For a decade from the early seventies until early 80s I prosecuted dozens, maybe hundreds,  of gun related cases in DC and San Diego ranging from simple possession of illegal guns to shooting assaults, armed robberies and murders. I visited the scenes of shootings and murders many times; I attended autopsies, interviewed shooting victims and surviving family members of murder victims.  I tried many gun violence cases. In one case I put on the testimony of a shooting victim who had been rendered a quadriplegic when a bullet severed his spinal cord. He testified lying on his back from a gurney in the well of the courtroom. Several jurors cried during his testimony.

In 1981 I prosecuted two San Diego teenage boys (aged 16 and 18) who murdered four people including a two year old. They fired three guns including a semi-automatic hand gun 21 times into the four people. One of the boys got the guns from his home-his father had taught him to shoot. Jurors cried multiple time during this trial. In 1981 this mass murder was the worst in San Diego’s history. Today it is an everyday occurrence.  

In addition, I was robbed at gunpoint in Georgetown; believe me, one never forgets a handgun aimed at your face from two feet away.  It never occurred to me while I was doing this work that we would loosen rather than tighten gun laws and would become the most dangerous advanced country in the world or that guns would become the leading cause of death for children in the United States. I recently told friends that if I had young kids today I would move to a safer country.

When I see the likes of Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott smugly, callously and knowingly mislead Americans about gun violence I cannot contain my anger. They and their allies, especially the gun industry and NRA, have caused the deaths of and injuries to thousands of Americans just as if they squeezed the triggers.  The republican Supreme Court bears lots of blame too-Justice Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller creating a personal right to posses guns is one of the most dishonest Supreme Court opinions in our history.

Next month the Supreme Court will likely make it yet more difficult for states and localities to regulate guns on their streets and protect the public.  Sickening!  Unless we all stand up to politicians promoting gun violence in favor of more dollars for the industry and themselves and throw them out of office we will see increasing deaths and injuries from guns in the United States.

Jerry Coughlan

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7 thoughts on “Submission to Bishop Susan’s message: “For the Sake of God’s Kingdom” by Jerry Coughlan”

  1. Thank you, Jerry. I totally agree. The gun violence is out of hand and I see no hope with the current Supreme Court and Senate.

  2. Heartfelt, Jerry.

    the only tool we have is to mobilize and VOTE as if our lives depend on it…. Because they do. If we do not succeed in forcefully rebuking and rejecting these enablers of hate, there is no future left.

  3. Thank you very much for your informed reflection on this plague that is destroying the social fabric of our nation, Jerry. We the people are the only ones that can do anything in the situation. Unfortunately, our elected representatives are opposing what needs to be done and we are watching as the Supreme Court becomes just another political instrument in our three branched government.

  4. How telling and tragic that the Uvalde, TX, police officers left the building after they initially engaged the shooter, presumably because they were outmatched by the AR-15-style weapon of war being used to slaughter these precious children. When the police are outmatched on a daily basis by the guns our country legally condones for private purchase and public mayhem, something has gone uncontrollably wrong. “Individual rights” are surely wrongs when innocent lives are regularly sacrificed for their wild expression. Our Christian faith teaches and empowers us to protect “the least of these,” those who cannot protect themselves, against all who would abuse them. Hope resists while hopelessness adapts. And so we keep the faith until we get a world preferable to the one that has become all too predictable…

  5. Do any of us think that St. Paul’s can or should be a force toward curtailing gun violence? If so, in what ways?

  6. Powerful letter! I hope you will consider publishing in the New York Times Op-ed section or elsewhere and leading an adult forum on this or related topic at SPC.


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