Alumni Posts

The Prophetic: Keep the Guns from Blazing — Student Gregg Hunter (“The Herald” 11/10/15)

In case you haven’t picked it up yet, here’s the newest edition of the Herald!  Inside, student and Herald writer Gregg Hunter reflects on the documentary “Trigger: The Ripple Effects of Gun Violence” screened at McCormick Days.

In 2015, gun violence continues to plague major U.S. cities and claim hundreds of lives as communities, police and governments struggle to find ways to combat this epidemic. At McCormick Days 2015, David Barnhart screened his documentary Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence, which chronicled heartbreaking tales of the effects of gun violence and how people cope with the deaths of loved ones and fight for justice on the issue.

The film highlights how gun violence affects more than just the victim and the victim’s family. Gun violence rips a hole through everyone involved in the shooting, from the surgeons to the police officers to the surviving family members, getting tangled in a web of guilt and cynicism. Surviving family members live with a sense of shame that they couldn’t do more to protect their loved ones; surgeons and police officers grow numb to the number of shootings and deaths, especially of young men of color. Christian Heyne, one of the subjects in the film, said that moving on after losing a loved one to gun violence is, “Like living with an open wound and that time heals nothing.”


While it is easy and, in some circles, popular to focus on the single deaths of victims and view the problem as an issue of legality, the film puts forward an alternative view of gun violence as a public health issue. The standard gun violence narrative places the setting of the story in urban neighborhoods rife with crime. Since the problem only occurs in urban, mostly racial minority occupied neighborhoods and not the safer, generally whiter, suburban, communities, most people think that gun violence will never affect them.

However, gun violence knows no bounds and can strike anywhere at anytime. These deaths occur in suburbia and in inner cities, linked together like beads in a necklace. When viewed solely as a legal issue, it becomes easier to focus on one area and demographic than to see the bigger picture. One of the subjects in the film cites that 30,000 people die from gun violence each year, yet very little research has been conducted to offer explanations.

So how can we stop the violence as people of faith? Tackling gun legislation and gun dealers, suggests Barnhart. The current legislation for guns does not have gaps, but loopholes and these loopholes allow for gun dealers to generate revenue and avoid questioning into their business practices regarding whom they sell firearms to. One audience member, a former gang member himself, said that kids are locked up for life but the firearms dealer isn’t touched. In the film, people spoke of moving the argument on gun control away from disarmament and toward accountability from gun dealers and gun owners. As one subject put it, “To heed God’s call is not about gun legislation but stemming the flow of violence.”

After the screening, I spoke briefly with Mr. Barnhart about why he got involved in the larger gun violence debate and took on this project, funded by the Presbyterian Church USA. He stated that he had “become numb to the shootings” and that “society has accepted this as the norm.” Barnhart’s film shined a light on gun violence in a way that humanized the issue and challenged all audience members to confront the reality that gun violence, especially in a Chicago, is the norm and there is measure of numbness when another violent death occurs.

If you would like to learn more about gun violence and how to get involved in the gun control debate at your church, go to to request a screening kit.

10612631_10204731703403398_2830120250745821314_nStudent Gregg Hunter is a writer for “The Herald,” and a Fellow at McCormick’s Center for Faith and Service.