The psalms include a lovely image about sleeping peacefully: "I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:8).

Have you ever lain awake at night, trying to fall asleep, listening to every creak of the house, every gust of wind, strange noises that you can't identify? Do you worry at night, ruminating about something that happened that day or an upcoming event that you dread? In the dark solitude of night, things get out of proportion and fear can overwhelm us.

Safety is a primary concern for every family. We want to be able to rest at night, send our children to school, shop at the mall, go to a worship service, or attend a concert in peace and safety. We don't want to have to worry that our family won't be safe.

Those natural yearnings for peace and safety get rudely interrupted by gun violence. When a gunman enters a school and shoots students and teachers indiscriminately, our confidence in the safety of our schools is destroyed. The fun of a concert or movie is marred by the fear that an armed person might suddenly assault the unsuspecting crowds. Places of faith, with open doors welcoming all, are particularly vulnerable to malicious attack. One can hardly remember all the recent episodes of mass shootings, so frequently have they burst upon our national consciousness.

The less visible cases of gun violence have an even greater toll than mass shootings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented nearly 40,000 gun deaths in the United States in 2017. More than half of those — over 23,000 deaths — were suicides. Over 14,000 were homicides. In 2016, some 1,700 women were killed in the United States by men they knew, and a gun was the most common weapon (via the Violence Policy Center). Sometimes women buy a gun for self-protection, but a gun in the house is much more likely to be used to hurt them.

Surely our country can do better at reducing such disturbing instances of gun violence! A recent study at Boston University by Dr. Michael Siegel compared gun deaths to state gun regulations. Siegel found that states with three types of gun regulations had a 35% lower rate of gun deaths. Those three types were (1) universal background checks, including online sales, private sales, and gun shows; (2) no gun sales to anyone with any sort of violent conviction; and (3) requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Several more regulations have been proposed by a coalition of Episcopal bishops, Bishops United Against Gun Violence. They recommend that safety training and a license be required before purchasing a gun, just as we require for drivers. They also recommend regulations on storing guns safely, and requiring the police to confiscate weapons when a domestic violence restraining order has been issued.

To reduce the terrible toll of suicide, a waiting period to purchase a gun might allow despondent people time to come to their senses and get help.

These are all common-sense measures to reduce gun deaths. They do not take guns away from law-abiding citizens who handle firearms safely. They would protect the police as well as ordinary citizens. Many of them are already the law in Massachusetts, and the fortunate result is that the rate of gun deaths in our state is lower than in many other states.

True safety does not come from weapons. True safety comes from trusting in the Lord, and using our God-given intelligence to take reasonable measures to make our society as safe as possible. Then perhaps we all will sleep better at night! 

The Rev. Susan H. Lee is rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Fall River.