The Five Episcopal Bishops of Pennsylvania drafted a letter to state legislators, highlighting four ways that they can help to address gun violence:
One Handgun A Month: The one handgun a month restriction would dramatically increase the challenge of straw purchasing and illegal handgun trafficking for gun traffickers, which significantly reduces the flow of illegal handguns into streets and neighborhoods, thereby saving lives from gun murder, a proven strategy that has been successfully implemented in other states.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO): Judicial orders for the temporary removal of fire-arms from persons deemed dangerous to themselves and/or others. Family members, neighbors, friends, and police may seek these orders from a judge.
Prohibition on sales/possession of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines: Certain military style semi-automatic firearms are designed and manufactured to enable very powerful and rapid firing and to hold magazines of thirty or more bullets. Mass gun murders are usually committed with these assault weapons, which are too dangerous for civil society.
Prohibition on sales/possession of ghost guns: Parts of guns and kits of parts are available for purchase in Pennsylvania, enabling the assembly of guns that have no identifying markings or information. These ghost guns are exceedingly difficult to trace, thereby making the solving of gun crimes extremely difficult for law enforcement.
In addition, Episcopalians were invited and encouraged to participate in a gathering in the lower Rotunda of the State Capitol building on Monday, March 6 and show their support of such legislation. Speakers included The Rev. Jennifer Mattson, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Audrey C. Scanlan, The Rev. Canon Toneh Smith, Mr. Bryan Miller, Canon Anthony Alexander, and Rabbi Carl Choper. Heeding God’s Call, a faith based nonprofit focused on the issue of gun violence, was also present.
I felt it was important for me to be there for three reasons-as the ECS Chaplain, a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, and as a postulant for the vocational diaconate. The Interim Rector of my church, Trinity Solebury, The Rev. Richard Burnett, also attended.
I was disappointed that there wasn’t a stronger presence at the rally. For me, it was symbolic of one of the challenges around this issue-lack of engagement. Rabbi Choper shared this sentiment with verse Leviticus 19:16: “You shall not go about spreading slander among your people; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake”. The Philadelphia area and, truly, the nation, is experiencing an epidemic. It is an epidemic of unlimited access to guns, all kinds of guns, with the singular purpose of taking another’s life. If we, all of us, do not begin to take this issue seriously, to “stop standing idly by”, we will be guaranteed to live in the midst of perpetual violence and loss.
Whatever the next step is, I plan to participate. And if no next step is clearly defined, I will figure out what it should be. The mission and vision of ECS is to challenge intergenerational poverty. Equipping the marginalized to access fair housing, fair wages, financial management, quality education and healthcare helps to reduce the level of strife, crisis and desperation that contributes to gun violence. However, it is only one part of the solution. Legislation is another important way to help reduce gun violence. We ALL need to be part of the solution! And we need to keep persisting. One rally isn’t enough.
To view photos from the rally, click here.