STONY POINT, NY (Presbyterian Peace Fellowship press release) – Thursday, December 14, 2017 is Gun Violence Awareness Day across the United States.It is also the fifth anniversary of the shooting deaths of 20 first graders and six school staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. “In the five years since Sandy Hook, over 165,000 Americans have been killed by gun violence. That’s three times as many Americans as died in the whole Vietnam War,” says Presbyterian Pastor Margery Rossi. “During this time, Congress has done nothing to make us safer. They just acted in the House to make America a more dangerous place by endorsing interstate concealed carry. This must change.” On Dec. 10-14, local Presbyterians across the nation are engaging in action for that very change. Rossi chairs the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a national grassroots group of Presbyterians formed in 1944 to promote alternatives to violence. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has called for meaningful gun safety actions since 1968, and public support for strong gun violence prevention steps remains one of the highest areas of citizen agreement. A 2017 poll of gun owners reveals that 80% of gun owners support universal background checks on all gun sales, a key aspect of Presbyterian Church (USA) proposals to prevent gun violence. See poll results at https://giffords.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/GunOwnerResults.pdf This year, the Peace Fellowship is coordinating actions for Gun Violence Awareness Day. A sampling of actions includes:
- The First United Church of Oak Park, IL/Chicago, in a city with extreme levels of gun violence, will join other Protestant and Catholic churches in Chicago in ringing their church bells 26 times on Dec. 14, 2017 at 9:35 A.M., symbolizing the 20 first-graders and six school staff killed at the Sandy Hook school, with gunshots starting at approximately 9:35 A.M on December 14, 2012.
- In Atlanta, Georgia, Trinity Presbyterian Church will host a public vigil to call for action to improve and expand the background check system for gun purchases, in conjunction with Outcry Atlanta: Interfaith Voices Against Gun Violence.
- At Yorktown Presbyterian Church in Yorktown Heights, NY, special prayers during worship and a letter-writing opportunity for church members after the service were offered on Sunday Dec. 10. These letters urge elected officials to re-instate the expired ban on military-style assault weapons and to instate a ban on large ammunition clips that enable a shooter to kill many human beings in a very short time, as at the recent mass shootings in Las Vegas, NV and in Sutherland Springs, TX.
- Rev. Emily Brewer, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, will join PPF members Rev. Jim Atwood and Rev. Rhonda Kruse, and clergy of many denominations for a Clergy Witness at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association on Dec. 14 in Fairfax, VA to call upon the U.S. Senate to reject the interstate concealed-carry legislation that the NRA pushed through the House last week. The vigil is sponsored by Faiths United Against Gun Violence.
- On Dec. 14 the Peace Fellowship will sponsor a social media campaign to call attention to the need for universal background checks and other reasonable steps to make America safer.
The “No Guns in God’s House” Sign Project. On June 12, 2017, the first anniversary of the Orlando, Florida Pulse nightclub shooting, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship called upon local Presbyterian congregations and church-owned properties to post signs such as the “No Guns in God’s House” signage recommended by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). So far, PPF has documented 36 churches that have done so, including the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Arlington, TX, St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ, and First Presbyterian Church of Morgantown WV. While many Catholic and Episcopal dioceses have posted signs to ban guns in all their churches by action of a presiding bishop, in the Presbyterian Church, each individual congregation studies the issue and decides for itself. It is a careful and deliberative process for each church. Ironically, these initial 36 churches with signs recall the 36,000 Americans who died from gun violence in 2016. Coordinated by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, The Sign Project continues to work with congregations across the nation to display these signs as a witness against the proliferation of guns in American society. More information about The Sign Project can be found at The Sign Project
Formed in 1944, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is a nation-wide community of Presbyterians who seek to apply the nonviolence of Jesus Christ to violence in the world today. PPF works to implement 50 years of official Presbyterian Church policy in support of reasonable gun laws to prevent murders, accidents, suicides and injuries. To sign up for the Peace Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention on-line newsletter for Presbyterians, contact Jan Orr-Harter at [email protected] or 817-291-3952.