Cathedral dean leads assault-weapon ban press conference in prayer

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jan 24, 2013

GaryHall[Episcopal News Service] The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, was among those who joined Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) on Capitol Hill Jan. 24 as she announced the introduction of a bill to renew the U.S. ban on assault weapons.

Hall, who was the first person to speak after Feinstein began the press conference at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, said he has spoken in the pulpit, in the media, with fellow faith leaders and “people in my own church” against gun violence.

“Now we have come to the end of the preaching part of our work and we are moving forward with a tangible solution to the epidemic today as we stand with Senator Feinstein and her Congressional colleagues as they introduce this assault weapons ban,” he said.

Hall said people of faith have a “moral obligation” to stand with and for the victims of gun violence and work to end it.

“Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby,” Hall said, “but I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby, especially when we stand together as people of all faiths across the religious landscape of America.”

“I don’t want to take away someone’s hunting rifle but I can longer justify a society that allows people other than military and police to own weapons like these,” he said, pointing to a display of weapons that would be banned under the proposed bill, “or permits the sale of high-capacity magazines designed with the purpose of simply killing as many people as possible.”

Hall called the particulars of the Assault Weapon Ban of 2013 a set of “consensual, middle-of-the-road, common-sense legal actions.”

He then led the press conference in prayer, asking in part that God give compassion, vision, courage and wisdom to U.S. leaders and citizens. He noted that God had given humans “hearts with which to feel the pain of others and minds to create solutions for human suffering.”

Feinstein then described her bill, saying she was “incensed” that gun massacres are happening again and again, perpetrated by “grievance killers,” gang members and those who are mentally unstable or ill.

“The common thread in these shootings is that each gunman used a semi-automatic assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition magazines,” she said.

Such equipment has one original purpose: to kill many people in close-combat military settings, she said. Since the last assault-weapons ban expired in 2004, more than 350 people have been killed and more than 450 wounded by such equipment, according to Feinstein.

“We should be outraged at how easy it was for these perpetrators to obtain powerful military-style weapons,” she said.

The bill would prohibit the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of assault weapons and large-capacity feeding devices that can accept more than 10 rounds. The bill bans 158 specifically named military-style weapons; certain other semi-automatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one or more military characteristics; and semi-automatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds.

It also moves from the two-characteristic test in the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans to a one-characteristic test, thus making it harder for weapons manufacturers to modify guns to escape the ban, Feinstein said.

Saying the proposed ban will have no effect on hunting and sporting weapons, she noted that it specifically names 2,200 such weapons that would be exempt.

Targeted weapons legally possessed at the time the ban goes into effect would be grandfathered but their possession would be subject to background checks if they are later sold or transferred, she said.

“No weapon is taken from anyone,” Feinstein said. “The purpose is to dry up the supply over time.”

Other details are on Feinstein’s website here.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-New York), who will take the lead on the bill in the House of Representatives, told the press conference that the fight against gun violence has been a “very lonely battle for many years.”

McCarthy was elected to Congress in 1997, four years after her husband, Dennis, was killed and her son, Kevin, severely injured on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train when Colin Ferguson opened fire on passengers.

“I’ve watched the slaughter of so many people and met with so many victims over the years and in Congress nobody wanted to touch the issue,” she said.

However, she said “something happened” after Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. There is renewed attention and intention to end gun violence, McCarthy said, but she added that 1,000 people have died from gunshots in the U.S. since that day.

She said the assault-weapons ban has to be “only the beginning” of what she called a holistic approach. Young people must be helped to avoid drugs and to deal with their psychological problems “so they don’t feel they have to take a gun to kill themselves or take down some of their classmates,” McCarthy said.

Also at the press conference were Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado), Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, as well as victims of gun violence and law enforcement officers and representatives of gun safety organizations and doctor and teacher organizations.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (30)


    During the last few years l have cried over the loss of innocent people due to gun violence. My heart breaks again and again for the killer as well but in the case of Adam Lanza. l hurt for his dead mother ,the mother Adam murdered who never seems to be mentioned as well as his father and brother who live with the pain of Adam’s killing innocent children and adults everyday. Who is mourning the loss of Nancy Lanza. Who is comfortiing them at this difficult time. The family will never be the same again. They will always live the the shadow of the cruel act of violence. LET US PRAY FOR AND ACKNOWLEDGE ALL THE VICTIMS OF GUN VIOLENCE IN DAILY .

  2. Thomas Bair says:

    ‘The purpose of this legislation is to dry up the supply over time’, Diane Feinstein.

    Would there had been at least one mention of the God given right to keep and bear arms during this presser. Why is this God given right never mentioned by the Clergy? Why not one mention of all the many instances where guns, all types of guns, are used to protect citizens?

    Our Founders wisely provided the basis and the means for confronting tyrannical force with force. As citizens we face the same lethality that law enforcement does and we must be able to meet that it with equal or greater lethality to protect our lives and property. I believe this legislation subverts the Constitution deliberately. Examine the history of gun registration and gun confiscation, ( for which this is the groundwork) and you will see a river of the blood the souls who succumed to tyrants.

    I inheirited a proud tradition of freedom in the 2nd Amendment. I can only hope, pray and work for its continuance. I am not about to stand silent while the Constitution is ignored or circumvented.


    1. Peter Bartram says:

      Where in Biblical or other authority are we to find that possessing weapons such as assault rifles and automatic handguns designed solely to kill God’s children (human beings of any age) is a “God given right?”

    2. Tracy Calder says:

      I’m with you Tom. I have a basic human right to protect myself, and I intend to do everything possible to defend that against unreasonable people who have an agenda to fulfill. Law-abiding gun owners everywhere are just as keenly interested in stopping criminal violence, but their voices have been shut out of all debate. I am tired of being labelled as an extremist for the basic act of standing up for myself.

      Jesus did not teach victimhood. I can turn the other cheek at an insult, and I can let a man steal my worldly things, but when a criminal points a gun at me or my family with the intent to use it, I do not need to ask for the right to defense; it belongs to me. The state government has shown a willingness to circumvent the normal review and comment procedure in order to rush a law through, and the end result is very bad legislation which tramples on my already-infringed rights. How is this justice?

      I have said it elsewhere and I will say it many times going forward; I am troubled by the church’s positions here, and I am concerned that the anti-gun sentiment will lead to more people leaving the church. While that may please some parishioners to no end, it does not serve Jesus to have fewer hands available to do his work in the Episcopal church.

  3. Rev. Dan Lediard, Priest - St John's - Hermiston Oregon says:

    As a man, a husband, a father, a grand-pa, a priest, and a Vietnam era veteran, I deeply thank all those who were involved with this most important conference and the subsequent delivery to those of us around the world. This “movement” is not about taking away hunting and self-defense arms. It is about doing something which must be done. This is about our children and our grandchildren. It is about sharing that God-given love for all creation. It is not a Christian Movement, nor is it a Republican or Democrat movement; and it is not a movement by those “stinking Liberals.” It is about love. It is about respecting the dignity of all persons, and it is about the same responsibilities we all share – those being the proper care and love of all creation. Yes, it is a time for compromise. It is a time to put away the absurd paranoia of having “those people” ignoring our Constitutional Rights and thereby taking away all of our weapons. Paranoia and fear must be moved aside (or disolved?) so as to not hinder that which we are called by God to do. To those who are offended by my words I offer that I am a moderate citizen, a defensive-type handgun owner, and one who served as an armed member of our military forces. The time is now. May we come together to accomplish that which must be done? This accomplishment must be done for the protection of all children – everywhere. Shalom….

    1. Theron Patrick says:

      Evil exists. That is a bold and not Politically Correct statement. The killing field in Connecticut is at point. An evil man killed his mother, 20 children and 6 adults. Note that I said an evil man. I did not say an evil system, a failed system, the government, an evil thing etc. It was the evil act of a man. His sole intent was to cause the most anguish and go out infamously. Evil cannot reside in an object. It cannot reside in a system. It can only reside in a soul.

      It is not Politically Correct because somehow over much of the past century a part of the population has developed the belief that “the government” is responsible for and has the power to protect the individual, particularly the children, from harm. To attribute this murder to a single evil man, who is dead signals a failure of “the government” to meet that expectation and allows no target for revenge. A demand that the government “do something” is heard across the land. “If only the government would do ______” then this would not have happened” is the cry and is nonsense.

      Unfortunately there is damn little that “the Government” can do. The second half of new(ish) belief that “the government has the power to protect the individual, particularly the children, from harm” is not only wrong it is stupid. The primary persons responsible for our own security is We. That does not stop many in Government from trying. The results are many times useless and often worse than doing nothing. With great fanfare the folks at local, state and federal levels as well as corporations and other institutions turned many places into “weapon free zones.” Of course the law and policy that prohibits guns, knives, pepper spray ect. in certain places means nothing to evil.

      The effect of this law and policy at the killing fields in Sandy Hook is that the courageous men and women that stood up to evil had been disarmed by their own state so that they had no chance of stopping him but could only sacrifice their lives to slow evil down and give the children a few more seconds to escape. But the cry goes out from a few people that we have to do something. There is no target for revenge. So they say it is the evil black guns that are the problem. They say it is the 30 round magazines that is the problem. They say it is the Mental Health system that is the problem. They say it is the video games that cause the problem. Nonsense. The gun control initiatives, like the “weapon free zones” are simply politicians/ policy makers making noise so that they can say they did something. The Mental Health system could use some attention and cash, but not just because of Sandy Hook. Trying to censor video games and/or movies is a fool’s errand.

      Please don’t “do something.” Join me in saluting the courageous women of Sandy Hook and praying for the souls of the innocent. (I try to leave the judgment of the evil to Him.) Then proceed with caution, thought and prayer.

      I suggest that much like we have done with pilots, we permit the staffs of our schools to be armed. My wife was in Education for 40 years and I pity the evil man that would threaten her “kids” if she were allowed to be armed. In this area like many areas of the citizen’s life we need to get the government out of the way. (Not a new thought on my part, Mr. Jefferson expressed this concept many times and is most often quoted “the government that governs least governs best, because the people discipline themselves.”)

      For the Dean to infer that I as part of the 4 1/2 million Americans that are members of the NRA am somehow responsible for the evil acts of the killers such as in the one in CT is reprehensible.

      Theron Patrick, Commander USCG (Ret.)

      1. Thomas Bair says:

        Here, here!

  4. Joseph F Foster says:

    The Second Ammendment to the Constitution of the United States is not about hunting.

  5. Frank Bergen says:

    My theology is surely outdated, or is it my U.S. constitutional history? I am totally unaware of any God-given right to keep and bear arms. I can’t think of any such right spelled out in the Scriptures, or in the Fathers, Mothers and Doctors of the Church. I don’t think James Madison relied on divine authority in drafting the Second Amendment and I suspect he’d be appalled by the ways his words have been construed by some as the absolute right of just about anyone to possess and use whatever weapons they please, even those with no conceivable legitimate civilian purpose.

    1. Tracy Calder says:

      Our inalienable (God-given) rights are life, liberty and, depending on the source you read, property or happiness.

      How will these be defended if a worldly power seeks to take them away? As for “conceivable legitimate civilian purpose”, who gets to decide the definition? The same persons with an interest in disarming a population, I guess? No thanks.

      History has too many examples of disarmed populations and the sad horrors that befell them. People who “stay(ed) quiet and (didn’t) make trouble” were moved to ghettos at first , and then much worse places. They were deemed less than full persons by governments who disarmed them and then disposed of them.

  6. Dan Odenweller says:

    I am amazed by the ignorance expressed at the podium by the speakers. However the repeated assurances that “this action will not affect hunters and sportsmen,” when the opposite is true, appears to make liars out of the propooinents.

    For the record, there is a Civilian Marksmanship Program (Federal Government supported) which among other things conducts the National Matches annually. One of the venues requires the use of a “service rifle” currently defined as an M-1, a semiautomatic M-14, or an M-16 (or a civilian equivalent). These are precisly the firearms being outlawed in this proposal. So tell me again why I shouldn’t worry?

    The constitution protects the rights of individuals to engage in actiivitiews, not the tool. Thus we protect the freedom of the press, not a manual flat plate printing press, the freedom of religion, not Ichabod Crane (Pastor on a mule); and so on. Perhaps we should ban the use of wine for the Eucharist to address the drinking problem among clergy (and in the wider society).

    I too am a law abiding citizen, who served in Vietrnam, but in this case the other shoe is on my foot.

  7. Geoffrey Peckham says:

    His prayer began with “O God of our many understandings …”

  8. Erica Hahn says:

    Our Gary finally has a national pulpit. Thank heavens.

    1. anita davis says:

      No doubt about it — Gary will say and do the right thing. He is an inspiring priest.

  9. Carol Reynolds says:

    Bravo, Rev. Hall: well done, Sen. Feinstein!

  10. The Reverend Canon Susan Russell says:

    Proud of my Senator and my former diocesan colleague Dean Hall. Meanwhile, it remains interesting to me that those who take a literalist approach to the 2nd Amendment regarding the “keeping and bearing of arms” when it comes to assualt weapons quite often take a very different approach to the 14th Amendment regarding “equal protection” when it comes to same-sex married couples.

    1. Tracy Calder says:

      Without a 2nd Amendment there’s absolutely no guarantee any of the other Amendments will be defended.

  11. thomas mauro says:

    Response to Thomas Blair – At what point do we pay attention to how the right to bear arms has morphed into the right to kill multiples of innocent citizens in one crazed frenzy. Isn’t it time to make a bit of an adjustment to get these rights back on track? Times change. Weapons change. Do we not have an obligation to protect the innocent from this lunacy? Cannot we live with some common sense restraints that in no way restrict hunting or sporting activity, yet provide an extra layer of protection for our fellow citizens? Let’s not be afraid of change for the good. Let’s be responsible. God bless and protect you, Tom. And God bless America and all of us in it.

    1. Joseph F Foster says:

      The 2nd Amm3endment is NOT about the protection of hunting or sport shooting rights. Read the Federalist Papers.

    2. Ty Creason says:

      These laws have nothing to do with crime, and not a single one of them would have prevented sandy Hook. Feinstein, et al are using this tragedy to implement a longstanding policy,much like Cheney did with 911 and Iraq. Reprehensible in both cases.

      If gun control worked, Sandy Hook would never have happened; the perpetrator broke multiple laws, including the murder of his mother, before he ever got to that school.

      If gun control worked, Chicago wouldn’t be the murder capital of the country.

      In what universe do people actually believe that criminals will be deterred by gun laws? These laws only serve to further constraint the law abiding.

      Btw, the same day in China, a mass killing in a school was committed with a knife. Shall we ban them too? I know you would have a hard time cutting your steak, but if it saves one life…

  12. Ruppert Baird says:

    It was amazing to me how a man of God prayed to the almighty to help worldly people to deny a God-given right for all people. “We hold these TRUTHS to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their maker with certain inalienable rights…” Truly amazing how our church has slid so far into the world of Humanism and away from the Almighty.

  13. Virginia Gambill says:

    “A God Given Right”???? please spare me and others from this obviously mistaken point of view. Too “fundamentalist” for many of us, go back to the drawing board.

  14. Thomas Bair says:

    ‘After these gun tragedies they always want to take the guns from the people who didn’t do anything’, William Burroughs

    Take a look, my friends, and realize that we face an attack, not on the meaning of things, but on meaning itself. Distortion and confusion are the stock and trade of some political leaders and when in comes to the issue of the 2nd Amendment, the house of mirrors is rolled onstage.
    I invite you to look at the Feinstein Bill. It provides exemption from all its prvisions to government officials. Why? Are they not citizens, or could it be, as Orwell famously said, ‘ some pigs are more equal than others’. Under this Bill I will not be able to pass my grandfathers pistol to my sons without Government paperwork and fees. I will not be able to pass on my others guns at all. They will be confiscated by the government. Yes, confiscated. The end game is confiscation.

    No criminal cares a wit about any of this. They come with what they need.

    But the issue is not criminality. The issue is not tragic loss of life. The issue is government control and I’m ‘agin it!

    1. Tracy Calder says:

      Not only that, but retired law enforcement officials as well. Why? Why are they more qualified to carry and keep than I am? Why not ex-military, why not national guard too? This is equlaity under the law? And then you have to ask, why are we disarming all of these other tax-paying and law-abiding citizens and STILL not prosecuting ACTUAL CRIMINALS?

  15. thomas mauro says:

    To Thomas Blaire and others of similar mindset,

    Help me out, Thomas. I see no response yet from the point that times change and weapons systems change. Your point I assume is that nothing has changed since December 15, 1791 when the fastest loading firearm was single shot loaded.

    I also note that the language of the proposed legislation seems not to have been read carefully, but the very idea of some reasonable restraints has set off a primal response that has no place in a humane society. But, let’s face it, we’ve got a way to go to become a humane society. in which the lives of others are respected and treasured. Every man for himself? Come on.

    1. Joseph F Foster says:

      That’s right. A read of The Federalist shows that the 2nd Ammendment is about the citizenry retaining unto ourselves the right to own and carry the means to resist a Federal Government run amok using its Army for tyranny. So we had and secured the right to have and carry the same kinds of small arms the Army then carried and carries.

      We still do.

    2. Thomas Bair says:

      The Supreme Court has held that a reasonable measure of lethality is what we give to police. We give police AR’ s with 30 rnd. clips. That is a reasonable measure.

      By the way, the police, the court again said. has no duty to protect citizens.

      Act accordingly, I say.

  16. Dan Odenweller says:

    The Reverend Canon Susan Russell hit the nail on the head. What I notice most often is the lack of an ethical construct which can then guide our subsequent actions. Thus it is true that many conservatives demand their freedom to bear arms but demand strict conformance with their construct of the church. But then it is also true that liberals tend to demand unfettered freedom to protest, to associate, to a welcoming church open to all, while attempting to deny those rights and the right to bear arms to the conservatives.

    Oh for logical constructs, and well read researchers. How many more reasonable gun laws do we need. We have something like 2500 on the books now.

    1. Thomas Bair says:

      Chicago has the some of the toughest laws in the country. Chicago is a gun slaughterhouse.

      What do you think it means? (facetious)

  17. Andrew Cruz Lillegard says:

    The Very Reverend Gary Hall has made me embarrassed to be an Episcopalian. If the greater Church stands by his comments, it’s no wonder that we are a shrinking denomination.

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