House of Deputies president, vice president issue letter on gun violence

Posted Mar 1, 2013

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopal Church House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and Vice President the Hon. Byron Rushing have issued the following letter to deputies on gun violence.

February 28, 2013

Dear Deputies:

In the weeks since the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the debate about guns in American life and culture has been renewed. Advocates for stricter gun restrictions vow not to let the issue be eclipsed by the next news cycle, and new coalitions of faith leaders and community activists demand that all of us, especially our children, be safe from guns in our homes, communities, and streets.

Since the day when twenty-eight people died in Newtown, more than 2300 people in the United States have been killed by guns. Far too many of the dead are poor, young people of color. They have been dying for years, too often unnoticed, on the streets of Chicago, Baltimore, New Orleans, Newark and scores of other cities and towns. We have not been galvanized as we should have been by the cries of their anguished families and friends. As we work to end gun violence now, we must repent of not having done it sooner.

At its meeting that concluded yesterday, the Executive Council passed a resolution that reaffirms the General Convention’s longstanding support of restrictions on the sale, use and ownership of guns and its commitment to adequate funding for mental health services. The resolution also allows The Episcopal Church to join other faith-based advocates in working to make gun trafficking a federal crime. This will give law enforcement officials the power to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers and their networks. Most of all, it calls on all Episcopalians to work toward ending the cycles of violence that fuel the epidemic of gun crime.

In what remains of Lent, we hope that deputies will help lead the church to fulfill this resolution.  In the words of the Executive Council resolution, let us “examine our own cultural attitudes toward violence through efforts in our own congregations and communities, to repent of our own roles in the glorification and trivialization of violence, and to commit ourselves to another way.”


The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings      The Hon. Byron Rushing
President, House of Deputies          Vice-President, House of Deputies



Comments (11)

  1. Beth French says:

    I thought I was a pretty knowledgeable person. Color me embarrassed! I had no idea that gun trafficking was not a federal crime. It needs to be, along with reasonable and executable regulations for gun shows. (Perhaps a check-in process that includes a criminal background check.)

    What really stumps me is the mental health issue. How do we find the people who need help and how do we safely go about helping them? You always wonder what price you will pay for trying to do the right thing.

    1. Theron Patrick says:

      There are many Federal Gun laws. So what is commonly called interstate gun trafficking is tightly regulated and non compliance is a Federal Offense.
      Theron Patrick

  2. Theron Patrick says:

    I truly regret that the Episcopal Church leadership has adopted the view that gun control is the answer to the violence in this country. While any of the individuals who compose the leadership may of course adopt that political view, to state that it is the view of the entire membership of the Church, including me, is wrong.

    Theron Patrick

    1. Rev. Dr. John W. Smith; says:

      I write as a “hybrid Episcopalian,” snatched from the jaws of ennui by liturgy, lectionary, and pew aerobics, and now puzzled by the writer’s response to the House of Deputies statement on gun control. Perhaps I loll in la-la land, but that statement is not dogma, and the national Episcopal Church does not speak for its membership, but to it. Consequently, the cry of the writer that the H of D proclamation expresses “the view of the entire membership of the Church, including me,” appears somewhat fatuous, not to mention the obvious fact that the contrarian view also does not express “the view of the entire membership of the Church!.”

      1. Rev. Dr. John W. Smith; says:

        I write as a “hybrid Episcopalian,” snatched from the jaws of ennui by liturgy, lectionary, and pew aerobics, and now puzzled by the writer’s response to the House of Deputies statement on gun control. Perhaps I loll in la-la land, but that statement is not intended as dogma, since the national Episcopal Church does not speak for its membership, but to it.

  3. Frank Bergen says:

    I don’t make a habit of commenting on comments but I’ll make an exception to ask all who read the letter from the President and Vice President of the House of Deputies to read it very carefully. They have reaffirmed General Convention’s “longstanding commitment to adequate funding for mental health services” as well as calling for serious restrictions on sale, use and ownership of guns and ammunition. Seems pretty well=balanced and reasonable to me.

  4. Theron Patrick says:

    “as well as calling for serious restrictions on sale, use and ownership of guns and ammunition. Seems pretty well balanced and reasonable to me.” I don’t consider this well balanced. If you do, that is your right. What I objected to and find offensive was the implication that I held the same view.

  5. Fr. Jay Pierce says:

    The authors of this letter have fallen into the dreamland position that the solution to violence in America is to make ownership of guns more difficult by way of additional laws at the federal level. How sad that we believe we are contributing to the solution of this horrendous problem by more rules, and not by addressing the causes of the problem: poverty, mental health issues, and failure of the family system within portions of our population. The vast majority of cases quoted in support of the proposals fail to demonstrate that the proposed legislation would have prevented a single episode of horror. Do we really believe we are accomplishing our goal, or are we simply creating a delusion for the calming of our emotions? We do need to do something! But of the proposals that have surfaced of late, more regulations will not collect the guns of the criminals nor identify the sad and terrifying mind gone far, far beyond reason or control. Our Lord reminded us that the poor will always be with us. We tend to believe his direction was toward the economically / politically poor, but I’ve believed for many years it includes the poor of preparation: the dull, the unbalanced personality and certainly the chronically mentally ill. And, don’t forget the criminal and politically motivated among us! The letter of which we are to acknowledge and applaud is worthless in the solution of the complex problems pressing us.

  6. Frank Bergen says:

    While Fr. Pierce makes some sound points, he seems reluctant to recognize that neither the criminal, the chronically mentally ill nor the unbalanced personality has ever killed so many so quickly with a machete or a tomahawk as have those armed with assault weapons, whether Glocks with 33 cartridge magazines or Bushmasters designed for the battlefield. Making such firearms even a bit more difficult for any civilian to purchase, own or use is worth the time and energy I’m able to spend encouraging my elected officials to attempt to accomplish.

  7. Mark Bigley says:

    I find the writing of our Episcopal leadership to be weighty on good intention but thin on reality. Like most of our governmental and medical world these public statements focus on treating symptoms and not causality. I don’t know any gun owners from where I live in the south who “glorify” gun violence. “Respecting the dignity of every human being” from our Baptismal Covenant also means respecting the freedom of one another, not trying to control them. By what right does one person (bishop or priest) think they can control another’s freedom to defend their loved ones in the way they deem necessary? “Loving your neighbor” doesn’t mean allowing that neighbor to create violence on oneself or one’s family.
    As a priest/chaplain and a licensed mental health therapist, I have experienced what substances such as Meth do to people. Do I allow drug addicts whose lives have become bereft of all reason have free reign over the members of my family? Or do I love myself and my family to attempt to care for and protect them? This is one reason that the Second and Third Amendments were created–to protect the citizen against those who would invade their privacy and the ability to protect themselves. Does the homeowner or one who travels with a concealed carry license, limit himself/herself to a 10 round magazine while the 2 or 3 intruders (average number) who are carrying 17 shot magazines and AR-15’s with a 30 round magazine violate his/her boundary? Biden’s suggestion to women to get a 12 gauge double barreled shotgun and to shoot it as a warning outside is ludicrous, dangerous, against the law and incongruent with the spirit of the Violence Against Women Act, leaving them vulnerable. Gun control won’t eliminate the high capacity magazines from the criminal. In systems theory, often the intended inputs into a system create the opposite from the desired effect. Gun control created school zones to become vulnerable even though the intent of that control was the opposite. Violence comes from the brokenness of the soul. Gun control does not address the issues of the broken soul. Even the APA has reported their concern about confidentiality for mental health clients concerned that the background check breach of confidentiality in the form of a data base would keep those who are in need of treatment to avoid it.
    I too have the ideal for a world of peace and I work for it every day with my parishioners and mental health clients. I practice various forms of healing ministry. I decry violence as much as the next person. But these ideas from our Episcopal leadership are not based in reality.

  8. Dan B. Odenweller says:

    One cannot help but wonder why the Episcopal Church is advising other parties on their failures and ways to redress those failures. After all, we are charged with obeying and teaching the Ten Commandments, including one of particular significance to the issue at hand, namely:

    “Thou shalt not kill”

    Just imagine our leading thinkers applying their resources to this one topic, and achieving 100% compliance. The tragedies would end, and the church might even grow!

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