General Convention resolutions target gun violence

By Sharon Sheridan
Posted Jun 28, 2015

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] While 1,500 General Convention participants joined a Bishops United Against Gun Violence procession here the morning of June 28, several resolutions targeting gun violence are making their way through the legislative process.

The prayerful procession walked the half-mile from the Salt Palace Convention Center to Pioneer Park while marchers sang hymns and prayed. Members of Utah anti-gun violence groups and civil rights organizations joined in.

Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton said society faces what he called an “unholy trinity” of poverty, racism and violence. Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry told participants that they had gotten up early to join the 7:15 a.m. procession because “that unholy trinity threatens the life of us all.”

“But we are really here because there is another trinity,” he said. “There is another trinity that is not an unholy trinity. There is another trinity that is a holy trinity. It is a life-giving trinity.”

Temperatures in Salt Lake City have hovered in the high 90s and low 100s since bishops, deputies and convention staff and volunteers began gathering for convention on June 22. An hour before the procession, the temperature was 75 degrees and rose steadily through the day. It was 103 degrees at 6:30 p.m.

The most-comprehensive resolution facing bishops and deputies, C005 from the Diocese of Los Angeles, urges legislators at all levels of government to implement laws requiring criminal background checks and gun-safety training for gun purchases; banning certain types of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and kits to convert guns into automatic weapons; cracking down on gun trafficking; and promoting funding for gun-violence research. The latest version of the resolution calls for recognizing “the impact of existing inheritance laws on the transfer of gun ownership” and eliminates the original resolution’s call for taxes on sales of guns and ammunition, and a personal income tax credit for those surrendering firearms in gun-buyback programs.

Resolution B008, proposed by Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, urges dioceses “to advocate for handgun purchaser licensing in their local contexts.”

A Province III resolution that originated in the Diocese of Bethlehem, C030, calls on the church to urge the U.S. president and congressional leaders to enact laws “to ban the sale, transfer, importation and manufacture of fully automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, armor-piercing ammunition and kits that convert ammunition-feeding devices into large-capacity magazines capable of using over 10 rounds.”

Resolution D018, proposed by the Rev. William Exner, chair of the New Hampshire deputation, urges Episcopalians to ask legislators at all levels of government “to support public policies that curb gun violence by: requiring and enforcing universal background checks on all sales; banning all future sales of military style semi-automatic weapons, high impact ammunition and high capacity magazines; and requiring permits to carry concealed weapons.”

The mass shooting of students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 triggered Resolution C005, said the Rev. Gary Commins, rector of St. Luke’s, Long Beach, California, and a diocesan deputy. He preached a Feast of the Holy Innocents sermon about the shooting, inviting those interested in finding ways to combat gun violence to gather in January 2013. Among other actions, this led to passage of the resolution General Convention is now considering.

Resolution sponsors tried to propose legislative actions that could be achieved in the next decade, Commins said. While federal legislation may not pass, “states can sure enact things.”

“To me, the story of it is that we’re just trying to limit gun violence,” he said. “We’re really not addressing the overall cultural issue of what a violent people we are.”

His own passion around the issue comes from first-hand experience with the results of gun violence as a priest at various parishes: a drive-by shooting outside church during Bible study; parishioners held at gunpoint, face-down on the sidewalk; a 16-year-old’s suicide by gun; a 12-year-old girl shot in the forehead during a camping trip with her parents.

Personal experience with gun violence also feeds Diocese of Utah Bishop Scott Hayashi’s passion on the subject. Hayashi, who spoke at the June 28 march, was shot point-blank in the side during a robbery while working in a record shop in Tacoma, Washington, when he was 19.

As he describes in a video calling for a conversation by people on all sides of the issue of stopping gun violence, he spent two months in the hospital and years of further reflection and prayer recovering.

Hayashi told ENS he was “of two minds” about the General Convention resolutions. “Who would not want to do what these resolutions are urging?” he asked. “I think we as a convention will pass those. I believe they will pass handily.”

But, he added, “I think sometimes we in The Episcopal Church make bold statements, and we don’t necessarily do anything about them.”

Passing the resolutions will help advocates, who can point to them as the church’s official stance. “In that sense, I’m all for it,” he said.

He sees the need, however, for deep conversation with everyone at the table – gun-control advocates, gun owners, members of the National Rifle Association, gun-violence victims and their families – about how to combat gun violence, he said. “I believe that where we are as a nation is at a place of deep division, where we can’t even have the conversation.”

“Yes, the [General Convention] resolutions are good,” he said. But “if you really want our government to act, then you have to create a groundswell.”

To generate that, the first step is creating a safe space for conversation, to say: “We have a problem. These firearms are being used to kill innocent people. They’re in the wrong hands.  What can we do stop this?” he said. The Episcopal Church has the potential to create that space, Hayashi suggested.

The June 28 march against gun violence here was “a call to claim common ground,” he said. “I believe we have a lot more common ground than most people realize.”

Commins was less enthusiastic about the push for dialogue with all participants, arguing that gun owners and the NRA had received a lot of air time and that more needed to be heard from those affected by gun violence.

“I think there should be a one-year moratorium on gun owners talking about guns,” he said. The next day no one is killed by a gun in the United States, “then gun owners can start talking again.”

— Sharon Sheridan is an ENS correspondent.


Comments (8)

  1. Michael McLane says:

    Gun violence is bad, knife violence is bad, club violence is bad. The thing that needs correcting is violence, not the items used during the violent act. If we followed the second “great commandment” violence becomes a non-issue. Passing resolutions focusing on various physical aspects of an implement obscures the root cause of the problem. We should defeat the acceptance of, and use of, violence in relating to other persons.

  2. Frank Brown says:

    Firearms that are owned by law-abiding citizens (i.e. gun owners) are not “in the wrong hands”; those illegally possessed and used by criminals are. Every time the church takes up this issue, it plays into the hands of those who would disarm– that is render defenseless in the face of rising criminal violence– law-abiding citizens, and only law-abiding citizens.

    Here’s the proof that gun control is cynical and won’t work: I’ll agree to gun control if it also applies to the police, FBI, Secret Service, Homeland Security, etc. Obviously, no one would be in favor of that. Why not? Because gun control doesn’t work, everyone knows it, and even gun control proponents want to be able to rely on the police, FBI, etc. to fight violent crime when they themselves are threatened. That is, when they aren’t demeaning the police and being tools of #ThisOrThatLeftistSlogan.

    From the article: “I think there should be a one-year moratorium on gun owners talking about guns.” That’s the true nature of “conversations” by Leftists: shut up and listen to me. Get serious.

    The church really ought to focus on preaching, teaching, and pastoral care, i.e. the business of the church and stop trying to be a secular organ of Leftist politics. The Episcopal Church is sick, probably terminally so.

  3. Randy Marks says:

    I wish our Bishops would march on NRA headquarters outside Washington DC.

  4. M. J. Wise says:

    The Episcopal Church (like most churches) is not well-situated to come up with these types of proposals. The good news is that most Episcopalians are almost preternaturally peaceful people. The bad news is I get this feeling that collectively we don’t really “get” violence. Restricting completely arbitrary traits of firearms has been shown to have little to no anti-violence benefit and yet pretty much every proposal listed suggests this in some form or another. They collectively reek of feel-good self-congratulation that doesn’t really mean a whole lot at the end of the day. Some of the proposals are dated. New automatic weapons have not been legal to make or sell in the US since 1986! The few that are still owned in civilian hands are really expensive and basically never used in crimes. So why is the GC wasting air on such peripheral issues?

  5. J.R. Robinson says:

    The Church prides itself on the reason component of the scripture-tradition-reason thing. Reason demands a more analytical approach, i.e, taking complicated things apart. Unfortunately, the knee-jerk political tendency is to conflate things together into a nice laundry list of feel good policy proposals. The problem of gun violence involves issues of gang/drug trade criminality, mental health needs, and terrorism, among other things.

    I am further struck by the hypocrisy of these churchfolk, ensconced as they are in safe upper class neighborhoods, calling into question the motives and abilities of legal gun owners. If some deadly action were to happen in one of our churches, would any of the attendees of this rally object to calling 911? And when the police arrive, guess what they are going to do? They’re doing to stop whatever threat they still find with deadly force. You called them to come and do it — heck, your taxes and municipal votes paid for them to do it. But you are just fine with defensive gun violence, as long as it is gun violence by proxy.

  6. Anne C. Hall says:

    If someone is beaten to death are they no less dead? How about talking about an end to violence? All violence, not just the politically popular sort of violence. If the Church would preach and make its statements about ending violence, I might be more inclined to listen. As it is, it appears to be more cynical posturing.
    Jesus, you may recall, was not shot to death.

  7. Charles Browncbmetc says:

    I agree with Mark Bigley’s position 100%. Far too long have we rolled over in the name of political correctness so we won’t offend anyone else without worrying whether we are offending God. I’ve stuck with TEC through thick and thin for most of my 69 years. I’ve seen our numbers decline by 20% or more over the last decade because 10% of the population is controlling 90% of the agenda. You might yet win another Left-winged (liberal) plan to remove guns from law abiding citizen, but you (or anyone else) will have to pry my gun out of my cold dead hand in the process. Looks like TEC is going to get much smaller in the very near future because of their stand on abortion, gun control, imigration, divesting from Isral, and declaring same sex marriage as “Holy” Matrimony. Don’t you people know when you do stupid things it reflects on all our character?

  8. Mary Jo O'Rourke says:

    Thank you! We gun owners who respect data driven action plans and solutions to the plague of senseless gun violence support CO05, CO30, and DO18. At the very least, we can enact these regulations for “responsible gun ownership” for a period of ten years and then re-evaluate. We have done it the Almighty NRA way for decades, let us give an alternative “Almighty” a chance.

Comments are closed.