On Saturday, April 10, the Legislative Policy Collaborative of PYM sponsored a virtual workshop on Pathways to Ending Gun Violence: Legislative Solutions. Nearly 120 people registered for this event – clearly, this is a topic of great concern to F/friends, as representatives from more than 30 meetings tuned in to get informed and to get involved.
A Moving Keynote on the Impact of Guns
In his keynote address, Peter Murchison, a member of Wilton Friends Meeting (CT), shared the emotional story of his nephew Daniel, who was killed in his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School eight years ago.
As Peter spoke, we noted his humility, his encouragement to seek our own ways of working to end gun violence, and his call for finding ways to talk with those who take a different position. He reminded us that what can look like anger can be a deep fear, a need for perceived safety in an unsafe and changing world. Yet, he called gun rights “not a crisis of the second amendment, but rather a crisis of the second commandment.” He pointed out that guns are idolized and obsessed over by some, but that the number of guns in the U.S. and the deaths caused by them constitute a moral crisis.
Peter’s remarks were impactful in their emotional honesty and set the tone for the afternoon’s panel discussion with gun violence prevention groups working at the local, state and federal levels. Panelists from Heeding God’s Call, CeaseFirePA, the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation shared what brought them to this work. They addressed the most difficult arguments to counter in talking about gun rights and gun violence, as well as actions that they and workshop participants can take. These actions include vigils, contacting other faith groups in our communities, gun buy-backs, and tee shirt displays depicting those who have died by guns. An effective way to be heard is to organize a visit to your representative’s offices. We drew hope from these examples of how to put our faith into action.
Training on how to Lobby Congress
FCNL’s Jim Cason provided us with training on how to lobby our Senators and members of Congress. Pennsylvania State Representative Joe Webster underscored the importance of contacting legislators, noting that as constituents, we have a lot more power than we may realize.
We were reminded that support for enhanced background checks to purchase firearms generally receives approval of 80 percent to 90 percent in public opinion polls. There are many more people who desire basic laws for background checks, as well as statutes banning the purchase of assault weapons, than the voting in many legislative bodies indicates.
Why is this true? While gerrymandering, voting suppression, campaign contributions and demagoguery are factors that resist passage of commonsense legislation, it is also true that with pressure and the strength in numbers, minds can be changed. It may require long-term persistent effort. However, the number of suicides by gun, shootings to settle scores among young people in our cities, accidental killings where a gun is present in the home, and the mind-numbing incidents of mass murder are constant reminders of the need for a strong and persistent push to change gun laws.
Our workshop concluded with worship, with many participants determined to work toward safer communities in a world more akin to a blessed community.
Legislative Policy Collaborative Co-clerks, Deb Hejl and Sylvia Bronner
Zoom Photo of Peter Murchison