PA Episcopal Diocese, November 2008


A Resolution on Gun Violence in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania


RESOLVED: That the 225th Convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania encourage the State House (its leadership and Judiciary Committee), the State Senate (and its leadership), and the Governor of the Commonwealth to enact and sign legislation to reduce handgun violence in the State of Pennsylvania, colloquially known as the Lost or Stolen Reporting Requirement and the One Gun A Month bills.

RESOLVED: That appropriate individuals and committees of the diocese make available educational resource materials to pertinent committees, and that these committees be authorized to share such material with congregations so that committees, congregations and members of congregations might wage a vigorous effort for successful passage of the Lost or Stolen Reporting Requirement and the One Gun A Month bills in the State with members of the legislature representing districts within the geographical area of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

RESOLVED: That the Secretary of Convention be authorized to communicate this convention’s action with regard to gun violence to the Governor and leadership of the legislature and the same actions be communicated to other dioceses and judicatories of all denominations and faiths in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to solicit joint efforts by people of all faith traditions to reduce the gun violence that is suffered by all in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

EXPLANATION: Last year the City of Philadelphia suffered over 400 deaths by gun violence, the vast majority by handguns. Harrisburg’s per capita homicide rate by handguns exceeds Philadelphia’s and violence is exploding in neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. Mention of the name Nickel Mines reminds us that this violence is not limited by the size of any municipality in the state. Of guns used in crime and traced by the Bureau of Alcohol Tax and Firearms (ATF), 76% were purchased legally in the Commonwealth, yet 81% of these traced handguns were in the hands of some one other than the owner when the crime was committed. In Pittsburgh, the corresponding figures are 81% and 91%. Illegal handguns are easily and cheaply available in the Commonwealth. One of the lynchpins of illegal handgun distribution in the Commonwealth is “straw purchasing,” by which a technically eligible person buys multiple handguns which are trafficked or sold to traffickers, who in turn sell to felons, violent young people, or they are sold from the trunks of automobiles to drug dealers and gang members. The One Gun A Month and the Lost or Stolen Reporting Requirement would decrease availability and increase costs, substantially reducing access to illegal handguns without injury to legitimate gun owners. This has been seen in Virginia, Maryland and California. Concern for justice and peace are long standing concerns of this Church and is supported By the Biblical witness: The Sixth Commandment, “Thou shall not murder” not only prohibits the taking of the lives of others, but also implies action to prevent killing; Micah and Isaiah call upon us to “beat our swords into plowshares; Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, saying, “Blessed are the Peace Makers, for they shall be called children of God.” In Philadelphia and throughout the state, we are losing too many of our young people, both as victims and perpetrators. Too many of our families, again, of both victims and perpetrators, are thrown into grief by handgun violence. In too many of our congregations, we have buried children and sought to bring the comfort of God’s peace to families wracked by this epidemic of violence and death. This resolution allows us as God’s people the chance to stand against this epidemic of death faced by too many that are sisters and brothers to us all in the violence of the Cross.

REFERENCES: Most recent comprehensive trace info (2000) for guns recovered from crime in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh: Most recent statewide trace info (2007) for guns recovered from crime in Pennsylvania: Most recent statewide trace info (2007) for guns recovered from crime in New Jersey and New York – for purposes of comparison:

Presented with thanks to this 225th Convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania by: Jane Cosby and Lionel Broome, President and Vice President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians; The Very Rev. Michael Pearson, St Mary’s Wayne, Dean of the Merion Deanery and Convener of the Galilee Group; Michael Washington, Kemah Washington and the Rev. Isaac Miller of the Paul Washington Community Committee at the Church of the Advocate