The Gun Violence Prevention Action Group meets monthly via conference call to share ideas and resources that enable EPF chapters and members to work reducing gun violence. We network across the Church and with secular gun violence prevention groups to support our membership in their advocacy work.
The US suffers from an epidemic of gun violence, and the Jesus Movement, as well as this justice-seeking, peace-waging twig of the Episcopal branch, must work to end this violence in the interests of all the children of God.
EPF brings two conceptual frameworks to our gun violence prevention work that, together, set us apart from some other GVP advocacy and action groups. These two are intersectional and theological.
Gun violence intersects with most of society’s problems:
● White supremacy, itself a form of violence, causes its defenders to arm themselves
against the possibility that the privileges that accrue to Whiteness could be taken away.
● Poverty, also a form of violence, drives people who suffer from it to protect themselves in
neighborhoods which have few other protections. Those who don’t suffer poverty in their own lives often arm themselves thinking they must protect themselves from the appetites of those who are poor (and usually racially Other).
● Patriarchy, another form of violence, threatens women and gender-nonconforming people with random violence in our public and private spaces, and is the reason that domestic violence is so common. Homicide is in the top 6 or 7 causes of death for women, and half of these murders are by their intimate partners The presence of a firearm in a home makes a woman as much as five times more likely to be murdered.
● The violence and increased militarization of police, a threat to the First Amendment rights of our citizens, is usually justified by the number of weapons floating around in our country.
The fact that attempts at suicide by gun are almost always successful means that there is no second chance for those driven to desperation in a society with few community networks of support and with a culture of individualism in failure as well as success. Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides, or almost 50,000 a year. That many cannot be simply individual problems, but reflect a systemic societal failure. Insofar as it involves a mental health issue, it is caused or aggravated by cultural and economic issues that our society has not addressed.
The theology of gun violence prevention requires us to recognize that guns are connected to other social problems such as those above, Guns are also an object of idolatry. They are sacralized by those who uphold the owning and carrying of firearms as an untouchable principle that cannot be restricted, though they have no problem with accepting, and even calling for, restrictions on other sections of the Constitution, especially the 1st, 8th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Idolators believe that guns are the only or primary means to maintain their values.
Guns are also the icon of the false doctrines of individualism and redemptive violence, which stand in the way of building God's kingdom of beloved community and peace through restorative justice. If we recognize Martin Luther King, Jr's "triplets of evil”, poverty, racism, and militarism, we can see that guns are a key element in maintaining each.
We believe, as does the whole GVP community, that gun laws must be changed. However, we don't believe that most legislators will accept the views of an under- or un-funded movement of faith while the requirements of the election cycle turn lawmakers into fundraisers with a side hustle in legislating. Advocating for changes to laws is a necessary focus for organizing and consciousness-raising, even though it has not proven successful in stopping or even reducing gun violence. For this, we know that hearts and souls must be transformed, to reconcile all people to God and each other. That is our duty as part of the church, but that is not the job description of Congress and the rest of government.
This need for reconciliation is what makes ours a movement in opposition to all forms of violence. As long as we have hope in transforming all of us in our broken lives through the power of the Spirit, as long as we see the spark of the divine in all our fellow human beings, we must work to end our society’s epidemic of gun violence.