This statement in response to a Pasadena Star News article was approved by the Pasadena Palm Sunday Peace Parade Committee. See http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_22528605/pasadena-officials-explore-gun-buyback-program-help-curb.
We welcome your response and would like to know about similar efforts in other parts of the country.
Turning Swords into Plowshares:
A Statement About Gun Violence
by the Pasadena Palm Sunday Peace Parade Committee
We are grateful for Brenda Gazzar's recent article (2-5-13) in the Pasadena Star News about gun violence and gun buyback programs. Gun buybacks can be a powerful symbol that captures public attention. We are grateful for the swift interest of the city and police and other groups showing such passion to make this happen in soon in Pasadena. At the Public Safety committee on Monday Councilman Steve Madison said, “We don’t want to miss this opportunity. We can’t wait until June to make this happen”…. In the eagerness to make this happen, it’s important that we know how it came about and who is indeed making it happen.
The initiative for the proposed gun buyback program came from the religious community, specifically, the Palm Sunday Peace Parade, which has been organizing events for the past ten years celebrating Jesus as the Prince of Peace. The theme of this year’s parade is “turning swords into ploughshares” (Isaiah 2:4), and one of the actions we have proposed is a gun buyback. We envision melting guns into something useful or beautiful like a public art sculpture, which would capture the essence of this verse.
It’s important to note that those of us planning the Peace Parade oppose all forms of violence—including gun violence, the international weapons trade, drones, torture, and war itself. We believe that it is possible, with God’s help, to create a peaceful community and a peaceful world. We are convinced that love is more powerful than any weapon.
As an editorial in the Pasadena Star News noted, the LA gun buyback was a "success" because it drew a lot of attention to this issue but it probably did not do much to reduce the number of guns or of gun violence. What is needed are policy changes, and a change in attitude.
As members of the Palm Sunday Peace Parade committee, we agree that a gun buyback program isn’t enough, but it’s an important and significant step in the right direction.
A gun buyback program sends a powerful message: our community opposes gun violence. When a police officer in Pasadena was asked if he'd be willing to donate $200 to a gun buyback program, he didn’t hesitate to say, "Yes." When someone is willing to pay to get guns off the street, you know they're serious about reducing gun violence. That's a message the churches and our city have the opportunity to convey.
We feel that the religious community has a special role to play in gun violence reduction. Each year, for the past ten years, over 150 of us have taken part in a Palm Sunday Peace Parade to honor Jesus as the Prince of Peace. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus came to Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zachariah’s prophesy that the Messiah would come to end war (Zech 9:9-10).
The Peace Parade will began at the Messiah Lutheran Church on March 24 at 3:00 pm and end at the Paseo on Colorado Boulevard. All are welcome to join us in this event, and to take part in our gun buyback program.
One of the goals of this program is to make guns seem less "cool." Like Dr Eric Walsh, head of Public Health in Pasadena, we see violence as a disease or an addiction in need of comprehensive treatment. Currently young men are buying assault rifles and other weapons to prove their manliness, just as they used to buy cigarettes. We need to show that it isn't cool or manly to own a gun. Changing attitudes about cigarettes has saved countless lives. We need a similar approach to ending our addiction to violence.
To make a significant difference, a gun buyback program in Pasadena needs to be linked to education and policy changes and it needs broad support of the faith community. In one of our initial meetings at the Flintridge Foundation 2-4-13, 18 community leaders took part, including a number of religious leaders: Pastor Kerwin Manning, president of the CCC—the Clergy Community Coalition, Rev. John Bledsoe, President of the IMA—the Interdenominational Alliance, Pastor Joe Roos, Pastor of the Pasadena Mennonite Church along with a number of his parishioners, and three members of the local Quaker Meeting. The consensus was that the religious community be given an opportunity to make a commitment to support a gun buyback program and gun safety training (with more accessibility to trigger locks).
The Palm Sunday Peace Parade Committee also recommends that people of faith work on some of these other proven methods to reduce violence:
Øan assault weapon ban,
Ømore funding for psychological counseling (especially for at-risk teens),
Øgang prevention (including job training),
Ønonviolence training in schools and elsewhere,
Øaddressing root issues that cause violence: the need for jobs and affordable housing in mixed income neighborhoods
Ø disallowing sales of guns at gun shows or through private sales without a background check. (40% of guns are sold this way.)
Øsupporting numerous programs in the city, such as 2020, that aim at reducing violence.
If cities across the country instituted voluntary gun buy back programs, it could spur the Federal government to initiate a national gun buy back program like the one in Australia. Australia’s gun back program and gun reform laws have been a huge success: since 1996, gun-related deaths have dropped by half, and there haven’t been any mass shootings in Australia. (http://abcnews.go.com/International/australia-model-successful-gun-control-laws/story?id=18007055)
Each year, over 30,000 people in the US die due to gun-related deaths. In Japan, fewer than 50 people a year die from gun-related deaths; in Germany, Italy and France, fewer than 150; and in Canada, fewer than 200. We in America can do better. Like Martin Luther King, who believed a better world is possible, we must believe that it is possible to end gun violence and the massacre of children in America. With God's help, we can make a difference.