Monday, May 20, 2013

"Beating Swords into Plowshares": the Pasadena Gun Buyback and Peace-Source Fair a big success.... What next?

 
On May 11, 135 firearms were turned in to the Pasadena Police Department during a gun buyback in which people received gift cards for Ralph’s, Target and Best Buy in exchange for guns. Half of the surrendered weapons were handguns (the kind most commonly used in crime); there were also several assault rifles, and a sniper rifle.
What made this gun buyback unique was that the religious community of Pasadena raised almost $25,000 to support this effort; and dozens of local churches and non profits participated in a “Peace-source Fair” that took place near City Hall highlighting what these organizations are doing to reduce gun violence. At this event a young Quaker named Cody Lowry and his girlfriend Annie sang peace songs, including the “George Fox Song"; and Orange Grove Meeting had a table with a FCNL sign proclaiming: GUNS ARE NOT THE ANSWER.
At the Quaker table we distributed material describing our work on gun violence reduction. The Quaker position on guns was summed up in a statement by Friends Committee on Legislation of California (FCLCA.org), which states we “work for a society in which individuals value and respect each other. In such a society there is no need for guns. Until the time when private ownership of guns is banned, we support legislation limiting the sale, transport, ownership, and use of firearms and ammunition.” To read about what FCNL, AFSC and the Quaker UN office are doing to reduce gun violence and the international arms trade, see http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2013/05/quaker-views-on-guns-and-gun-control.html.
The inspiration for our gun buy back and peace-source fair was deeply spiritual. It arose from a leading of the Pasadena Palm Peace Parade, in which over 150 people have taken part each year for the past ten years, carrying palm branches and peace signs to celebrate Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Those of us who participate in this peace parade believe that Jesus came into Jerusalem to end war in fulfillment of a prophecy by Zachariah. This year the planning committee decided to have as our theme “beating swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4). In response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook, and the ongoing epidemic of gun violence throughout the nation, and here in our own community, we decided to organize a gun buyback.
Gun buybacks are sometimes dismissed a “merely symbolic,’ but they can be a powerful means to mobilize and transform public views on guns (which is one reason that NRA is doing everything it can to stop gun buybacks, and helped pass a law in Arizona that makes it illegal for police to destroy guns surrendered to them).
In Australia, after a mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996, the Conservative government organized a gun buyback in which 650,000 assault weapons were surrendered and destroyed; and effective gun control laws were enacted that have made a huge difference: the murder rate by guns dropped in half, and there have been no further mass shootings.
In contrast, the US Congress did nothing to curb gun violence after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, even though 80% of gun owners support a universal background check. After our successful gun buy back, we are asking ourselves: what can we do to help reduce gun violence in our community and nation-wide? What are the next steps? We are polling local politicians as well as activists to get their ideas and will offer them to you in a follow up blog entry.
 
Cody Lowry and Annie singing the "George Fox Song"
Co-chairs of the Gun Buyback Jill Shook and Melissa Hofstetter (Mennonite)
Former State Senator Jack Scott (pictured below) lost his son to gun violence and has been a strong advocate for gun control measures. He was one of dozens of speakers that included the mayor, city council members, religious leaders, and activists. Mayor Bogaard signed on the nation-wide campaign called "Mayors Against Illegal Guns," calling for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and other reasonable regulations to curb gun violence.
 
 
"Turning swords into plowshares, and guns into public art." The gun buyback committee hopes to acquire some of the metal from the destroyed guns and turn it into public art here in Pasadena, to remind us of our commitment to end gun violence.
 
Pasadena gun buyback
 




 

1 comment:

  1. I doubt we'll see Mayor Dave Weaver of Glendale following Bogard's lead. He voted AGAINST the gun show ban before he was selected mayor. Broadcasting your story of success far and wide is an excellent "next step."

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