We heard many inspiring stories from pastors, activists and community leaders:
· Jack Scott, former California state senator, spoke about losing his son to gun violence and how he worked as a legislator to promote sensible and effective gun control measures.
· Paul Kim, pastor of Onevoice Church, gave up his guns when he became a pastor. He didn’t feel owning guns was compatible with the teachings of Christ. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, he challenged church members to “fast from violence for a month,” refraining from watching violent films, going to gun shows, etc. “Violence is so pervasive in our society,” he admitted, “it was very hard.”
· Fr. Paul Sustayta, a Catholic priest at St Andrews, told of the pain he faces every time he has to perform a funeral for a young person killed by gun violence.
· After Brandon, an ex-gang member was shot and killed, the funeral was held at the Altadena Presbyterian Church. Dave and Pastor Debra Williams told how 50 gang members “stepped into the light” at this service. They are starting a new life through basketball and scholarship programs.
· Virginia Classick told how 85 people a day die of gun violence in the US and tht it’s the number 3 killer now in the US. Nearly 30,000 people die of gun violence in the US, 30 times more than the combined total for Finland, Australia, Britain, Spain and Germany.
· Narlys Nunneri told how her ex-husband shot her in the heart, and she barely survived. She has become an advocate for Women Against Gun Violence.
· Dr. Eric Walsh, M.D, spoke of gun violence as health issue and steps we need to take to alleviate this epidemic.
· Bert Newton, founder of the Palm Sunday Peace Parade, spoke of the relationship between gun violence and other forms of violence in our society, from racism to the use of drones.
The Gun Buyback and Peace-source Fair was an important step in the right direction, but much work still remains to be done. Pro-gun forces managed to pass a bill in Arizona that make it illegal to destroy a gun voluntarily surrendered to the police. This law makes gun buybacks irrelevant. The NRA would like to pass such laws here in California!
Steve Wiebe, of New Vision Partners, one of the booth participants, is taking an interfaith group of teenagers to Washington, DC, to lobby for gun safety and regulation.
How can we make a make our communities safer?
1) Support Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Mayor Bogaart signed on to “Mayors Against Illegal Guns,” a coalition of over 900 mayors calling for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and other measures to reduce gun violence and promote gun safety. Encourage the city council and the next mayor to support this campaign.
2) Urge your elected Congressional members to re-consider and pass a law requiring universal background check, a commonsense measure which is supported by 80% of gun owners.
3) Urge state representative to pass responsible gun safety laws, such as requiring the guns be locked up or stored with a trigger lock when not in use.
To insure the safety of your family, you should be aware that keeping guns in the home is hazardous, especially when they fall into the hands of children. If you have a gun in your home, keep it locked up when not in use. If your child has a friend whose family keeps guns in their home, either be sure this family has locked up its gun or invite your child's friend to play in your home.
I also recommend supporting those who participated with booths in our Peace-Source Fair that are working to promote a more peaceful community, such as the Flintridge Center, Adopt a School, Ambassadors for Peace, the Armory Center for the Arts, Aspires, Boys and Girls Club, Comunidad de Las Americas, STARS, ECHO, Neighborhood Urban Family Center, New Vision Partners, Inc., Peace & Justice Academy, Peace Over Violence, Day One Pasadena, Family Promise, and Friends in Deed.
If you are in a violence-prone neighborhood, I recommend that you organize a neighborhood watch and work with police. I also recommend working with local organizations to address the root causes of violence, including lack of jobs and affordable housing.
If we work together, we can make a difference!
- The Children Defense Fund has excellent material designed to help keep families safe from gun violence. See http://www.childrensdefense.org/programs-campaigns/protect-children-not-guns/
- Women Against Gun Violence does outstanding educational work by empowering victims of gun violence to have a voice and speak out against gun violence. See http://wagv.org/
- The Brady Campaign works to pass, enforce, and protect sensible laws and public policy that address gun violence at the federal and state level. See http://www.bradycampaign.org/