Episcopalians organize against gun violence

Students at Grace Church School participate in a demonstration outside the school in New York City on March 14 as part of a nationwide day of student-led activities calling for action against gun violence. The flowers are in memory of a school aide who was shot and killed near the school last year. Photo: Art Chang, Chang.NYC

Episcopalians gathered in Springfield, Mass., outside the headquarters of Smith & Wesson Corp., a U.S. manufacturer of firearms, to rally behind protest signs that asked the gun manufacturer to “Stop Selling Assault Weapons.”

Episcopalians in Trenton, N.J., participated in a 12-hour “Day of Lamentation” over gun violence. Students of Episcopal schools from New York to Florida walked out of class to participate in a nationwide call to action.

Student-led demonstrations around the country and the dozens of separate events at Episcopal cathedrals and churches coincided March 14 to mark one month since the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Though independently organized, the variety of events—on what was billed by youth organizers as National Walkout Day—served to underscore a common push for political action to address the seemingly relentless outbreak of mass shootings in the U.S.

“This is the only developed nation in the world that has a gun death problem at the rate we do,” New Jersey Bishop Chip Stokes said in his sermon at Eucharist held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Trenton. “Those of us who oppose it need to get in the face of the problem and cry out in the name of the Lord.”

Such calls have been growing since 17 students and educators were shot and killed February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A 19-year-old former student has been charged in the massacre.

The series of Episcopal events on March 14, co-ordinated by Bishops United Against Gun Violence, included services, prayers, the tolling of bells and, in some cases, a more direct form of advocacy.

Episcopalians join an interfaith group of demonstrators outside a Smith & Wesson facility in Springfield, Mass., March 14. Photo: Victoria Ix/Diocese of Western Massachusetts

An estimated hundred or more demonstrators, led by young people and interfaith leaders, including the bishops of the diocese of Western Massachusetts and the diocese of Massachusetts, stood for an hour outside the Smith & Wesson facility in Springfield. “Protect Children Not Guns,” read one protest sign.

Smith & Wesson made the guns used in the mass shootings in Parkland, Fla., in Aurora, Col., and in San Bernardino, Cal.

At the end of the hour, the student leaders delivered three demands to the guards at the Smith & Wesson visitor centre. They hope for a meeting with company leaders within the next 30 days. They are asking the manufacturer to stop selling military-grade weapons to the civilian population and to create a community compensation fund to help bear the costs related to gun violence.

Such events shared the spotlight with the day’s widespread classroom walkouts and student-led demonstrations against gun violence. At the Episcopal-rooted Grace Church School in New York, students in Grades 4 through 12 linked hands to surround the school, and they placed flowers in memory of a school aide who was shot and killed near the school November 1 of last year.

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David Paulsen and Mary Frances Schjonberg, Episcopal News Service


  1. I will always assert that guns are inanimate objects that without human use would do absolutely nothing!

    The problem is not the guns. The problem is the individuals that are committing these horrendous acts of violence. Without access to guns these individuals would instead use something else to inflict death and injury. Banning guns or restricting access to guns will not change this. So what needs to be done to address what is causing these people to be so violent in the first place. If all you do is take away the guns than you leave these clearly disturbed and / or mentally ill persons to continue to suffer.

  2. Allan, you may always miss the point. Guns are quicker, easier to use, and a killer may be on a temper tantrum or suffering a long held psychotic or sociopathic episode. Guns are a curse in this country. Other countries may have nuts but ours have guns.


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