‘Protect Children, Not Guns’

Adapted from Episcopal News Service

Episcopalians gathered in Springfield, Massachusetts, outside the headquarters of Smith & Wesson Corp. to rally behind protest signs that asked the gun manufacturer to “Stop Selling Assault Weapons.” Episcopalians in Trenton, New Jersey, 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, Florida. 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 Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A 19-year-old former student has been charged in the massacre.

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

An estimated 100 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 drew “Protect Children Not Guns,” read one protest sign.

Smith & Wesson made the guns used in the mass shootings in Parkland, in Aurora, Colorado, and in San Bernardino, California.

At the end of the hour, the student leaders delivered  three demands to the guards at the Smith & Wesson visitor center. 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 Nov. 1 of last year.

David Paulsen and Mary Frances Schjonberg, ENS


Online Archives