Out of the anger and seeming hopelessness regarding gun violence in the United States in December 2012, the Rev. John Kitagawa, Rector, recommended at the December vestry meeting, and the Vestry agreed, that vestry members create a committee to discuss gun violence under the guidance of the Rev. Greg Foraker. January 2013 saw the formation of the Committee for the Prevention of Gun Violence with the aim of furthering dialogue among people of strongly held beliefs, and offering forums to better inform ourselves of the related issues touching gun violence.
The Committee began holding weekly meetings, discussing a variety of topics, such as background checks, the name of the committee, and signage for the St. Philip’s campus for some version of the verbiage “No Guns Allowed.” We waded through difficult conversations, filled with respect and high emotion. It became clear to us that if these conversations were complex for us to tackle and we were willingly meeting so to do, then how would these conversations be for others who were unable to invest the same amount of time? With that thought in mind, it was decided to begin our conversation with the parish with a forum that highlighted the Rules of Civil Discourse to remind ourselves how we wish to speak with one another in areas of potential conflict. We decided to showcase a snapshot of one of our meetings so that people could understand how much work went into honest, civil discourse.
Since that first forum in June 2013, the committee held seven more forums in 2013–2014 with guest speakers ranging from Jane Prescott-Smith of the National Institute for Civil Discourse; to Asst. Chief Brett Klein of the Tucson Police Department; Ruth Davis, JD, presenting on the Second Amendment; and Dr. Sharon Nielsen and Scott Whitley of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) educating attendees on mental health issues. The committee, with help from the clergy and staff, put together the Service of Remembrance and Action on January 8, 2014, in commemoration of the 2011 shootings. An open forum was held with information tables for Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, gun safety videos and brochures from the National Rifle Association, free gun-lock giveaways, NAMI information, and brainstorming with attendees on what ideas they had regarding safety. As a result of the ideas that parishioners put forth, a forum was held for parents of young children, sharing the safety videos and ways of beginning discussions with other families surrounding guns in the home.
The Second Amendment, guns, and violence are topics around which most of us hold strongly held opinions. The likelihood is that even as we dialogue with one another, we probably will not change one another’s minds on these issues. If that is the case, how do we move forward finding common ground? How do we look at one another and see our similarities and not our differences?
In trying to find commonality with one another, we wanted to look at violence in general, not just gun violence. We decided to find solutions by focusing on an idea that all can be agreed with by all — namely, safety for all in the home and at St. Philip’s — and implement practical means of helping one another to achieve safety.
We reached out to the Church of the Latter-Day Saints to talk with them about safety in their community. The LDS representative, Judd Curtis, met willingly with us, and we are hoping to partner with their Eagle Scout youth to create a program to teach gun safety in the home. A similar program is in discussion mode with the Girl Scouts of America. The Committee for the Prevention of Gun Violence put together small blue baskets with contact cards for Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse and Crisis Response Center, a suicide prevention hotline. These baskets can be found in the restrooms on campus and in the office. A Pima County Emergency Management representative, Andy D’Entremont, met with committee representatives and Administrator Steve Brong to share his knowledge regarding safety in public areas, such as St. Philip’s. It was very heartening to hear Andy say that we are well on the way with the St. Philip’s Campus Safety Plan.
The committee will continue with the forum presentations, and the 2014–2015 Forum schedule is:
- September 2014 — Parents have a huge impact in protecting their children from gun and other forms of violence. The St. Philips Prevention of Gun Violence Committee will host a forum to provide parents with information and strategies to help them keep their children and families safer from gun The Chalice Players will do the presentation. Sunday, September 14, in the Children’s Chapel.
- October 2014 — The October Forum of the Committee for the Prevention of Gun Violence will be a progress report on the committee’s work since its inception and an open forum to get feedback from the parishoniers.
- November 2014 — The Prevention of Gun Violence forum will feature a speaker from the Pima County Attorney’s office who discuss domestic violence in Pima County and what we as a faith community can do to help prevent Domestic Violence.
- January 8, 2015 – Multi-Faith Memorial Service
- January 2015 — Democratic representative Victoria Steele and a Republican state representative will discuss progress on state legislation dealing with gun violence family and safety.
- February 2015 — The focus will be on recognizing and treating mental illness and the importance of recognizing and preventing suicides, especially since guns are a factor in the majority of suicides.
- March 2015 — The March forum will be a report on our campus safety plan.
- May 2015 — End of year committee progress report.
Our hope is that we are able to provide a space for civil discourse whereby parishioners and guests may share, listen, learn, and problem-solve; where people can recognize that there are issues to be solved and help be a part of the solution. This committee has been a deeply meaningful experience for all members: Herb Burton (Chair), Sylvia Burton (Recorder), Leah Sandwell-Weiss, Rita Smalling, Abby Marier, Mike Humphrey and Alison Lee. We are grateful for the ideas and energies of past members — Ann Cotten, John Smith, Paul Schwennesen, Bob Taylor, and James Humphreys, and are always grateful for the ongoing wisdom of the Rev. Greg Foraker.
The committee is open to all, and welcomes new members. We are looking forward to continued dialogue and education ourselves, and hope to offer the same to our fellow Tucsonans.
Walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us.
—The Committee for the Prevention of Gun Violence