Dear Editor: I thought your readers might be interested in this timely article. I've written a lot about this issue on my blog ever since we started our "turning swords into plowshares" campaign three months ago.
On May 11, 2013, city residents turn in 135 firearms to the Pasadena Police Department during a gun buyback in which people received gift cards in exchange for guns. Since it was just before Mother's Day, a man told reporters he decided to turn in his gun to obtain a gift card to buy his mom a present!
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. Dozens of local churches and nonprofits participated in a “Peace-source Fair” that took place near City Hall, highlighting what these organizations are doing to reduce gun violence.
Quakers played an active role in this event. I was one of the organizers and recited the prayer of St Francis. 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 modified 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 affirms we Quakers “ 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. “
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 “turning 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. (I live in a low-income neighborhood where gang shootings are common, and where a four-year-old was recently wounded, fortunately not fatally.)
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. 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?
We can help by supporting the work of organizations like FCL of California and FCNL. Other organizations doing important work in this area include the Children's Defense Fund, Women Against Gun Violence, and the Brady Campaign. The gun industry and gun lobby may seem invincible, like those who supported slavery and opposed the right of women to vote, but we know that persistence and commitment ultimately pay off. If Australia and the rest of the industrial work can reduce gun violence, with God's help, Americans can do likewise. We owe it to our children to do our utmost to create "a society in which there is no need for guns."
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-contro....
In Peace, Anthony Manousos