Photo Credit: Victoria Ix / Diocese of Western Massachusetts / ENS
[Episcopal News Service, by David Paulsen and Mary Frances Schjonberg] Episcopalians gathered in Springfield, Massachusetts, outside the headquarters of Smith & Wesson Corporation 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 US and the dozens of separate events at Episcopal cathedrals and churches coincided yesterday (14 March) to mark one month since the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Though independently organised, the variety of events – on what was billed by youth organisers as National Walkout Day – served to underscore a common push for political action to address the seemingly relentless outbreak of mass shootings in the US.
“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 on 14 February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A 19-year-old former student has been charged following the massacre.
The series of Episcopal events yesterday, 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 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 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 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.
- Click here to read the in-depth report by David Paulsen and Mary Frances Schjonberg on the Episcopal News Service website.