Taking action on gun violence

By Galen Fitzkee, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

Action is defined as the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. There are many good ways to take action, and while it is less important which action you take, it is of the utmost importance that we act and act together in ways that get us closer to our goal. During the month of May, the mass shootings at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, N.Y., and Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, spurred the Washington, D.C.-based faith community to take action to address the scourge of gun violence in a few different ways.

In early June, the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy had the opportunity to take a stand against gun violence in the US by quite literally turning guns into garden tools in the spirit of Isaiah 2:4. The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute organized an interfaith vigil to remember and honor the victims of gun violence by reading their names aloud. Throughout this time of prayer and lament, attendees used a small forge provided by Swords to Plowshares to melt pieces of guns and hammer them into garden tools such as picks and trowels. This physical action was a witness to the transformation necessary for our communities to thrive.

In following days, our staff attended another interfaith vigil for gun violence at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill. A rabbi, imam, pastor, reverend, and movement organizer all spoke prophetically from their own experiences and faith traditions, encouraging us to remain united and have hope that we can finally make a difference to end gun violence in the United States. We confessed that there have been times when we did not take action to address gun violence or the ideologies that prevent progress and we committed to doing so in the here and now. The witness of these faith leaders, some of whom had met with survivors of gun violence and victims’ families in the aftermath of mass shootings across the country, was quite powerful and lit a fire under those who attended. Following the vigil, the group walked directly to the front of the Capitol building and joined an ongoing rally to demand Congress pass legislation to make it more difficult for would-be mass shooters to acquire weapons too-often used to kill people at our schools, grocery stores, and houses of worship. This too was a type of action that furthered the goal of making our communities safer for everyone.

If you are inspired to take action to address gun violence, there are a few things you can do in your own community. For starters, posting on social media is one easy way to raise awareness about the issue. Organizing a protest, vigil, or rally in your own community is also a great way to involve other motivated individuals and start a larger movement for peace and justice. Finally, as Congress considers legislation on the issue, now is a great time to contact your member of Congress and tell them that you demand action, policy, and change to reduce gun violence in the US.

In 1978, Brethren studied the problem of gun violence in depth and ultimately advocated that Congress should develop legislation to restrict the availability and proliferation of guns and strengthen background checks (see www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1978-violence-and-the-use-of-firearms). If you would like Congress to pass critical legislation and reduce gun violence, use the legislator lookup tool at www.brethren.org/peacebuilding/legislator-lookup to contact your representatives.

— Galen Fitzkee is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker serving at the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C. Find out more about the work of the office at www.brethren.org/peacebuilding.

Above and below: Washington City (D.C.) Church of the Brethren hosts a vigil for victims of gun violence, including an action turning guns into gardening tools with a small forge provided by Swords to Plowshares. Shown here: Office of Peacebuilding and Policy director Nathan Hosler (above left) takes a turn at the forge. Photos courtesy of Galen Fitzkee
Office of Peacebuilding and Policy staff joined a rally to demand Congress pass legislation to make it more difficult for would-be mass shooters to acquire weapons. Photo courtesy of Galen Fitzkee


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