Long Island bishop calls for campaign to counter Brooklyn gun violence

Posted Aug 23, 2012

[Diocese of Long Island] Episcopal Diocese of Long Island Lawrence Provenzano has issued a statement about a recent increase in gun violence in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The diocese encompasses all four counties of Long Island: Kings (the borders of which are the same as those of Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau and Suffolk. There are 32 Episcopal churches in Brooklyn.

Six people were shot in Brooklyn during the night of July 29, including two children, and, six days prior, a 4-year-old was killed by a stray bullet as he attended a basketball tournament held in honor of a young woman who was fatally stabbed near the same playground two years earlier. On Aug. 13, four teenagers were shot by a person who reportedly fled on a bicycle.

The full text of the statement follows and is also available as a bulletin insert here.

During the past few days, the reports of gun violence in Brooklyn have been alarming. There seems to be an ever-increasing use of guns as a solution to conflict, in the commission of crimes, and as a means of addressing the fear, isolation and hopelessness experienced by many in our society. Human life has become an expendable commodity, the cost of another’s selfish needs or a casualty of another’s fear or addiction.

Guns kill and wound people in senseless violence that has no place in our society. People are shooting other people in a faithless assertion of self-worth and credibility that lessens the humanity of us all. No one has the right to carry a gun for the purpose of unleashing its awful power on another human being. No one should have the right to use a gun to settle a dispute, right a wrong, or steal another’s property. No one on the streets of our city should be carrying a weapon. It is illegal, immoral and sinful!

We continue to fool ourselves into believing and trusting that the tools of background checks, and waiting periods and permits will keep us safe. The evidence is clear, guns kill people and our half-hearted efforts, bowing to the gun lobby in this nation is immoral and sinful. It is time for New Yorkers and our entire nation to flex our collective faithfulness and put an end to the trafficking of weapons once and for all by working for limiting the manufacturing and sale of all guns. Regardless of the means by which the guns find their way to the streets of our cities – if the guns are not manufactured for sale, they can’t be used.

Our common faith as children of God, calls us to act in faith for the care and protection of all people. Although I applaud and commend the efforts of those in the community who will stand vigil on the street corners in Brooklyn and Queens, we must also stand vigil at the source of these weapons. The guns used in the violent acts around our city are the product of an industry with $13.6 billion (http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2012/07/23/the-nra-industrial-complex) in domestic sales annually, an industry that views the misuse of their products as an unfortunate, but inevitable, by-product of their business. It is time for the political, moral and religious convictions of God’s people to move aggressively against the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of weapons in our city. No one should have to carry a weapon in the city of New York, in Nassau or Suffolk County but our law enforcement officials. It is time to get wise and stand faithful. It is time to stop this craziness and inhuman behavior by so many of our people. It is time to put an end to gun violence, by putting an end to guns.

I am calling on all the churches of our diocese in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk to partner with local police and immediately create a drop off centers for guns in our communities. Further, I am asking our local parish priests immediately to begin planning educational opportunities within our parishes to support a Campaign for Human Life, in which we begin to address all issues of human life and dignity based on the teaching of the Episcopal Church and the faithful use of Scripture, tradition and reason. Even further, I am asking our clergy, and laity to become fully involved in all efforts to address gun violence in our communities, to take part in rallies, community meetings and efforts to end gun violence, to open our churches for such efforts and to work faithfully to have the voice and teaching of the church be heard in the discussions and decision making that will effect local, state and national policy.

Our pastoral care of God’s people does not end at the church door. The Good Shepherd calls us to care for the entire flock, not solely the people gathered on Sunday morning. The call of the Good Shepherd beckons us to care for the sheep, at risk, harassed and scattered like sheep without a shepherd. The issue of gun violence in our community is now the business of the church because innocent people cannot fully live in our communities in safety. I call on our people to pray for a change in hearts and minds, I call on our people to speak out and act out in a common mission for the safety of our communities. It is time to live out our Baptismal Covenant, to protect the dignity of every human being. Let’s get to work for God’s people.