by Sister Rosalie Carven, Pax Christi Long Island
After the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, some members of Pax Christi Long Island met to consider how to respond to the prevalence of gun deaths, not only recurring mass shootings but also the 30 gun deaths that happen each day in our nation—homicides, suicides and accidental shootings.
The nonviolent ethic of Pax Christi conditioned us to embrace a particular perspective on this tragedy: not to react in the belief that individuals and communities find personal and public security at the end of gun barrel. So a small committee of the Pax Christi Long Island council began a campaign to educate and encourage communities on Long Island to seek sensible gun regulations. The InSight Campaign to End Gun Violence was born. We began to establish networks with other faith-based, educational and civic groups. Nineteen groups, including religious congregations, peace and justice and civic organizations and churches of various denominations, joined the effort to turn talk into action.
Our primary intent was, and still is, to provide forums that bring people together for education around the hidden and deadly toll of gun violence. We advocated for regulations such as enhanced background checks, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. In early 2013, we invited principals, teachers and students, clergy and parishioners, civic officials and health care workers to our first community event at Hofstra University, where Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and Assemb. Michelle Schimel, joined by a panel of five advocates from local law enforcement and neighborhood service organizations, gave a good overview of the legislative action needed to reduce gun violence. Next, the campaign moderated a discussion on the film “Trigger,” a documentary on gun violence.
In an ongoing action, 100 pieces of artwork and poetry collected from students at local high schools became a traveling exhibit displayed at local churches, libraries, a children’s museum and at schools. The exhibit is also presented in a video posted on the Pax Christi Long Island website (www.paxchristilongisland.org ) The campaign sent seventeen poems to President Obama, Vice-President Biden and Senate Leader Harry Reid, who responded with words of support. We also did a mass mailing of 200 letters to Senator Reid, asking him to revisit gun control legislation in the Senate. At all events we distributed a packet of information, including a pledge of nonviolence for children; gun death statistics; outline of sensible gun regulations, and lists of helpful websites.
The final InSight Campaign event was an interfaith prayer service to recall victims of a shootout on the Long Island Railroad twenty years ago and to memorialize the children and teachers shot at Sandy Hook in December, 2012. Muslim, Jewish and Christian ministers led the prayer, and youth from these faith groups offered recitations about children who were victims of gun violence. The assembly pledged to respond on behalf of all victims of senseless gun violence. The event was covered by both the local daily newspaper and TV station.
You can do a campaign like this where you live.