Youth were among the first to take action against gun violence after the school massacre in Parkland, Fla., in February.
They staged school walkouts and stormed politicians’ offices demanding meaningful legislation. Hundreds of thousands marched in cities across the nation on March 24.
But there are adults shifting into gear, as well.
Inspired by the concept that nothing changes if nothing changes, people of faith are joining the movement by organizing everything from congregational letter-writing campaigns to strategy conferences to local gun buybacks.
Clergy and laypeople involved say the key is doing something — anything — rather than caving in to the enormity of the gun violence issue.
“This is not the only solution to mass killings, but this is one way and this is the one we are working on right now,” said David Hadley, a retired Wabash College professor and member of Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville, Ind.
Hadley and his wife, Sheridan, a retired teacher and principle, with their church have organized a buyback of military style firearms and accessories.
During the Sunday event, they will offer $100 grocery gift cards for every assault weapon and $25 gift cards for bump stocks and large-capacity magazines. Everything they collect will be melted down.
It was the Feb. 14 shootings that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that inspired this weekend’s gun buyback, Sheridan Hadley said.
“Even though we can’t do anything in the short-term to change laws, this was something we could offer people who have seen these horrible things,” she said.
It was impossible not to act after witnessing young people around the country taking bold action to demand change.
“We hope others might be interested in doing a similar thing,” she said of the buyback.
These weapons, she added, “have no place in the community and are only there to harm.”
‘A good guy with a vote’
Another congregation is taking the educational approach to address gun violence.
The Riverside Church in New York City will host an October conference for faith and community leaders titled “God and Guns.”
The event, the second of its kind since 2016, was organized in response to an outpouring of interest following the Parkland shootings, said Amy Butler, the senior minister at Riverside.
One goal is to present participants with practical ways they can take on such a large, emotionally charged issue. One place to start, Butler said, is in the use of language.
“We want churches to talk about gun violence, not gun control,” she said.
“It came to our attention that most pastors don’t know how to talk about it and how to frame it theologically.”
Pastors and lay leaders will leave equipped with the tools and practical steps needed to lead a congregation through a discussion of gun violence, Butler said.
One includes framing the discussion in terms of the value of human life and the safety of children. Church members can be especially helpful by communicating their support for pastors who address the issue from the pulpit, she said.
“It’s a question of whether we are going to live in the world through a lens of love or a lens of fear. That’s just the bottom line.”
The Oct. 11-12 timing is also important.
“We hope they will go to the polls thinking about gun violence,” Butler said. “They say the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a vote.”
Sheridan Hadley said it’s important individuals and churches take some kind of action.
“People listen to their own principles and find a way to make a difference, whatever the issues are,” she said. “People need to pay attention and not be afraid to take a stand.”