By Jeff Walton (@JeffreyHWalton)
Today marks Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding Ash Wednesday when Anglicans, Lutherans and Catholics traditionally emptied their cupboards of eggs, milk and sugar before the ritual fasting of Lent. But while Episcopalians will be serving pancakes, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is serving up written testimony to a U.S. Senate subcommittee urging Americans to empty their ammunition magazines.
In comments prepared for the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing on “Proposals to reduce gun violence: protecting our communities while respecting the Second Amendment,” the Episcopal Church official decries “massacres in suburban schools and routine death on the streets of our cities.” “Curbs” on weaponry are suggested as limiting violence, but no correlation is made between the success or failure of existing gun control measures, increased gun ownership and a nationwide decrease in violent crime.
Three points are outlined by Jefferts Schori: first, examining the glorification and trivialization of violence and “how civility is lived out in our national affairs, particularly the rhetoric that diminishes and demonizes those who hold competing opinions.”
Second, Jefferts Schori asks lawmakers to address mental health, offering positive words about legislation sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), the “Excellence in Mental Health Act” and to treat mental healthcare “as a budgetary priority.”
Finally, the Episcopal Church bishop bemoans an accessibility to guns by those prone to commit crimes, “and the danger posed by the increasingly lethal character of both the weaponry and ammunition available.”
Qualifying her comments by writing that “The Episcopal Church supports the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” Jefferts Schori clarifies that “law-abiding gun owners are not responsible for the crimes we are discussing today and should not be the focus of our responses to those crimes.”
Jefferts Schori reports that the church stands “for tighter curbs on weaponry designed primarily to enable more effective killing of other human beings, such as what are commonly referred to as military-style assault rifles.”
“I urge lawmakers to press for comprehensive and universal background checks for firearm ownership, regardless of where and how a gun is purchased; for bans on the availability to civilians of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines; and for policies designed to better regulate the manufacture of guns,” the Presiding Bishop testified.
While the Episcopal Church official referenced previous General Convention resolutions on gun violence, her lone scriptural reference is from Zechariah chapter 8 verses 4-6: “old men and women shall again sit in the streets…And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing.”
“As Christians, we believe that all God’s people should be able to live in peace,” Jefferts Schori explained.
The Presiding Bishops’ testimony follows a national call-in day on February 4, in which Jefferts Schori urged Episcopalians to contact their members of Congress and advocate for additional firearms restrictions.