Newtown: A Year Later
by Pastor Jim O'Hanlon
Like many parents, dropping my children off at school last December was a stressful experience.
After last year's tragedy in Newtown I felt an urgency about the need for common sense gun regulations. It was quickly apparent that any new Federal regulations were unlikely and while some states took action that alone was never going to be as effective. The idea that we needed armed guards at our schools was not really a solution to my mind.
When politics fails people need to look for other options. Westchester United is a coalition of houses of faith and other community organizations in conversation about the problems we see, the issues that are causing them and the solutions that we could bring to reality if we worked together. For several months Westchester United and other community groups have been in dialogue with law enforcement and finding common cause on gun violence. We need to find some way of addressing this issue that will bring together some people who want new gun laws and some people who don't want government to impose a solution. We need to seek broader coalitions beyond these competing groups. We believe that working in concert, law enforcement agencies could ask for industry standards that would be required for any of their vendors. Gun manufacturers are selling to law enforcement and at the same time, without better restrictions, they are ultimately supplying criminals. Many law enforcement officials have expressed an interest in asking their vendors to be more conscientious and to voluntarily adopt better standards with regard to the kinds of weapons they sell commercially.
Members of Westchester United have been reaching out to gun manufacturers to start a dialogue about how they could impose their own standards and work to get these restrictions to be industry wide. Some of these corporations have been uninterested in responding to these requests for opening up this conversation with us. Westchester United along with similar faith-based community groups have taken to organizing themselves to get their voice heard.
On Wednesday I joined an interfaith group representing faith communities from NYC, Westchester and New Jersey. Nine of us stopped at a retail outlet for Beretta, a gun manufacturer. We went there to do what letters, faxes and phone calls could not: get an answer to a request for a meeting. We delivered a letter to the store manager and explained that a small delegation of colleagues were at that very moment in Italy as part of an effort to reach the owner, Ugo Beretta. That group, representing The Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF) have been attending meetings with representatives of the Vatican, the European Union, as well as Smart gun entrepreneurs.
Working together as Christians, Jews, Muslims, other faiths and other concerned people we hope to find a way to solve this seemingly intractable problem. We hope to do this without paid lobbyists, without partisan rhetoric and without unnecessary or counterproductive confrontation. We intend, however, to be persistent about starting a conversation because we believe that people meeting face to face can bring the change we need. At the very least we cannot just give up on the effort or lose hope in our ability to work together. After all the incidents, especially in our schools, there has to be a way forward. As the scripture says, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" - Leviticus 19:16. -- -
Pastor Jim O'Hanlon