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Justice & Advocacy - an affiliate website of The Lehigh Conference of Churches

J&A Fall Workshop Report: Gun Violence

“Gun Violence”[1] was one of the topics of the Justice and Advocacy fall workshop, with discussion led by Fritz Walkder. Here is a brief report on the that workshop.

Fritz Walker began his presentation with three facts:

  1. There have been about equal numbers of deaths from car accidents and guns for many years, but for car accidents, there has been an 80% reduction in deaths since 1966.[2] There has been no corresponding drop in gun deaths. In 2015, the number of gun deaths will surpass car accident deaths.
  2. We’ve lost more people since 1970 to gun violence than we’ve lost in all wars America has fought.
  3. Tens of thousands of guns go missing from gun dealers every year.

Many more disheartening facts followed. Fritz is on the board of CeaseFirePA, and has started a Lehigh Valley branch. One area in which CeaseFirePA works is to support common sense gun laws. Examples are: legislation that increases penalties against gun dealers who allow straw purchases, and legislation that makes it harder for domestic abusers and stalkers to purchase a gun. Fritz encouraged us to meet with legislators and write letters to the editor. Fritz also encouraged the Justice & Advocacy (J&A) Committee to take the CeaseFirePA Declaration of Principles to the LCC Board of Directors and ask them to sign it.

Other organizations also working to reduce gun violence that Fritz is affiliated with are Everytown for Gun Safety and Heeding God’s Call (to end gun violence). Heeding God’s Call is a faith-based organization that also does civil disobedience to bring the spotlight on gun dealers who are allowing straw purchases.

A great deal of the work Fritz does involves intensive reading and knowing facts well. Gun rights advocates are extremely active and passionate; getting sensible gun laws passed is dependent on having a well-informed base of supporters.

One area of conflict between the J&A Committee and CeaseFirePA is the stance taken regarding prison justice. J&A has supported eliminating mandatory minimums in sentencing while CeaseFirePA is proud that they have helped pass laws creating mandatory minimum sentencing. The casual conversation we had with Frtiz allowed him to admit to us, “We don’t know enough when we talk to District Attorneys about the system to change it.” This opening for cooperation between advocacy groups clearly working for the same goals (reducing gun violence) made this workshop well worth the time we put into it.

[1] See bullies.ppjr.org for links to the organizations named in this story and other related resources.
[2] Extensive data collection about traffic deaths has led to new safety practices such as the concrete barriers that now divide many of our nation’s superhighways, but federal funds currently cannot be used for gun violence research.

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