Resolved, That the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Linthicum Heights, Maryland on February 27, 2013 express profound sorrow at the epidemic of gun violence in our communities, and urge Episcopalians to work toward comprehensive social responses that seek to stem the cycles of violence that fuel gun crime; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council reaffirm General Convention Resolution 2000-D004 expressing “deep concern about the repeated use of easily available hand guns and assault weapons by and against children, and call upon Episcopalians to seek ways to develop community strategies and create sanctuaries for our children, so that all may come to identify and value themselves and others as the precious children of God that they are, and that they may come to know peace in their lives and to create peace for future generations”; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council reaffirm General Convention Resolution 1991-D088 calling the Episcopal Church to advocate for “public policy and adequate funding to provide comprehensive community-based services, hospital care and research into the causes and treatment of mental illness”; and emphasizes that mental-health services should be available and accessible without stigma in a variety of settings, including those who have suffered trauma from exposure to violence or violent environments; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council support public-policy initiatives, such as the bipartisan “Excellence in Mental Health Care Act” pending in the United States Congress that seek to allow community-based mental healthcare providers the same opportunities to access federal funding as are currently allowed to providers of physical healthcare; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council reaffirm General Convention Resolution 1997-C035 urging restrictions on the sale, ownership and use of firearms, particularly those that are easily concealable; and the enactment of tighter restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council reaffirm General Convention Resolution 2000-B007 acknowledging that violence in our communities is encouraged and enabled by the presence of guns and calling for Episcopalians to advocate for the removal of handguns and assault weapons from our homes, communities and vehicles; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council urge our elected officials to enact a clear and effective statute making gun trafficking a federal crime and empower law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers, and their entire criminal networks; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council urge Episcopalians to examine our own cultural attitudes toward violence through efforts in our own congregations and communities, to repent of our own roles in the glorification and trivialization of violence, and to commit ourselves to another way.
On February 12, 2013, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave written testimony to the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, for the hearing on “Proposals to reduce gun violence: protecting our communities while respecting the Second Amendment.”
In Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s written testimony, she summarizes the issue of gun violence in the United States, when she said:
“The United States has witnessed far too many public shootings in recent months and years. Far too many lives have been cut short or maimed by both random and targeted acts of gun violence. The school shooting in Newtown, CT horrified Americans and people around the world, yet since that day several times as many young people have died by gunshot. Each year, gun violence claims the lives of more than 3,000 children in the United States. The victims of each of these shootings are members of our families, religious congregations, and communities, and we continue to grieve for the living as well as the dead. . .
“This is no easy task. Just as the root causes of cyclical violence in our culture, and the ways in which that violence is expressed, are varied and complicated, so too are the solutions. We must resist the temptation to use the present moment of national angst as a pretext for pre-formed political agendas or simplistic responses that are better suited for sound bites than for meaningful, long-term change. We all share a responsibility to examine the many facets of cycles of violence in our society, and to discern equally comprehensive responses that will address the causes, means, and effects of violence.”
The Episcopal Church has consistently been a voice of concern about gun violence and the exacerbation of violence wrought by easily available hand guns and assault weapons, and a voice of support for making community-based mental health services readily available and accessible without stigma, as stated in the General Convention resolutions cited in this resolution and reprinted further in this Explanation.
“The Excellence in Mental Health Act” was introduced in the 113th Congress in early February by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives led by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO). The Act strengthens community behavioral health centers that include mental health services, including 24-hour crisis care, integrated physical-mental-substance abuse treatment, and additional support for families of individuals living with mental health issues. The Act also establishes stringent quality standards and clinical outcome reporting measures, as well as authorizing Medicaid payment reforms that will strengthen the safety net to meet the mental health needs of returning veterans and the Affordable Care Act’s insurance coverage expansions.
The most important resolve may be the seventh. It means the Episcopal Church can now go ahead with Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns in a broad based lobbying effort. Previously our church had no legislation on making gun trafficking a federal crime, and that was keeping us from participating fully in the current movement.