Saturday, 15 July 2000  

There was no Convention Daily produced today. We think there should have been, so we have produced this edition. It is, of course, entirely unofficial and entirely produced by Anglicans Online. Writing is by ENS reporters and convention volunteers. Other days' issues are here.

Bishops follow deputies to curb easy availability of guns
By Joe Thoma

Bishops discuss a resolution


Bishops responded passionately on the afternoon of their penultimate legislative day, July 13, to a resolution that urges the removal of handguns and assault weapons from homes, vehicles and communities.

In the end, the bishops concurred with the resolution, B007, and a similar one, D004, which expresses concern about the use and easy availability of handguns by children. But Bishop Peter Beckwith (Springfield) objected to wording that doesn't allow for hunting guns and collectors' items. "I would be less than honest if I didn't tell you that I have a number of handguns in my home," Beckwith said. "One of my favorites is a cap-and-ball 1858 Naval revolver, and it's never been fired."

But most other bishops who spoke favored the measures. And the subject turned to the convention's proximity to Littleton, Colorado, where in April 1999, two students stormed Columbine High School with guns and pipe bombs, killing 12 fellow students, one teacher and themselves and wounding 23 other people.

Memories of tragedy
"I was in competitive shooting through college and taught the use of weapons in the military before I became a chaplain and turned them into plowshares," said Bishop Calvin Schofield (Southeast Florida). He added that his son-in-law is a counselor working with Columbine survivors. "There is still a horrendous amount of pain in that institution, and it will take many years to subside."

Schofield said the problem also plagues Miami, where children are killed each day by violence. "I just want to say that anything we can do to alleviate the problem of children being killed by guns either by other persons or by finding them in homes or in automobiles or in other places, I favor it," Schofield said.

The reality of kids, guns and violence hit home for Bishop Jack McKelvey (Rochester) on a recent drive to Colorado Springs to see a minor-league baseball game. "I went by Littleton on the way," he said. "I read not terribly long ago something that still seems very strange to me ... that every day in the United States, there's a Littleton. That means 12 or 13 children are killed in the United States each day."

Bishop Frederick Borsch (Los Angeles) voiced support for the resolution. "I want to speak from the home of the president of the Million Mom March and also of Charlton Heston, if I may." The "moms" marched on Washington early this year to protest the nation's liberal gun laws. Charlton Heston is president of the National Rifle Association, which opposes strict gun laws. "I want to urge people to go home and do something about this," Borsch said. "I don't think this resolution is nearly as strong as some of us wanted it to be."

Banning guns like banning cars
Beckwith compared the resolution to a hypothetical one that would ban cars because "45,000 people are killed each year." He said his family also had recent experience with a shooting tragedy when a deranged man shot Beckwith's sister-in-law. But Beckwith called the resolution a "pie-in-the-sky" measure, and suggested that B007 be amended by substituting the minority report from the Social and Urban Affairs Committee. That report asks that Episcopalians "prayerfully consider making our homes and vehicles safe for everyone," by better gun education.

John Rabb (Maryland) spoke against the minority report. "There are far too many handguns in the hands of the wrong people," Rabb said. "At the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore, a candle is lit any time a child dies from violence, and the sad thing is, a candle is lit every Sunday."

Bishop William Persell (Chicago) spoke for B007, which originated in his diocese. The resolution "comes out of the experience of our cathedral" which at one time displayed a large cross at its street corner, publicly displaying the names of children killed in Chicago. Cathedral members wondered "what more can we do now?" Persell said, so the congregation developed the resolution, which was endorsed by their Diocesan Convention. "This is an extremely important issue, with an incredible number of people dying daily in this country because of handguns and assault weapons," Persell said.

Beckwith later withdrew the amendment, but worked with Bishop Dorsey Henderson (Upper South Carolina) in drafting an amendment that acknowledged that guns are in many people's homes and called for safe storage and handling of them. Other bishops opposed the amendment. "This is too important an issue to tinker to death," said Bishop Christopher Epting (Iowa). Bishop Barbara Harris (Massachusetts) said the resolution's reference to handguns and assault weapons is meant to leave room for hunting guns.

The amendment failed and the bishops concurred with the deputies on the original resolution.

Anglicans Online is not affiliated with Episcopal Life, ECUSA, or any other official part of the church. It is not official in any way. Our staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact <a href=""></a> for more information.