St. Lawrence and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) call for churches to recognize the season of Pentecost (June – November) as a time to focus on Gun Violence Prevention.
Would you like to share your thoughts about gun violence prevention with elected officials? To find your elected representatives and contact information CLICK HERE.
To learn more about the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and its efforts to curb gun violence
July 1, 2023
Dear People of God:
Tuesday will mark one year since the horrific shooting in Highland Park that claimed the lives of seven beloved children of God and injured 48 others. On that day, I will join the people of Highland Park to pray and worship, remembering those who were killed, honoring those whose lives were changed forever, and grieving the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our communities and our nation. You are invited to join us in person or in spirit.
In your prayers this weekend, please pray for the repose of the souls of Katie Goldstein, Irina McCarthy, Kevin Michael McCarthy, Stephen Straus, Jacki Lovi Sundheim, Nicolás Toledo and Eduardo Uvaldo and for healing and wholeness for those who were injured. Pray, too, for the people of Trinity, Highland Park. The past year has been a very hard one for them and their community.
In the face of gun violence, I pray that God will give us strength to take action. In May, I traveled to Washington D.C. for a day of meetings on Capitol Hill with my colleagues in Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Together, we advocated for sensible gun violence prevention measures like universal background checks, restrictions on gun ownership by domestic abusers, and other policy proposals that can stop the bloodshed in our communities.
In my meetings with members of Congress and their staffers, including the office of Congressman Brad Schneider, who represents Highland Park and Illinois’s 10th District, I urged lawmakers to prioritize not only federal legislation, like the assault weapons ban, that will protect us from mass shootings, but also measures that will end the toxic mix of racism, gun violence and poverty that causes so many deaths on our streets. Here in Illinois, where our state gun laws are strong, federal legislation is particularly important to stop the illegal guns that come over our borders from nearby states with more lax regulations.
You can join me in taking action by using this action alert from the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. It provides a sample letter and online tool you can use to write to Senators Durbin and Duckworth and your Congressional representative. Ask them to help us end the senseless grief and loss of God-given human potential caused by gun violence.
Beloved, may the God of hope bless us and sustain us now, and in every time of loss and sorrow, through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Peace and Blessings,
Bishop Paula E. Clark
It can be difficult to comprehend what leads people to extreme violent behavior which harms others. In the search for an explanation, many, including politicians and the media, highlight mental illness as a primary reason a person would commit horrific crimes.
However, there is much to know about the extent to which mental illness is (and isn’t) a risk factor for gun violence. Enduring, harmful myths and stereotypes about mental illness and violent tendencies deserve to be dismantled.
The facts show that people with serious mental illnesses are, indeed, somewhat more likely to commit violent acts than people who are not mentally ill, but the large majority are not violent toward others (96%). Moreover, when persons with mental illness do behave violently, it is often—although not always—for the same reasons that non–mentally ill people engage in violent behavior. In short, violence is a complex societal problem that is caused, more often than not, by factors besides mental illness.
MASS SHOOTINGS: We often hear after a mass shooting that mental health is to blame. However, a Columbia University research study found that of the 1,800 mass murders, only 8% of all mass shooters were diagnosed with a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder. Mass murderers with psychotic illness are much less likely to use firearms, much more likely to use other methods or weapons.
LAWS to address Guns and Mental Illness: Restrictions related to mental illness have existed since 1968, but largely remained unimplemented until the 1990s.
In 1993, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which instituted federal background checks for people attempting to buy guns from licensed dealers and reaffirmed the prohibited categories that the Gun Control Act had promulgated. In 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) went into effect. However, many states failed to report mental health records to the NICS system due to concerns about confidentiality and lack of data systems connecting mental health and criminal justice agencies.
In 2022 Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act: The bill provides almost $15 billion in new funding for mental health and school safety, school-based mental health programs, children and family mental health services and crisis intervention programs. With gun deaths continuing to rise in the immediate future, one would hope that this legislation will impact future generations resulting in fewer gun deaths.
CONCLUSIONS gun violence involving people with mental illness is a multifaceted problem whose solution will require a range of policy approaches and reforms working together. More attention must be given to the availability of guns, and the restrictions on purchase of guns. (Suicides are responsible for 61% of gun violence deaths and it is generally believed that some form of mental illness is related. Suicide will be addressed in an upcoming article from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship in September 2023)