Episcopalians from around the country were among the thousands of Americans who rallied on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol on May 9 in support of extending the federal ban on assault weapons.
The Mother's Day rally--which was followed by a march through the streets of the nation's capital--was the kick-off event for the Million Mom March's "Halt the Assault" tour, a nationwide, summer-long series of events designed to bolster public support for renewal of the soon-to-expire weapons ban. The Episcopal Church was among the dozens of faith-based organizations that endorsed the march.
Striving for Justice and Peace
In 1995, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church endorsed the federal assault-weapons ban as part of the "commitment, as called for in our Baptismal Covenant, to strive for justice and peace and, in seeking to serve Christ through the dignity [of] all persons, " continuing "to be a voice for the voiceless in society." That commitment was reinforced by the 2000 General Convention, which expressed grave concern about the use of handguns and assault weapons by and against children and called upon church members to work for the removal of such weapons from homes and residential communities.
Originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the assault-weapons ban is set to expire on September 13. During the 2000 campaign, President George W. Bush pledged to sign an extension of the ban, but congressional leaders have left doubt as to whether they will pass the necessary legislation. Speakers at the Mother's Day rally called upon the President and Congress to renew their commitment to the ban. "Each day that goes by, we are losing time," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a speaker at the rally and an Episcopalian.
Marching behind the Episcopal Church banner were Karen Chane, spouse of Bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington; Brook and Clara Packard, spouse and daughter of Bishop Suffragan of the Armed Forces George Elden Packard; representatives of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations; and others from around the country.
"As a mother and an Episcopalian I wanted to add my voice to the voices of the thousands of other concerned parents who participated in the Million Mom March," said Karen Chane. "The proliferation of guns and other assault weapons in our society is not being matched with responsibility and oversight by the gun industry or our elected officials. I am gratified that President Bush has promised to support the renewal of the Federal Assault Weapons ban, but he can and should do more. Episcopalians and mothers from across the country should ask their members of Congress to renew the ban before it's too late."
The federal assault-weapons ban was the subject of an Episcopal Public Policy Network alert in late February, prior to the Senate's consideration of S.2109, legislation to renew the ban, which was offered as an amendment to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The amendment passed the Senate, but similar legislation has not been considered in the House of Representatives, which also must approve it.
More information about the Million Mom March and a full schedule for this summer's "Halt the Assault" tour can be found at www.millionmommarch.org.