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Newtown: A Year Later

This was written by Pastor Jim O'Hanlon.

These people are leaders of congregations involved in Westchester United, New Jersey Together and East Brooklyn Congregations. All of those organizations are affiliated with the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (www.metro-iaf.org) a network of citi
These people are leaders of congregations involved in Westchester United, New Jersey Together and East Brooklyn Congregations. All of those organizations are affiliated with the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (www.metro-iaf.org) a network of citi

Newtown: A Year Laterby Pastor Jim O'Hanlon  Like many parents, dropping my children off at school last December was a stressful experience.  
After last year's tragedy in Newtown I felt an urgency about the need for common sense gun regulations.  It was quickly apparent that any new Federal regulations were unlikely and while some states took action that alone was never going to be as effective.  The idea that we needed armed guards at our schools was not really a solution to my mind.  
When politics fails people need to look for other options.  Westchester United is a coalition of houses of faith and other community organizations in conversation about the problems we see, the issues that are causing them and the solutions that we could bring to reality if we worked together.  For several months Westchester United and other community groups have been in dialogue with law enforcement and finding common cause on gun violence.  We need to find some way of addressing this issue that will bring together some people who want new gun laws and some people who don't want government to impose a solution.  We need to seek broader coalitions beyond these competing groups.   We believe that working in concert, law enforcement agencies could ask for industry standards that would be required for any of their vendors.  Gun manufacturers are selling to law enforcement and at the same time, without better restrictions, they are ultimately supplying criminals.  Many law enforcement officials have expressed an interest in asking their vendors to be more conscientious and to voluntarily adopt better standards with regard to the kinds of weapons they sell commercially.  
Members of Westchester United have been reaching out to gun manufacturers to start a dialogue about how they could impose their own standards and work to get these restrictions to be industry wide.  Some of these corporations have been uninterested in responding to these requests for opening up this conversation with us.  Westchester United along with similar faith-based community groups have taken to organizing themselves to get their voice heard.  
On Wednesday I joined an interfaith group representing faith communities from NYC, Westchester and New Jersey.  Nine of us stopped at a retail outlet for Beretta, a gun manufacturer. We went there to do what letters, faxes and phone calls could not: get an answer to a request for a meeting.  We delivered a letter to the store manager and explained that a small delegation of colleagues were at that very moment in Italy as part of an effort to reach the owner, Ugo Beretta.  That group, representing The Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF) have been attending meetings with representatives of the Vatican, the European Union, as well as Smart gun entrepreneurs. 
Working together as Christians, Jews, Muslims, other faiths and other concerned people we hope to find a way to solve this seemingly intractable problem.  We hope to do this without paid lobbyists, without partisan rhetoric and without unnecessary or counterproductive confrontation.  We intend, however, to be persistent about starting a conversation because we believe that people meeting face to face can bring the change we need.  At the very least we cannot just give up on the effort or lose hope in our ability to work together.  After all the incidents, especially in our schools, there has to be a way forward.  As the scripture says, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" - Leviticus 19:16.   --       -
     peace,  
     Pastor Jim O'Hanlon
Pastor Jim O'Hanlon December 14, 2013 at 11:38 AM
We should pray for the families of Newtown and all victims of violence. Pray and work for a safer society.
Craig Noor December 14, 2013 at 04:33 PM
I have never found any value in prayer. I think there is greater value in fighting the psychopaths who run the NRA and fight any and all reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, including by the mentally ill.
JJ December 14, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Craig Noor..........I respect your postings but this is a time for Prayer whether you personally believe in it or not and not for political agendas. America has seen and heard enough political agendas. Not if calling the NRA "psychopaths" is right but I do agree on the FACT that mental health played a huge role in this tragedy.
Craig Noor December 15, 2013 at 09:17 AM
JJ - if prayer is helpful to people, more power to them. I simply stated it has not been helpful to me - just one person's experience. I agree with you completely that mental health played a huge role in this tragedy. In my "real life" some of what I do is help direct people to resources that will help them get treatment, and, more casually, I try to lessen the taboo of the discussion of mental illness and the judgments people make toward the mentally ill. I did reach a bit in referring to the NRA leadership as psychopaths, I will give you that - however, this is a group whose chapters have fought restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill (not to mention for blind people...) - they let their ideology trump common sense and pragmatism. I am sure you remember Wayne LaPierre talking about the need for a "good guy with a gun" to put down a "bad guy with a gun" - which is farfetched when even heavily trained NYPD officers have less than stellar results (as in that recent incident in Times Square). Again, they are letting the abstract and ideology blind them to reality.
JJ December 15, 2013 at 09:55 AM
Craig.......agree 100% again with you on the mental health issues. Thanks again for the response.

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