In response to ever-growing concerns over gun violence in the U.S., several local churches and places of worship are participating in the national Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend.
Sponsored by the Washington National Cathedral and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of 50 national denominations and faith-based organizations, Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend is a national interfaith event to remember people who have lost their lives to gunfire, to pray for people who have lost a loved one and to continue the discussion about how communities of faith can work together to help reduce gun violence.
The event takes place March 13 to 16, with main observance on March 15 and 16 across the country.
Diane Luellen, a parish member of Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church, in Dillon, was instrumental in organizing Summit County places of worship to participate in the annual event. Also participating this year are St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, in Breckenridge, and High Country Church, which also meets at Lord of the Mountains.
Luellen was interested in expanding the event to Summit County to begin a local dialogue about gun-violence prevention, but she said the event is not about gun control.
“There are a lot of legitimate reasons for people to own guns, such as for hunting,” Luellen said. “It’s more about the idea that gun violence is so much more prevalent in the U.S. than in other countries.”
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 467,321 people in 2011 were the victims of crimes committed with a firearm in the U.S. Additional data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that during that same year firearms were used in 68 percent of murders, 41 percent of robberies and 21 percent of aggravated assaults.
Firearm-related homicides have been on the decline since they peaked in 1993 at 17,075. The lowest rate occurred in 1999, with 10,177 gun-related homicides. In 2008, the most recent year for which data was available, firearm-related deaths totaled 10,869.
Although gun deaths have been on the decline, research by the American Bar Association shows that in 2003 there were 11,920 gun-related homicides in the U.S., which was “eight times higher than economic counterparts around the world.” The rate of gun deaths among children under the age of 15 is 12 times higher in the U.S. than in the other “25 industrialized nations combined.” The U.S. also ranks the highest in youth homicides and suicides when compared with “the 26 wealthiest nations.”
By participating in the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend, Luellen said she hopes she is not only laying the foundation for greater participation in the future, but also motivating a band of locals to address gun violence issues here in Summit.
“I’m hoping this event will lead to the formation of a group to explore gun-violence prevention options in the future,” Luellen said. “We need to find ways to reduce the propensities for gun violence in this country.”
For more information, including local places of worship participating in the event, visit www.marchsabbath.org, or call Luellen at 468-0207 or 368-0923.
“We need to find ways to reduce the propensities for gun violence in this country.”