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To: Legislators, Parents, and other AMERICANS CONCERNED ABOUT GUN VIOLENCE

Take The Pledge: 5 Things to do to stop gun violence in America

From my experience as a pastor and former police officer, I know what it is to reach out in open-handed care of others, and I also know what it is to fire a weapon, taking life in the line of duty. I also know from experience about grieving with parents whose children have been fatally shot on the streets of both urban and suburban neighborhoods.

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, we must keep in mind that a society is measured on how well we protect the least among us - children, the poor, and those in neighborhoods where gun violence is routine.

As clergy, we have mourned alongside families all too often. It’s time to call for an end to the violence that lands us in their living rooms year in and year out.

Join me in pledging to push for the following five things to end gun violence in America.

Why is this important?

After the 28 deaths, including 20 children, in Newtown, it is time that we immediately turn the tide of gun violence around us before the next tragedy strikes. Here are five things we can pledge to do:

(1.) Reach out to young people – especially those who express feelings of being alienated, isolated, or disenfranchised – and those who need mentoring, encouragement, and opportunities to break out of cycles of despair, hate, rage and frustration. Provide that guidance – a “hand up” for success.

(2.) Help parents – particularly single parents who need practical support in responding to challenges with older children and teenagers, including those in need of mental healthcare. Determine and achieve what is needed to strengthen those lives, one family at a time – and work to support the availability of services to all people regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds.

(3.) Make sure there is a moral compass firmly in the hand of every person. Start with the Golden Rule, build to the 10 commandments, and teach and model peacemaking and non-violence at every opportunity. Demonstrate alternatives to behavior fueled by anger, or by violence seen in media. Parents, teachers and clergy must not neglect these responsibilities.

(4.) Support federal policy changes while securing weapons. Write an email or call public officials locally, regionally and nationally to insist on reinstatement of the federal assault weapon ban and increased mental healthcare resources. Every first-grader’s right to learn safely in his or her classroom far outweighs any claim I might invoke to own or operate an assault weapon. Meanwhile, make certain that any firearms in homes are fully locked down, or better yet – surrender those weapons to any local police station.

(5.) Express your support for local police officers and first responders who stand in harm’s way on a daily basis. More than ever, these professionals need our care and encouragement to meet the challenges of protecting and serving our communities. If we paid more attention to meeting societal needs in the way of education and mental healthcare, we would not have to depend solely on the expertise of our police and fire safety personnel.

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and founder of Hands in Healing, a non-profit initiative dedicated to advocacy and education for stopping violence and increasing peace. Prior to his 35 years of ordained ministry, he was for six years an officer in Southern California’s Burbank Police Department.

Los Angeles, CA

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2013-12-15 23:49:38 -0500

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