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Trigger in Iowa City: Ripples 2 Waves

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In April of 2013, members at First Presbyterian Church of Iowa City viewed the documentary, Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence, as part of an adult education study. Moved by the film, members of the church’s peace and justice committee began discussing how they could initiate a conversation about gun violence within the wider community.

To accomplish this, they formed a committee called “Ripples 2 Waves,” after a Mother Teresa quote: “I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” President Obama’s remarks on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre also inspired their movement: “We can’t lose sight of the fact that real change won’t come from Washington. It will come the way it’s always come – from you. From the American people.” In building this grassroots movement, Ripples 2 Waves soon became an interfaith coalition, drawing members from Presbyterian, Methodist, Jewish, and agnostic backgrounds. They knew that a meaningful conversation would require having many voices at the table.

One founding member, Martha Schut, noted, “In the beginning I too thought, let’s just get rid of assault weapons and high capacity magazines.” However, through the committee’s research and discussions with community members, it became clear that responsible gun owners weren’t the enemy. “I would recommend having responsible gun owners as part of the process,” Schut stated. After all, Ripples 2 Waves wasn’t seeking to eliminate the Second Amendment, but to find middle ground. For this reason, they adopted the slogan, “A Community Effort for Sensible Gun Use.”

Ripples 2 Waves decided to use Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence to start the conversation. They planned a free community screening and panel discussion at the Coralville Performing Arts Center and devised a promotional plan that included newspaper ads, letters to the editor, invitations to partner organizations and community leaders, a website (ripples2waves.org), and interviews with local television and radio stations. They invited panelists representing sectors of the community that deal with gun violence on a regular basis:

• Kristie Doser, Executive Director, Domestic Violence Intervention Program
• Joe Bolkcom, Iowa State Senator, 4th District
• Jim Claypool, Attorney/gun owner
• Bernie Frank, Co-pastor of Gospel Explosion Ministry/gun violence victim
• Joan McMillan, Retired substance abuse counselor/gun owner,
• Lonny Pulkrabek, Johnson County Sheriff
• Stephen Trefz, Executive Director, Community Mental Health Mid-Eastern Iowa
• Mike Willey, MD, UIHC Orthopedic Surgeon.

On a cold January night, over 265 people turned out to view the film, hear the panelist, and connect with local organizations. The evening’s program was filmed and shown on the local public television channel several times the following week. Since then, the committee has received a strong, positive reaction from the community. Ripples 2 Waves members believe the event was a success, but also know that their work has just begun. To follow their progress, visit ripples2waves.org.

Panelist Bernie Frank recounts her experience as a gun violence survivor

Panelist Bernie Frank recounts her experience as a gun violence survivor

After the film, viewers were encouraged to connect with local organizations, like the Domestic Violence Intervention Program

After the film, viewers were encouraged to connect with local organizations, such as Iowa’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program

10 Things You Can Do To Prevent Gun Violence

The disaster caused by gun violence can be seen in almost every community. We may hear briefly about the victims and survivors of these shootings, but what happens after the media attention moves on and the wider public becomes numb to “just another shooting”? Here are just a few things you, your organization or congregation may consider to help put a stop to gun violence in and around your community:

  1. Contact your representatives in Congress and ask that they:
  2. Support universal background checks and waiting periods for all gun purchases.
  3. Support a ban on semiautomatic assault weapon, armor piercing handgun ammunition and .50 caliber sniper rifles.
  4. Identify the organizations in your community engaged in gun violence prevention and get involved.
  5. Attend a peaceful demonstration or public prayer service to end gun violence.
  6. Contact your mayor and city council members and demand that steps be taken in your community to prevent gun violence.
  7. Help close the gun show loophole that allows purchases with no background checks.
  8. Schedule a screening of Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence for your group or organization.
  9. Join or form a local chapter of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based movement to end gun violence. Check out www.heedinggodscall.org for more.
  10. Ask the leaders of your worshiping community to address gun violence in worship services and education classes.
  11. Learn about your state’s concealed carry laws, which may allow guns to be carried openly. Encourage your places of work and worship to prominently display signs that prohibit carrying guns on their property.
  12. Encourage those you know who regularly handle weapons properly to be wise examples in reducing risks and teaching how to prevent the misuse of deadly force.

What are some other ways you, your church or other community organizations may be able to help end gun violence in and around your community?

The Ripple Effect

With headlines around the country and the globe bring seemingly endless attention to gun violence – in schools, in movie theaters, in homes or on the streets – one often begins to wonder, “When will enough be enough? When will the violence end and things finally change?”

The PC(USA) found these questions surfacing frequently within various ministry and program areas of the church. As a result, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program set out to create an hour-long documentary focused on drawing attention to the far-reaching and long-lasting impact of gun violence on individuals, families and communities. Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence frames gun violence as a disaster and public health issue, and is told entirely from the perspective of those who have experienced, or respond to gun violence on a daily basis.

Most people think gun violence happens “someplace else” or to “someone else” but this disaster – gun violence – can happen anywhere. “Trigger was intended to wake people up,” said the film’s producer, David Barnhart. “Gun violence should not be the norm in our society.”

Have you or someone you know been touched in some way by gun violence? Have you thought about ways you might help prevent gun violence in your community?