Common Ground: Preventing Gun Violence

After the mass shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, some members of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta were inspired to learn more and speak out against gun violence.

Last month, Trinity hosted a screening of Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence, a one-hour documentary produced with funds from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Through interviews with lawmakers, emergency room chaplains and surgeons, survivors and victims’ families, law enforcement officers and others, Trigger tells the story of how gun violence impacts individuals and communities. It also explores gun violence prevention by lifting up the voices of those who seek common ground.

The screening, which drew about 200 people, was a good starting point for more dialogue, said Trinity’s pastor, the Rev. Pam Driesell.

“Showing the film isn’t the ending,” she said. “It begins to open up the conversation in a larger arena.”

Since last year, a small group at Trinity began meeting weekly to brainstorm and learn more about gun violence and gun control legislation. The group has now expanded to include ecumenical and interfaith members — the screening was co-sponsored by two synagogues and attended by a theologically, politically and racially diverse crowd.

“We’re trying to find the common ground that crosses party lines,” Driesell said, adding that the common ground seems to be: “We care about this.

“As people of faith, how can we respond?”

One way the group in Atlanta is responding is by speaking out and petitioning against Georgia’s Senate Bill 101, which proposes to allow concealed firearms on campuses, school grounds, government buildings and potentially houses of worship or bars. A major part of the group’s campaign against the bill involves raising awareness and encouraging dialogue and education.

Those who are interested in learning about the complex issue of gun violence and how to prevent it might feel overwhelmed. But it’s important to start somewhere, Driesell said. As an informed group builds, people will begin to share resources and learn more about how their faith compels them to act.

“We are determined not to let the fact that we can’t fix everything stop us from fixing anything,” Driesell said. “God is a God who hears the cries of suffering people … and then sends ordinary people to respond to those cries.”

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