For Josh Davis, the issue of gun violence hits close to home.
“I live in Germantown,” he said. “I walk my dogs through the neighborhood and I pass these sidewalk memorials to gun violence victims all the time.
“I am pursuing ordination in the Episcopal priesthood and it’s an issue that just calls out to me at being on my doorstep. This terrible sort of epidemic that effects my neighborhood and my church’s neighborhood.”
Davis, who is preparing for the priesthood at the United Lutheran Seminary in Germantown, is channeling his energy into Gun Violence Awareness Day which is set for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12. The event is sponsored by the Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence organization, along with the United Lutheran Seminary, Souls Shot, Germantown Mennonite, St. Luke’s and the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
The day will kick off at 4:00 that afternoon with a brief service at the Germantown Mennonite Church at 21 W. Washington Lane followed by a one-mile walk to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Germantown at 5421 Germantown Ave where there will be a service on the lawn. The day will also include live music, refreshments, and what organizers are calling advocacy activities, such as encouraging attendees to write letters to their Senators, Congressmen, and state lawmakers or visit them in Washington D.C. or Harrisburg.
Courtenay Wilcox is one of the event organizers. She is also studying at the United Lutheran Seminary and will soon graduate with a Master’s degree. Wilcox says it’s important for community residents to interact with their lawmakers on this issue.
“These are the people who I’m told legislators would prefer to hear from,” she said, “from Joe Public, as opposed to the lobbyist that comes in with his or her slick presentation. These are people that are in the epicenter of areas that are being affected by gun violence. They have not just one street corners, but multiple areas on streets where people have died.
Davis says his involvement in the event stems from concern for his own community. “There are people we know in this neighborhood and Mt. Airy that have also been affected by gun violence. It’s sort of an inescapable, sinful reality of the world we live in.”
Wilcox notes that one of the most troubling aspects of gun violence involves straw purchases; individuals purchasing guns for people who are not legally permitted to have them.
Wilcox says the Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence group has been proactive on that issue. “They protested at gun shops,” she said, “and asked them to sign a letter that they would not sell to straw purchasers. I think they know what’s going on. It’s not like it’s a mystery.”
Estimates vary as to the number of guns owned by United States citizens but multiple sources indicate that more than 40 percent of the civilian-owned firearms in the world are owned by Americans, who constitute approximately four percent of the world’s population.
Davis, who worked in journalism for 35 years before enrolling in the seminary, insists that this event is not about restricting access to guns. “We’re about ending gun violence,” he said, "and I think every shade of the political spectrum has ideas about that."
“I personally am from a rural area and I’ve worked in rural and suburban communities where a large percentage of people supported Second Amendment rights. I’m not opposed to Second Amendment rights. What I’m opposed to is gun violence. I talk to the people all the time who are really concerned, especially in the black community, about being able to protect themselves. I think that is a universal American value in a lot of ways that we are not opposed to.”