Letter to the editor on gun violence resolution

Posted on December 7, 2010

The following is a letter to the editor of Pacific Church News, calling into question the reasoning behind a resolution on gun violence passed at the 161st Convention of the Diocese of California, October 16, 2010; and a response fromt the resolution's author. PCN did not have room to run this letter in the December issue, and it's author agreed to distribution on the web and through DioBytes (our weekly e-newsletter).


To the Editor of Pacific Church News:

An observation on the recent convention resolution; 'Reducing Gun Violence' ...

The first two 'whereas' of the resolution and the first 'resolved' are fine... clearly directed at the 'open carry' law which most of us view as an in-your-face display by activists.  Well and good.  It is the second 'resolved' that I find odd in wording and wonder at the intent.
It reads... in part... 'to ensure no firearms, whether concealed or open... other than weapons carried by law enforcement officers in the conduct of their official duties, be allowed...'
As written, a federal officer, en route home, no longer on official duty, picking up a child from a church school/day care would have to leave his weapon in the car to enter a church facility. Not a wise thing to do.  One, it is in violation of federal procedure to leave a service weapon unattended where it can be stolen. Two, it means if s/he sees something deadly taking place, they will be unable to intervene or protect themselves and the public. 
This also means a police officer, by statute on duty 24/7 (as opposed to a federal officer who is not considered 'on' 24/7) armed, as authorized by statutes, could not enter a church facility while off watch. They too would have to leave it in the car. They too might be picking up a child or in the office for church business. 
As a retired federal officer, I maintain a concealed weapons permit (CCW) am a trained professional.  I currently work as a part time contract background investigator for federal agencies. I periodically carry but not all the time. There are many retirees like me. This resolution addresses us - not the average citizen.
There are several salient points that the last 'resolved' ignored or did not know (beyond the open carry law, which should be repealed):
1)  there is already a state statute against citizens without a CCW carrying concealed weapons. It even has penalties (which the resolution does not)  They are in violation if they carry. Accordingly this part of the resolution is an unnecessary duplication - the state covers it nicely.
2) since both the state and the church agree that no one unauthorized should carry in a church, the church had the unenviable charge at convention to go one step further and require professional, trained, off duty law enforcement (LE) officers or retiree's to disarm themselves while entering a church facility.  Not the average citizen mind you, that has already been required by state statute (#1 supra) but now it requires people authorized by the state, to disarm as well.  To what purpose?  How are they to deal with one who enters church to do harm? What has this to do with 'reducing gun violence' as the resolution heading states?
What happens if, one of these off duty, disarmed L.E. officers observes a crazed gunman in or around a church facility and begins to do what we have seen done from time to time in this country? 
A former verger at Grace told me while discussing this, that they vergers carried mace or pepper spray in recognition of the need of for protection from the unstable types who occasionally ventured in.  Mace of course, is not a deadly weapon - the point is even caring church employees recognize the need to protect themselves and the public at large - the threats are real.
An old L.E. adage from the '60's reflected on a poster became legend... "If you need it, and don't have it, you will never need it again"  
This was a 'feel good' resolution - absent critical thinking.
Wayne Padgett
Church of the Incarnation

A Reply to Wayne Padgett on Gun Violence


As author of the “Reducing Gun Violence” resolution, I feel compelled to respond to Wayne Padgett’s December 6 letter.


Mr. Padgett contends that banning guns from our churches is superfluous, since “both the state and the church agree that no one unauthorized should carry in a church.”  Of course, someone who is not authorized to “carry” is not authorized to carry not only in a church…but anywhere.  If, however, Mr. Padgett has in mind some explicit agreement between church and state relating to “carrying” in a church, I have to ask: What is the nature of that agreement?  Where might we find it?


Mr. Padgett also expressed a concern about a potentially “crazed gunman in or around a church facility” who “begins to do what we have seen done from time to time in this country.”  What happens, he asked, if an “off duty, disarmed” law enforcement officer attending church “sees something deadly taking place?”  He will, Mr. Padgett concludes, “be unable to intervene or protect [himself] and the public.”


This conundrum reflects the sad state of affairs in a country awash in guns…where there are 90 guns for every 100 people.  In this regard, it is worth noting that our nearest competitors are Yemen, a country afflicted by tribal strife and occupied in part by al Qaeda (61 per 100), and Switzerland, where every male is required to own a rifle as part of a well-regulated militia (46 per 100). In the United States, guns are readily available not just to our National Guard and sportsmen, but also to criminals and to the “unstable types” Mr. Padgett fears.


Against that background, yes, there will be the occasional murder in a church (e.g., Dr. Tiller), as there are far too often in our schools or shopping malls.  To be sure, an armed off-duty law enforcement officer – carrying a concealed weapon in mufti might well gun down a “crazed gunman” in a church.  Is that, however, a comfort – a gunfight in our pews? 


All this begs the question:  What is “off duty?”  If law enforcement officers are “on duty” 24/7, I would prefer that, in church, they ‘carry” openly and in uniform.  That, at least, would serve as a visible – and welcome – deterrent to violence.  If, however, law enforcement officers can enjoy time in church as off- duty time, it would be preferable that they do so as unarmed as I and my fellow parishioners.


In the interim, on duty active law enforcement officers – i.e., police officers - are explicitly covered by the exemption in this resolution for “law enforcement officers in the conduct of their official duties.”


I do not understand, however, why a “retired federal officer” or “part time contract” employee, would a feel the need to bring a gun to church.


In closing his letter, Mr. Padgett says “This was a 'feel good' resolution - absent critical thinking.”  In closing mine, I feel it necessary to say - as a retired Foreign Service officer and political science professor – that I have sought to exercise a full measure of critical thinking in all I do, including the drafting and diocese-wide vetting of this resolution.


“Feel good?”  As someone who served up front and personal in a very ugly war, I also “carried”…and killed.  There is nothing “feel good” about guns.  I seek only to be effective in limiting their availability and reducing gun violence.  If we can’t start in our sanctuaries, where can we?


Vicki Gray

Christ the Lord Church, Pinole