By Sue Ann Rybak
Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence, a group of local residents — many from the Northwest — who have committed themselves to demonstrating to bring attention to the problem of guns in Philadelphia, protested at Delia’s Gun Shop, 6104 Torresdale Ave. in the Northeast on Tuesday evening, April 5.
About 50 protesters carried signs, prayed and sang hymns outside the shop. The protests are designed to call attention to the easy availability of guns and the group is targeting gun shops it believes are making guns available to criminals and other violent offenders. The organization is asking gun shop owners to adopt the code of conduct developed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization of which Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is a member.
“The code of conduct doesn’t interfere with anyone’s second amendment rights,” said Rev. Linda Noonan, a pastor at Chestnut Hill United Church and the Co-Coordinator of NPEG. “Our job is very simple right now is … to prevent illegal sales of guns. One of the things we can change is the frequency with what guns hit the streets locally. Even if we don’t live in the line of fire, we can put our bodies on the line.”
According to the non-profit organization Ceasfire, Philadelphia has the highest per capita rate of gun deaths for any major U.S. city and has more gun homicides per year than any developed country. An average of 30,000 people, Ceasefire says, are killed by guns in the U.S. every year
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, an average of 75,000 people are killed or injured by guns each year. Eight children die everyday from gun violence, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It really is about making it as difficult as possible for illegal guns to get on the street,” said Rabbi Linda Holtzman of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in Manayunk.
“I believe they obey the letter of the law. But, if they took these extra steps maybe they would save some lives. Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence is an organization of different faiths that believe our faith compels us to choose life and when possible to preserve life.
Delia’s owner, Fred Delia, said he didn’t believe that his gun shop deserved the attention.
“I feel I have been running a legitimate business for 41 years,” said Fred Delia.
He said NPEG came in with a letter with suggestions but that he follows some of the rules already under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the city’s Gun Violence Task Force.
“We follow the laws of the federal government not a religious organization,” said Pat Sirianni, a supporter of Delia’s. “This is why there is separation of the church and state.”
Some supporters of Delia felt that the organization was trying to take away their Second Amendment Right to bear arms.
Dan Roberts, a supporter of Delia’s Gun Shop said he felt Heeding God’s Call (NPEG is a chapter of Heeding Gods Call) was trying to extort the owner into signing the code of conduct.
NPEG members begged to differ.
“The most important thing that brings me here is the loss of life, and children pay the price of guns on the streets. It’s the human element. We are concerned about the people who are being shot,” said hill resident Bob Fles, a layperson at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church.
Heeding God’s Call will host a Good Friday Vigil on April 22. The citywide ecumenical service will be held at 4 p.m. at Delia’s gun store, 6104 Torresdale Ave.
Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence will be featured on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly show on WHYY on Sunday, April 10 at 1 p.m.
A preview of the show can be seen at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/next-time-on-religion-ethics-newsweekly/
For more on Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence see http://www.heedinggodscall.org/content/neighborhood-partners-end-gun-violence