St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which serves its members and the surrounding community, has not been immune to the plague of gun violence.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, a house of worship that serves its members and the surrounding community, has not been immune to the plague of gun violence. The campus of the Germantown church was once the site of gunfire, alarming the congregation.
The memory is “still very real,” said the Rev. David J. Morris, rector of the church whose members also have had their own individual experiences with gun violence.
The epidemic, which recently has included a mass shooting resulting in the deaths of five people in Kingsessing and later a married couple in Cobbs Creek, has been a motivating force for the church which will co-host a gun buyback event, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, July 29. The event is being held in collaboration with Philadelphia City Council and the Father’s Day Rally Committee.
Residents who turn in a working handgun or semi-automatic weapon will receive a $200 Visa gift card. The goal is to collect 100 guns.
“We look at the gun buyback as just one tool in the toolbox of trying to reduce violence in the city of Philadelphia,” said Bilal Abdul Qayyum, president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, a Philadelphia-based community and family advocacy group that promotes anti-violence initiatives.
The Committee, in partnership with City Council, has held buyback events throughout the city and has collected hundreds of guns over the years, Qayyum said. In 2022, initiative organizers hosted ten buyback events at churches and one mosque collecting more than 900 guns, Qayyum said. “We upped the ante from $100 a gun to $200 a gun – so far this year we did three already; got around 200 plus guns.”
St. Luke’s reached out to buyback event organizers after seeing the success at other venues. The congregation views the effort as part of its community service mission that includes nutrition programs, free community legal services and other initiatives, Morris said.
At the St. Luke’s event, a first for the church, police will set up tents on church grounds where people can surrender a firearm and receive a gift certificate. The guns will be taken by the police to be destroyed.
“The impact of this problem is immeasurable,” City Councilmember Cindy Bass said in a statement. “Too many families continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones who have been fatally shot – including little children. We are all devastated for these families who will never get them back. The current state of affairs is absolutely unacceptable…”
Throughout the city, guns that “could have potentially been stolen and used for a crime” have been collected from households at the buyback events, Qayyum said.
There is also a growing concern about children’s safety in their own homes.
“It’s a combination of things, certainly some of the guns will come in off the streets, I think other guns will come from households – households where children are present, so accidents don’t happen,” Morris said.
“So often we hear about children playing with guns that they found in the home and subsequent shootings happen, “ Morris continued. “So if there’s no gun at home, then the likelihood of that happening becomes significantly less.”
Bass described buyback events like the one at St. Luke’s as part of a multifaceted approach needed to resolve a complex problem that requires a citywide effort.
“We need to work together in partnership with every community in the city to explore how we can eradicate this gun violence,” Bass said. “This upcoming buyback event is proof we are on the right track.”
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is at 5421 Germantown Ave.