All Saints Episcopal Church in Bayside held a town hall Wednesday, Aug. 24, to address the topic of gun violence in communities across Queens as well as the rest of the country.
Among those who spoke at the event were All Saints Rector Rev. Laurence Byrne, All Saints Deacon Rev. Marjorie Boyden-Edmonds, Diocese of Long Island Assistant Bishop William Franklin, “Toy Guy” Chris Byrne, Moms Demand Action member Michelle Guglielmelli, 111th Precinct Captain John Portalatin and 111th Precinct Community Affairs Officer Luigi Galano.
Shortly after the town hall began, a pre-recorded video of Delaware Senator Chris Coons played. Coons discussed the impact gun violence has on communities as well as the recent bipartisan gun control legislation passed by Congress last June. The bill marked the most significant gun measure by Congress in almost 30 years.
“From sprawling cities to tight-knit rural towns, the aisles of our grocery stores to the desk-filled classrooms of our schools, the presence of gun violence in our communities is a real threat and, for many, a tragic daily reality,” Coons said. “We have to do more to better equip law enforcement with the tools they need to confront this threat and manage it head-on, to invest in grassroots outreach and mental health services and promoting trauma-informed public health services and respect the foundations of our nation. We have to balance respecting that Second Amendment right with providing the same respect for human life and minimizing the carnage.”
Rev. Boyden-Edmonds discussed the trauma that affects those involved in gun violence. In addition to the victims, gun violence also has a traumatic effect on their friends, families, neighborhoods and communities. Boyden-Edmonds said even the first responders, healthcare workers and perpetrators experience trauma. According to Boyden-Edmonds, the most common traumatic symptoms include anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She also noted that hopelessness and a sense of shootings being a part of everyday life can occur in areas routinely plagued by gun violence.
According to Guglielmelli, it’s important to have both state and federal legislation addressing gun violence. She noted that a lot has been done on both levels in recent months. The purchase of semi-automatic rifles has been banned in New York state for those under the age of 21. The list of people who can file extreme rest protection orders has been expanded, which requires law enforcement to file applications for extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) under a specified set of circumstances. Someone who has a suspicion about another person that has exhibited certain behaviors and doesn’t feel safe about that person having a fire arm in their home. A local judge can then be approached to have the revoke put into effect.
“The red flag laws allow you to take steps ahead of time,” Guglielmelli said. “In New York, we’ve also created it a crime to make a threat of mass harm and also required an advance recording by law enforcement to the state and federal gun databases. It requires gun dealers to enact uniform security and reporting standards.”
While she praised the recent federal gun control legislation, Guglielmelli said she would’ve liked it to have also included a ban on semi-automatic weapons and its ammunition. She also said she would’ve liked to see the legislation address gun trafficking across each state in the country. She encouraged the public to continue contacting their elected officials, as that played a role in the bipartisan legislation getting passed.
All Saints Episcopal Church Rector Rev. Byrne emphasized that this town hall discussion was apolitical. He and Bishop Franklin cited a moral obligation to help make the community a better place by addressing the problem of gun violence.
“After the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, that was it [for me],” Reverend Byrne said. “If we are silent, we are complicit. We’re hoping that by having an open forum where we can discuss, we will be able to have a little bit better idea of what is going on in the world around us.”