and Mimi Copp
are, respectively, rector of Church of the Advocate and
director of Shalom House, both in Philadelphia
We were among a group of five protesters - an Episcopal rector, a rabbi, a Brethren minister and two women of faith - who recently entered Colosimo's Gun Center on Spring Garden Street. We asked the owner, James Colosimo, to sign a code of conduct intended to help stem the flow of handguns to the illegal market by reducing the so-called "straw buying" that feeds it. Colosimo refused; we were arrested and spent the next 12 hours in jail.
Two days later, a group of seven other protesters sat outside Colosimo's, in front of the door and at the feet of the police, and again pressed the owner to sign the code. They were arrested again and jailed for 12 to, in one case, 25 hours.
Why did we do it?
We are distraught about the continuing carnage from gun violence, as are many others, including a delegation of Philadelphia religious leaders who met twice with Colosimo. We serve a God of peace who calls us to work for peace, so we seek ways to diminish the gun violence devastating our neighborhoods.
Harrisburg legislators are dithering, unwilling to overcome political differences and help save lives by enacting laws that would slow the flood of handguns from legal gun shop sales to illegal street sales.
There are too many illegal handguns in the streets of Philadelphia, and pressing gun shops to sign the code of conduct is one way citizens can address this problem at the source.
The code of conduct is identical to the "Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership Agreement" between the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition and Wal-Mart, the biggest gun seller in the country. Philadelphia Mayor Nutter and 10 other Pennsylvania mayors are part of the coalition.
Adoption of the code would put up several barriers to straw buying of handguns. Straw buyers stand in for gun traffickers at gun shops to make bulk purchases that end up on the street - too often, to be used in crimes and violence. It would not be a great inconvenience for gun shops to adopt and follow the code, and it would not create any barriers for law-abiding gun buyers.
We believe it's reasonable to ask this gun shop and all gun shops in Pennsylvania to put saving lives above making profits by adopting the code. Gun shop owners sell deadly products, and they must follow moral codes that go beyond the antiquated laws that allow this conduct.
Colosimo refused to adopt the code. We were disappointed, but determined to carry on our life-saving campaign. So we engaged in these acts of reasonable, responsible, nonviolent, direct action.
Our act was meant to send a message to handgun retailers across the state: Stemming the flood of handguns to the illegal market is a matter of utmost seriousness. We are committed to challenging these retailers to do their part.