Gun violence topic of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry event
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Last week’s fatal shootings of four women at the Fairmont Terrace apartments was fresh in everyone’s mind Thursday at a meeting to address gun violence.
Several dozen people, representing clergy, law enforcement, social services and private individuals, attended the event at College Hill Presbyterian Church.
“We’re here because we believe we can make a difference in Tulsa,” said the Rev. Ray Hickman, executive director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, the sponsor of the event.
He said the discussion was a first step in addressing the problem of gun violence in the community and will be followed by more meetings.
Participants met in small groups to discuss the causes of gun violence and what can be done about it, and then each group reported its findings.
The breakdown of the family and poor parenting were common themes raised in several groups.
“My parents taught me right from wrong, and it was supported at the school,” said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris. “Now parents have abdicated their responsibility.”
Harris said poverty and hopelessness, and drug and alcohol abuse, also are factors.
“When people lack hope, they do violent acts,” he said.
The Rev. Loy Hoskins of the First Christian Church in Wagoner echoed those thoughts.
“We need to give individuals hope,” he said. “Let people know that violence is not the only option.”
Another common theme was access to guns.
David Phillips of the Tulsa County Public Defender's Office noted that the United States has 350 million people, 300 million guns and more gun deaths than any other civilized nation.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Matt McCord said gun shows offer easy access to dangerous weapons. Burglaries are another way guns get into the hands of criminals, he said, “which goes back to safe gun ownership.”
Elizabeth Arnett proposed that Tulsa become a gun-show-free city, even it means a loss of revenue for hotels and restaurants.
“We seem to be the U.S. host city for gun shows,” she said.
Lloyd Hobbs of Chicago said that if gun ownership were restricted, only people who have no respect for human life would have guns.
He said he was shot and nearly killed by a young man, adding, “I think I am due the right to defend myself.”
Timothy Faerber of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tulsa said the presence of guns can quickly escalate minor conflicts into deadly encounters. He said the gun issue is highly politicized.
“There seems to be no room for dialogue,” Faerber said, adding that Americans need to commit themselves to sitting down together and talking through all the issues, including constitutional rights and safety concerns.
The National Rifle Association should revisit one of its traditional goals — the education of the public on responsible gun ownership, Faerber said.
Participants also pointed to the influence of social media and violence in the media.
“There’s a disconnect between parents and children and a reconnect with their peers,” said Steve Hahn, a program manager for Community Education Services.
Young people are not thinking about conscience, the long-term risk of their behavior, or regard for human life, he said.
Tulsa Police Officer Will Toliver said young people are being conditioned by violent movies and video games, and social media keeps them from connecting socially on a personal level.
“It’s easy to hurt someone’s feelings when you can’t see their face,” he said.
The Rev. Ray Hickman is the director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry. Tulsa World file