Statement from the Bishop of New Jersey
and the Chairperson of the LGBTQ+ Commission of the Diocese of New Jersey
Concerning the Recent Mass Shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado
How long, O Lord?— Psalm 13:1
The mass shooting at the Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado this past week was heartbreaking and outrageous. This targeted attack against members of the LGBTQ+ community resulted in the deaths of Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump; Ashley Paugh, and Raymond Green Vance. An additional 19 were wounded by the gunman. The carnage would have been greater had it not been for the quick action and courage of former Army Major Richard M. Fierro who, unarmed, and with the assistance of at least another patron in the club, neutralized the gunman. We give thanks for his heroism.
The regularity and normalization of mass shootings in this nation has numbed our national consciousness. What ought to provoke outrage and decisive action provokes, more often, a shrug of the shoulders, “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, and renewed efforts by gun-rights advocates to continue to overturn what remaining common-sense laws remain in place to protect the majority of persons in this nation who support steps to reign in the scourge of gun violence.
On November 13, 2022, three persons—Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavel Davis, Jr.—were killed by a fellow student using a handgun. Two others were injured. Again, this violence is an offense against God and against humanity.
In both mass shootings, young men had too-easy access to dangerous weapons and ammunition. The easy availability of guns in this country, resulting in unspeakable violence and obscene profits to gun manufacturers, is a sin of enormous magnitude. According to the website americangunfacts.com, it is estimated that there are more thn 400 million guns in the United States. More than 393 million of these guns are in civilian hands, the equivalent of 120 firearms per 100 citizens. The average gun-owning American has five firearms. This same source reports, “There were nearly 40 million guns purchased legally by Americans in 2020 alone according to FBI records. This was higher than any other year on record so far. 2019 was the second highest year with a little over 28 million firearms purchased. This means that firearms purchases jumped by nearly 40%.”
The Club Q mass shooting was clearly the result of a culture of hate that is endemic in this country. Anti-gay, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and sentiments, much of it generated by persons who self-identify as Christian, fuels this culture of hate and too often leads into violence. This “spill-over” of hatred has also targeted the Black, Jewish, Asian, Muslim and Hispanic/Latino communities, all of which have experienced targeted mass killings.
As Episcopalians, we have a sacred obligation by virtue of our Baptismal Promises to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to reject any speech, thought, or action that fails to acknowledge and respect the dignity of every human being no matter their race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital or family status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities, or age. We reject and condemn hate speech or activity of any kind. Moreover, we have a responsibility to act for the safety and welfare of all people.
The New Jersey Assembly has recently forwarded a Bill, A4769, which is intended to make New Jersey a safer place for all people. It will require those who hold “carry and conceal” permits to obtain liability insurance for that privilege. More important, the legislation also expands the number of designated “sensitive places” where carrying firearms would not be permitted, including restaurants, bars, movie houses, schools, polling places, and many more. It would also expand the list of people banned from being able to obtain a firearm. This law represents common-sense steps in our age of “gun-idolatry.” We support its passage as an essential tool in trying to prevent tragedies such as that which took place in Colorado Springs this past week, from happening in our state in the future. We urge you to contact your Assemblyperson and ask them to co-sponsor and support the A4769. Use this link to find your legislator.
The Right Reverend William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey
The Rev. D. Scott Russell
Chair, LGBTQ+ Commission
Diocese of New Jersey