St. James’ Peace and Justice Committee buyback program swaps weapons for gift cards
By Deacon Tom Picciano
Sun contributing writer
JOHNSON CITY — Someone turned in a sawed-off shotgun with the ID number filed off during the fourth “Groceries for Guns” day held May 11 at St. James Church. Organizer Jack Gilroy, co-chair of the parish’s Peace and Justice Committee, said that was the most unusual find as guns and ammunition were traded for grocery store gift cards.
In all, 51 guns were turned over to the waiting Broome County Sheriff’s deputies. There were 18 long guns, including shotguns and rifles; 31 handguns; and two assault weapons. Several bags of ammunition were also brought to the event.
The group had more than $2,500 to spend on the buyback, with money coming from members of the committee and St. James Parish. They gave $50 for handguns and long guns and $100 for assault rifles.
“For those of us in Peace and Justice, we believe the Christian message is love and justice, not killing. Guns are for killing,” Gilroy emphasized.
Gilroy cited statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund that between 1979 and 2009, nearly 120,000 children under the age of 17 were killed by guns in the U.S. He said the loss of lives in the Vietnam War, Afghanistan and Iraq “doesn’t come near that figure.”
He also quoted a New England Journal of Medicine article from January of this year. That article noted that gun injuries cause twice as many deaths as cancer, five times as many as heart disease and 15 times as many as infections.
“Suicide, homicide and accidents result in a much greater risk with guns in one’s home,” Gilroy added.
As a former hunter, Gilroy has also questioned the need for assault rifles or automatic weapons to hunt. He said it’s more about “people in opposition to people.”
“The idea that handguns and assault weapons and sawed-off shotguns are for hunting is ludicrous. We can’t image Jesus with a gun. Some of course can, and you can go to the internet to find illustrations of Jesus with an AR-15,” he said.
“Groceries for Guns” attracted a great deal of media attention in the Binghamton area. Reporters from the local newspaper and television stations interviewed Gilroy before and during the event.
“We believe we are evangelizing the nonviolent teaching of Jesus Christ. Even one TV interviewer wondered if Jesus would store a gun in his place of residence,” Gilroy said.
As in the past, the St. James Peace and Justice Committee members will be present when the collected guns are destroyed. They’re looking ahead to the fall for a different type of collection of guns. This would include taking in children’s toy guns along with violent video games. They’d give a token amount for the toys and the videos.
The group has also applied for a McDevitt grant through the diocese to help finance the “Groceries for Guns” program. Gilroy said Father John Donovan, St. James pastor, recently signed the grant application.
“We hope that more groups will offer similar programs and that towns, cities and counties will call for gun destruction,” Gilroy added.