By J. Fred Kauffman firstname.lastname@example.org
Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Taylor recently invited five Mennonite leaders to his Horsham, Pa. office to talk about ways of reducing the amount of illegal handguns in Pennsylvania’s cities. Representative Taylor, who is an active member of Ambler (PA) Mennonite Church, was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006.
“Our meeting today is an opportunity for us as Anabaptist leaders in Philadelphia to continue moving forward to proclaim the ‘Shalom of the City’ in the marketplace,” said Pastor Leonard Dow of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, who led the delegation. “We understand Shalom [and] peace as a key component of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”
Dow was joined by Lancaster Mennonite Conference Bishop Freeman Miller; Aldo Siahaan of Philadelphia Praise Center; Messiah College student Amanda Arbour, who is also member of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church; and Mennonite Central Committee Philadelphia Program Coordinator Fred Kauffman.
Taylor said he wanted the Mennonite witness to be “heard in Harrisburg as a part of the discussion on handgun legislation.”
“Speak from the heart,” he urged the group. “There is too much political posturing. We need to hear you address this issue from a clear perspective as followers of Christ.”
Representative Taylor has co-sponsored two bills to reduce illegal handgun trafficking: “One handgun a month” (HB 22) and “Lost and Stolen” (HB 29). The first bill would limit the purchase of handguns–not hunting guns or antique guns–to one per person per month and the second would require gun owners to report a lost or stolen weapon within 24 hours. Both bills would slow the flow of handguns from legal gun shops to illegal gun dealers, who are the source of most weapons used to commit a crime.
Taylor himself grew up in the Minneapolis area. He was raised by a single mother and struggled to stay out of poverty. Taylor became cynical about organized religion and stopped attending church, but in 2000 he moved to Ambler and happened to purchase the home of Ambler Mennonite’s previous pastor, Joe Haines. One of his neighbors was also a member of Ambler Mennonite, and through that friendship, Taylor rediscovered faith and joined the church.
“I did not get into politics because of my faith,” says Taylor. “I found faith through my commitment to work for justice in the public realm. My faith is a source of hope and energy to continue working for justice. As long as children go to bed hungry, as long as they do not have health care or good education, and as long as they live in violent neighborhoods—those are my priorities. I want my faith in Christ and my political role to both serve this end.”
At Taylor’s urging, Fred Kauffman participated in the “Speaker’s Symposium on Crime and Violence” which took place in Philadelphia the following day. The event, chaired by Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Dennis O’Brien, brought together twenty-five urban leaders who spoke about ways to reduce violence. Said Kauffman, “Much opposition to rational handgun legislation comes from white men who call themselves Christian. This is not a problem created in North Philly. My plea is that all who claim the name of Jesus recommit themselves to the peace and compassion that Jesus taught and modeled.”