Clergy stays engaged in fight against violent crime

Clergy stays engaged in fight against violent crime

The problem? An inordinate number of unregistered and unlicensed guns on the city’s streets. Just the number of guns stolen from vehicles and residences in Beaumont over the last two years amounts to hundreds upon hundreds of untracked firearms that were at least one time in the hands of a criminal. Judy Hickman from Beaumont Police Records Division reports that 476 firearms were reported stolen in 2016 and 379 were reported stolen in 2015.

The response? Antioch Missionary Baptist Church Pastor John Adolph and Cathedral Pastor Randy Feldschau, joined by roughly two-dozen church leaders, have organized the group’s first-ever gun buyback program, scheduled for Friday, Aug. 4, from 3-9 p.m. at various locations throughout Beaumont. One location already confirmed, according to Feldschau, is the Pride of Beaumont Masonic Lodge at 3015 S.  Fifth Street. City council representatives Virginia Jordan, Mike Getz, Audwin Samuel, Robin Mouton and Mayor Becky Ames are all assisting in coordinating locations accessible and convenient for those interested in bringing in a firearm for secure disposal.

The gun buyback program will provide anonymous turnover of firearms in exchange for gift cards, up to three per person. Feldschau said each rifle will be accepted in exchange for a $100 gift card; handguns are exchanged for $150 in gift cards; and assault weapons such as ARs and AK-47s will be exchanged for $200 in gift cards. All weapons must be unloaded, and event organizers are asking that no ammunition be brought to the buyback sites.

“No questions asked; no ID required,” Feldschau said. “We want to create a ‘safe zone’ where they can turn in these guns.”

Faced with criticism that the program will not solve the problem of violence in the city, Feldschau acknowledged the critics are at least partially correct.

“This is not a silver bullet – it’s just one of many things we need to do,” he said. Even if the program only elicited marginal impact, “if one life is saved, it’ll be worth it.”

“Citizens are afraid. There are 15- and 16- year olds out here with assault rifles. We have to do something – not only pray about it, but do something very practical.”

Tangible, practical, community-based and community-spearheaded, the gun buyback program, Feldschau hopes, “will reduce the number of guns on the streets that could be involved in a crime.”

“This is buyback, not confiscation,” however, Feldschau said. “We’re not trying to reduce the number of guns in Texas. We’re trying to reduce the number of illegal guns in Texas.”

Currently, Feldschau said the group of clergy involved in the buyback program has raised approximately $17,000 for use in the mission, garnered solely through individual donations, not tithes or taxes from the hosting churches. Any funds left over after the one-day event will be given to Crime Stoppers, the Cathedral pastor further advised. If the program goes well, he added, there may be future buyback events, but at this time none are planned.

Charmaine James, Cathedral parishioner and the spark behind the Not In My City initiative that brought to the forefront the need for community and police partnerships for understanding in the wake of allegations of police brutality and violence against law enforcement, said she couldn’t be more on board with the community outreach.

“It’s inspiring to see pastors coming out from the four walls of the church,” James said. “Officers are saying, ‘We need your help.’ We have to do something.”

Oak Grove Pastor Kenneth Bean said it is the responsibility of the church to tend to God’s people, and it the pleasure of a blessed community to support law enforcement efforts undertaken by such admirable and dedicated public servants like Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens and Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary.

“With everything going on in this nation concerning police and civilians,” Bean proffered, the law enforcement leaders in Jefferson County put their “lives on the line daily and yet remain focused, composed, and devoted to serve.”

According to Feldschau, it is up to the community’s clergy to serve alongside these men and women, as well.

“Government can legislate morality,” he said, “but it can’t legislate righteousness, or bring about a change of heart. Only the church can do that. And, that’s what we really need right now – a change of heart.

“We can draw a line in the sand and say, ‘Not In My City,’ or you can leave and give up.

“We’re going to draw the line.”