ENGLEWOOD — An assault weapons ban and a World Day of Peace were fresh on the minds of members of the Englewood Peace Initiative Coalition at a meeting Thursday at the Elsie Quirk Library.
The organization is facing an uncertain future.
With longtime area peace activist and coalition founder Peter Duisberg ailing, Arthur Lee, Buffy Crampton and Bud Aronson are running the coalition. The group averages from six to 20 members and meets at 2 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the library.
Lee, a retired pastor of St. David’s Episcopal Church, said Duisberg’s mind is in constant motion and he knows what he’s talking about but has difficulty conveying ideas since a debilitating series of strokes. Duisberg was in attendance.
The group has relied on Duisberg for leadership.
‘It’s hard to estimate the value of his presence,’ Lee said. ‘We’ve all been reluctant to take on Peter’s role.’
No primary leader emerged to take the reins because the group has too many diverse minds, members say. Gerald Duisberg, Peter’s son, has not taken control as his primary focus is to help his father, according to Lee.
Lee works with the Southwest Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice in Ellenton.
‘I share Peter’s frustration for just sitting and talking,’ Lee said. ‘We want to do more.’
The group continues to push Peter’s vision, he said.
‘We hope to maintain pressure to cut down the size of the military,’ Lee said. ‘We want to help reduce the debt, raise awareness and build mediation skills in the community.’
Members discussed gun control following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
‘The most positive thing I heard all week is the talk of banning assault weapons,’ said coalition member Jean Ranallo.
Lee said one of his ardent gun -supporter friends softened his stance and is offering solutions including a two-year gun license that people can renew pending evaluation.
Bud Aronson, who came to the meeting with his wife Doris, talked at length about conditions and past reforms of the mental health industry.
‘It is a horrendous program,’ Aronson said. ‘Unless mental health and gun control resolve, things won’t change.’
Gerald said he advocates for an assault weapons ban because it will at least limit damage.
‘I hate to agree with the NRA,’ he said. ‘There’s no need for assault weapons for civilian use or…large clips. It’s easy for kids to get mowed down with semi-automatics. We have to foster a culture of peace.’
Members discussed the upcoming World Day of Peace event being held at New College of Florida on Jan. 5. Keynote speaker is Cindy Sheehan, a peace activist and mother of a slain soldier in Iraq. Sheehan was recently the vice-presidential candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party running with actress and comedienne Roseanne Barr in the 2012 election.
The next peace coalition meeting will be Jan. 17. For more information call 941-223-6566.