Religious Coalition Takes on the Gun Lobby

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Dozens of the nation’s faith leaders said on January 15 that they’re ready to take on the gun lobby and demanded that politicians take quick and concrete steps to stem gun violence.

At a Capitol Hill press conference and in a letter to Congress, more than 45 clergy members and heads of religious groups representing the spectrum of American religious life petitioned lawmakers to reinstitute a ban on assault weapons, require background checks on all gun buyers, and make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Organized by the two-year-old coalition Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, the signers said the slayings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month pushed them to redouble their efforts and created an opportunity to beat back the gun lobby.

Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical who heads the Christian group Sojourners, took on Wayne LaPierre, the outspoken executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, directly.

LaPierre’s statement after Newtown that the “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is “morally mistaken” and “religiously repugnant,” Wallis said.

“The world is not full of good and bad people. That is not what our Scriptures teach us,” Wallis said. Instead each individual is both good and bad.

“And when we are bad or isolated or angry or furious or vengeful or politically agitated or confused or lost or deranged or unhinged, and we have the ability to get and use weapons only designed to kill large numbers of people,” Wallis continued, “our society is in great danger.”

The coalition is part of a larger movement led by President Obama and some Democratic members of Congress to tighten gun laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre and previous mass killings by lone gunmen in Aurora, Colo., Tuscon, Ariz., and elsewhere.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll published on January 14, a month after the Newtown massacre, found that 52 percent of Americans said the horror of Newtown had made them more supportive of gun control.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a gun control bill; other state legislatures are also considering stricter gun regulations.

Others who signed the letter include Carol Blythe, president of the Alliance of Baptists; Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association; Sayyid M. Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America; Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education; and Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation.

Polls show that Americans generally favor the restrictions endorsed by the coalition even if their representatives in Congress may not, said Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence.

The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Washington office said people of faith must reframe the debate on gun control and support “those of us who would challenge the false choice between guns and freedom.”

The NRA, the most powerful of gun owners’ rights groups, argues that any new restrictions on guns threaten the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Nelson noted that more Americans have been killed in domestic gun violence than in foreign wars, and that the coalition had decided to speak out on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., who would have been 84 on Tuesday.

“I am convinced if he were here today, this issue would be the priority of his leadership,” Nelson said.

Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, noted that King had deplored the proliferation of weapons in the United States before he himself was shot to death. She quoted King’s words from 1963: “By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing . . . we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”

“We are done sitting shocked on the sidelines,” Laser said of the coalition.

Despite the pronouncements of religious leaders, gun rights supporters have refused to yield the moral high ground.

Larry Ward, chairman of Gun Appreciation Day, a national event slated for Jan. 19 to counter the current momentum toward more gun control, said it would also honor King.

“I think Martin Luther King would agree with me, if he were alive today, that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery would not have been a chapter in our history,” Ward told CNN.

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See comments (6)


How about a committee to insist on the enforcement of existing restrictions about felons and crazies possessing guns? From the experience of the last 30 years, new laws will mostly be enforced against politically incorrect people, not known felons and crazies. 

Crazies and felons are not going to request a background check.  Limiting the capacity of a magazine is not going to help much.  How are you going to get them out of the hands of criminals that are already out there.  If I remember the MI rifle had an 8 round clip.  After I recovered from the "MI thumb" I got so I could change clips pretty fast. 8,16 24-  Howmany rounds can you get off before the Police arive?

Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country.  They aren't exactly havens of peace and harmony.

Personally, I have no problem with somebody who knows how to handle a gun carrying theirs at church and I know of one or two people who occasionally do.  I've conducted worship services where everyone but me had at least one gun on their person at the time. (Granted, I was in a war zone...)

A gun is a tool and has no moral impetus of its own.  Getting rid of them won't get rid of violence.  It won't even materially reduce its occurence.  It will only change the tool(s) evil people choose to conduct their violence while reducing the ability of others to stop or restrain them.  People manage to massacre other people even where guns are outlawed and other potential weapons are severely curtailed.  So all this amounts to is moral preening - posturing that will have no effect but which makes those engaged in it feel morally superior.

I'm really appalled that the Banner would follow the lead of these left-wing, radical, so-called religious groups in their condemnation of  law-abiding citizens over the actions of a crazed killer. Would you condemn all drivers for the actions of drunk drivers? The call by these groups to ban so-callled assault weapons, which are used in less than 2% of all murders in the US, is further proof that they are not even serious at solving the problems.

Christians become sadend, disapointed or even annoyed when what is said is twisted or taken out of contex to meet a personal agenda.

In the above article is stated. "LaPierre’s statement after Newtown that the “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is “morally mistaken” and “religiously repugnant,” Wallis said."  The article nev21er addresses why Mr. LaPierre's statement is morally mistaken or religiously repugnant. However when reading this article it may be easy to agree with. However Mr. LaPierre's statement was speaking of dealing with an immediate threat. What would Rev. Wallis have us do in the event a person shows up at a gathering of people with intent to kill? Shall we appeal to the person's good side and point out the "No Firearms or Weapons allowed" sign?  This will not likely work. In this situation Mr LaPierre is correct.  People have a right to protect themselves and a duty to serve others by protecting them when capable as well.

I am very disappointed in the Banner for printing this poorly thought out article. Also the refference to polls favoring "restrictions endorsed by the coalition" What polls? If our representatives in congress are not favoring greater restrictions it is because the people are not favoring them and / or the greater restrictions do not address the problem at hand.

I am an American. Above that I am one who has accepted the forivness of my sins through the perfect life and sacrafice of my saviour Jesus Christ. I know I live in a fallen world and if I ever need to defend my life or the lives of others I will. If I need to stop the immediate threat of a bad guy with a gun by being the good guy with a gun I will.

Now that you have basically reposted a one sided news story from another source, how about a well thought out and written article looking at the facts concerning gun control and what it really means.  The above post is neither.  We could use a honest look at why our founding fathers, including many Calvinists, included the second ammendment in the Constitution right after the freedom of religion.  The British tried to impose gun control on the colonists and impose their will and dictate religion.  Many of the Calvinist church fathers preached for revolution and freedom from English rule.