Faith leaders call for gun reform

Faith groups plan a Feb. 5 national call-in day to Congress to push for common-sense gun control measures.

By Bob Allen

Religious leaders from various faith groups gathered in Washington’s National Cathedral Dec. 21 asking their congregations to lobby Congress for gun control and mental health reforms in the wake of recent school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

photo curtisCurtis Ramsey-Lucas, managing director of resource development for American Baptist Home Mission Societies, called for “sensible steps necessary to reduce the scourge of gun violence in our land” at a press conference in conjunction with a ceremony with a funeral bell tolled for each of the victims in Connecticut.

Leaders representing Catholics, Jews, Episcopalians, Muslims, Baptists, Methodists, Quakers and other faiths announced plans for a national call-in day to Congress on Feb. 5 to press for an assault-weapons ban and requiring background checks for all gun sales, including those at gun shows.

National and regional American Baptist leaders recently wrote Congress and the President urging a ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons and to restore funding for mental-health services that have been cut at federal, state and local levels.

“We believe that no parent should have to send their child to school with the fear that she or he might be the next victim of such a rampage,” leaders of American Baptist Churches USA said in the letter. “No citizen should have to cross the courtyard of a mall or other public space fearful of being cut down by a hail of gunfire.”

The Baptist leaders said the time has come to enact “legislation that will protect every American from the horrific carnage that semi-automatic/assault weapons inflict” and “common-sense regulations to curtail the slaughter of innocents.”

Meanwhile, expressions of condolence poured in from around the world. Vitaly Vlasenko, head of external church relations for the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, wrote a letter Dec. 21 offering comfort to friends in the United States.

“The world has a certain kind of stereotype regarding the U.S.A: violent Hollywood, etc.” Vlansenko wrote. “’They reap what they sow,’ people say, but this is no time for pointing fingers.”

“We too are very sad and troubled,” the Russian Baptist leader said. “We cannot understand why this needed to happen to these children and adults. We pray for the restoration of their families. May the parents and other caring people be lifted from their sorrow through faith in God.”

“We are with you,” Vlansenko concluded. “These children belong to all of us. May we join forces with all persons of goodwill and form together a mighty force for the up-building of our societies and our world.”