The names are all too familiar – Sandy Hook, Columbine, Tucson, Aurora – names associated with some incident of violence involving a gun. Early in February, the U.S. House of Representatives gun violence prevention task force released findings that included recommendations to support Second Amendment rights for law-abiding Americans, but also a ban on assault weapons and a call for background checks and addressing the glorification of violence in entertainment. Though there is disagreement, now is the time to have a respectful conversation.
Disciples Home Missions (DHM) President Ron Degges said, "Leaders and governing bodies of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have for years supported legislation that reduces gun violence while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. We therefore welcome and applaud the common sense principles set forth by the House Task Force, and we urge all people of faith to support this effort to reduce gun violence in the United States."
General Assemblies have spoken on this issue. In 1966, the International Convention’s resolution #46 called on President Lyndon Johnson to pursue licensing and control of firearms “in a manner that would protect the public but not prevent the responsible citizen from possessing a weapon for legitimate purposes.” In 1977 (#7762) and 1989 (#8942), resolutions were approved by their respective assemblies, one calling for handgun controls and the other calling for waiting periods and restrictions on assault weapons.
One of the ways this has been lived out recently was the National Interfaith Call-in Day organized in part by the Disciples Justice Action Network (DJAN). All people of faith are encouraged to let their voices be heard through contacting their representatives and senators. The Disciples Peace Fellowship also has urged action.
In addition, a pair of pastors has initiated a social media campaign called “#ItIsEnough.” Two progressive Christian writers, Ellen Painter Dollar and Katherine Willis Pershey, hope to sustain the renewed national interest in gun violence and legislative change after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. Pershey is a Disciples pastor serving a United Church of Christ congregation in suburban Chicago.
“I have long been a passive supporter of stronger gun laws, but following the shootings at Sandy Hook, I felt called to become an active supporter,” said Pershey, an author and blogger. “There are many Christians who see a clear connection between our theology and the need for common-sense limits on gun sales and ownership to lessen the terrible toll of gun violence on American citizens and communities.”
According to Ford Rowan, director of human rights ministries for DHM and the Disciples Center for Public Witness, "If there is to be a meaningful reduction in gun violence in the United States, at least three things must happen: a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high capacity ammunition magazines, and thorough background checks of all gun purchasers. As a Christian concerned about gun violence, I pray that the findings of this Task Force, once combined with the suggestions of the Biden commission, will lead us in this direction.”