Less than eight months after the National Council of Churches governing board called for action to end gun violence, a U.S. Congresswoman lay in critical condition after a 9 mm bullet passed through her brain, six people lay dead and 14 were recovering from wounds.
But the January 9 attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and innocent bystanders in Tucson was only the most visible eruption of gun violence in the new year, said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary.
“Death and suffering from guns — legally and illegally attained — is virtually a daily occurrence in the cities and villages of this country,” Kinnamon said. “This latest tragedy in Tucson is just the latest reason we should reexamine how guns are so easily attained by unbalanced people like the accused assailant. Surely the Second Amendment was not intended to provide indiscriminate access to guns without more effective vetting and control.”
The NCC’s member communions and the millions of congregants they represent “are united in prayer for the recovery of the Congresswoman and the other wounded persons, as well as for the families of the six who tragically died,” Kinnamon said.
Police said the weapon used by the shooter was a 9mm Glock, a semi-automatic pistol that fires multiple rounds in rapid succession. The tragedy in Tucson was compounded by the use of the weapon, which enabled the assailant to fire as many 31 rounds without reloading or cocking the weapon. Witnesses said a second 31-round magazine of bullets jammed before additional shots could be fired.
The organization Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence is asking its members to add to note the number of rounds this weapon could hold. The organization has added to its Prevent Gun Violence Resolution a call for action to “decrease the firepower available to civilians by prohibiting high capacity ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds.”
Kinnamon also expressed concern that the nature of political debate in the U.S. “has become increasingly vitriolic with overtones of threats of violence. It may be free speech to use of words like ‘targeting’ to identify candidates whose political views differ from other individuals or groups,” Kinnamon said. “But in the current climate they add nothing to political discourse and can be dangerous provocations.”
Reports say Rep. Giffords, a Democrat, was occasionally the recipients of threats because of her support of national healthcare legislation and was “targeted” for defeat by her opponents in the recent campaign. The motivations of her accused assailant are unknown.
“Ending Gun Violence: A Resolution and Call to Action by the National Council of Churches,” adopted unanimously by the NCC Governing Board on May 2010, calls upon local, state and federal officials “to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns, including the so-called federal ‘gun show loophole,’ which allows for the purchase of firearms from private sellers without submitting to a background check, or providing documentation of the purchase.”
The resolution also calls upon the NCC’s member communions to “prayerfully, financially, and otherwise support the NCC staff in coordinating ecumenical efforts for gun violence reduction, including preparing educational materials about the magnitude of gun violence, developing avenues for dialogue among gun owners and gun control advocates within our congregations, and offering a faithful witness in cooperating with inter-faith and nonreligious anti-gun advocacy organizations.”
The full text of the resolution can be downloaded at http://www.ncccusa.org/NCCpolicies/gunviolence.pdf
In September 2009, alarmed by the intensity of angry and sometimes violent language coming out of public meetings on healthcare and other issues, the Governing Board called for “civility in public discourse.”
“This clash of views demeans the dialogue and ultimately risks subverting the democratic process itself,” the Governing Board said in the statement that passed without dissent. “Individuals cannot express their best hopes and acknowledge their deepest fears within a climate of intimidation and character assassination, and all too often this climate is the product of racism and xenophobia.”
The message calls on churches, political leaders and persons of good will to reflect “on the ways we might restore dignity and civility to the national discourse.”