Forty-seven faith leaders representing 80 million Americans joined Jan. 15 in a letter calling on members of Congress to take immediate action to prevent gun violence in the United States.
The letter — made public a month after a tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., and on what would have been the 84th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. — called for mandatory background checks for gun buyers, a ban on high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines and making gun trafficking a federal crime.
Signatures on the letter include Carol Blythe, president of the Alliance of Baptists; Walter Parrish II, executive minister of American Baptist Churches of the South; Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies; LeDayne McLeese Polaski, program coordinator of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America; Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; and Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners.
Wallis was among faith leaders who spoke at a press conference at the United Methodist Building in Washington announcing the initiative. Wallis quoted NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre’s comment in the wake of the Newtown shootings: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
“That statement is at the heart of the problem of gun violence in America today,” said Wallis, a member of First Baptist Church in Washington, “not just because it is factually flawed, which of course it is, but because it is morally mistaken, theologically dangerous and religiously repugnant.”
The letter, coordinated by the 2-year-old Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, referenced the Newtown tragedy along with other similar attacks including Aurora, Colo.; Tucson, Ariz.; Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas; Virginia Tech and Columbine, Colo.
“Gun violence is taking an unacceptable toll on our society, in mass killings and in the constant day-to-day of senseless death,” the faith leaders sad. “While we continue to pray for the families and friends of those who died, we must also support our prayers with action. We should do everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of people who may harm themselves or others. We should not allow firepower to kill large numbers of people in seconds anywhere in our civil society. And we should ensure that law enforcement has the tools it needs to stop the virtually unrestrained trafficking of guns.”