April 23, 2014 · 23 Nisan

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Diverse National Civic and Religious Leaders Unite to Call for an End to Senseless Gun Violence

"We seek to bring our communities together in support of reasonable steps taken to prevent future suffering such as that endured by the bereaved and traumatized families of gun violence victims... we commit to building consensus and support in our communities for steps that will turn our collective grief into shared hope."

Contact: Sean Thibault
202.387.2800 or news@rac.org

Washington, D.C. -- On the one month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy, in advance of Vice President Biden's report and policy recommendations to President Obama, and as the discussion about preventing gun violence continues in communities throughout the United States, a number of prominent national leaders, who have served on the President's Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, today released the following joint statement (please note: these leaders are not speaking on behalf of the Councils nor on behalf of their professional organizations or congregations, but in their individual capacities). The political, ideological and religious diversity reflected among this group of leaders underscores the common understanding of the importance of meaningful action to address gun violence. The full statement is below:

We come together as faith and community leaders who love our country and its Constitution, treasure our rights and take pride in fulfilling our duties as American citizens. We have come to respect each other out of our service on the President's Advisory Councils on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships but we speak out today in our individual capacities out of our shared desire to unite our country in addressing the challenges of gun violence in America. We write on the one month anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown and are issuing this statement before Vice President Biden issues his report and recommendations.

As we are people of diverse religious, ideological and political views, so our communities are comprised of millions of loyal Americans, some who own guns and some who do not, but all of whom have grieved alongside the families of those lost to gun violence. We come with a common purpose out of a conviction that despite our diversity, we all share a commitment to protect the lives of our people. We commit ourselves and call upon our communities and our elected officials to make every effort to save human lives, especially the lives of children, from senseless gun violence that does not represent the responsible citizenship intended by the Second Amendment.

Gun violence profoundly affects people in our neighborhoods, our organizations, and our houses of worship. We seek to bring our communities together in support of reasonable steps taken to prevent future suffering such as that endured by the bereaved and traumatized families of gun violence victims. We endorse reasonable steps taken to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people through measures such as ensuring and enforcing universal background checks for gun purchases, collection and publication of relevant data on gun violence, and other constructive measures that will limit gun violence.

Millions who we serve and their families already suffer the effects of the stigmatizing misperceptions regarding mental illness. As we serve, teach and counsel our communities, we can help those who constitute a danger to themselves and others, and guide them to the intervention and help they need. Now is a time to educate the public and bring support for creating adequate mental health and mental illness resources in the community. We call upon all sectors of American society, including our government, to see that those in need of mental health services will more readily find and receive them.

We know that these changes are deeply connected with changing our culture and ourselves so that we no longer treat depictions of excessive violence as a primary source of our entertainment. This is a transformation that begins at the grassroots level of family, school, community institution and house of worship. Without a doubt, the national mourning that has followed the tragedy in Newtown demonstrates that even the incessant cacophony of violent film, music and video that overwhelms our senses each day has not dulled the compassion with which we are endowed.

We acknowledge that our communities are not in total agreement as to the extent of the measures they currently envision. As religious and non-profit leaders, we commit to building consensus and support in our communities for steps that will turn our collective grief into shared hope. We acknowledge that the privilege of American freedom also carries a moral responsibility, which we recognize we can only shoulder together.

Susan K. Stern
Melissa Rogers
Rev. Leith Anderson
Anju Bhargava
Angela Glover Blackwell
Noel Castellanos
Arturo Chávez, Ph.D.
Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin
Frederick A. Davie, M.Div.
Archbishop Demetrios of America
Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Bishop Mark S. Hanson
Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Lynne Hybels
Harry Knox
Maria Nagorski
Ven. Miaohong
Rev. Otis Moss Jr.
Nancy Ratzan
Rabbi David Saperstein
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld
Elder Steven E. Snow
Rev. Larry J. Snyder
Rev. Jim Wallis
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
Sister Marlene Weisenbeck
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson



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