A gathering of religious officials from across several religious traditions called for stricter gun control measures this morning. Speaking in the Bishop’s Garden at the Washington National Cathedral, whose dean advocated gun control in a sermon this past Sunday, the officials touted their own history of gun control advocacy and rededicated their faith groups to further restricting firearms.
The officials outlined three goals: banning semi-automatic assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines, and better care for those suffering from mental illness. A few of the speakers also called to “confront the culture of violence,” as Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, former Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, voiced.
While most of the speakers were from Oldline Protestant and Reform Jewish traditions (the gathering was facilitated by Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism), reporters also heard from Sikh, Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, and two Evangelical officials.
“We can’t stop every random act of violence, but we can do more,” insisted the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. Salguero singled out violent video games and “of course, gun control,” as two areas of special concern.
Former National Council of Churches President Michael Livingston said it was time to move past a Second “Amendment crafted for a time that bears little resemblance to our own.”
Highlighting the ecumenical council’s move to declare January 6 “gun violence prevention Sunday,” Livingston called for closing a gun show sales “loophole” and enact regular background checks of buyers there.
“Enact within 50 days of returning to work legislation that will end madness,” the former NCC official requested of the incoming U.S. Congress.
Speaking next to Livingston was past National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) government affairs official Richard Cizik, now president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.
Explaining that he was speaking as a “new” Evangelical, Cizik described his previous employer NAE as “old” Evangelicals.
“We need a conversion,” Cizik said of Evangelical Christians, adapting his common refrain on climate change to gun policy, calling for an end to the sale of “weapons of war” and to close down a gun industry that was profiting from their sale.
Positing that the main question in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings was not “where was God?” but rather “where were we?” Washington Episcopal Church Bishop Maryann Budde declared that “God has no body on Earth but ours,” and that advocacy action was required.
“We commit ourselves to end violence across our land,” Budde prayed, pledging “to honor [shooting victims] memory by doing what we all know to be right.” During the prayer, the cathedral bell tower tolled 28 times, once for each death at last Friday’s shooting.
Budde was followed by a string of additional officials, each stating that those in their traditions would take action to ban guns. Bishop Peter Weaver, executive secretary of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, promised Methodists would “turn tired tears into thick action,” and “be a community of conscience.” Noting that United Methodist churches were declared “weapons-free zones,” Weaver reported that the UMC General Conference this past Spring had “almost prophetically” laid out an 11-point plan to end gun violence. Weaver concluded by calling for “social policies and personal lifestyles to end the culture of violence.”