Clergy from Newtown, Conn., have collectively released a letter calling for an assault weapons ban in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that shook their community to its core.
In the letter, addressed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the faith leaders made their urge for greater gun control measures known. Opening the note by acknowledging that it's been less than three months since "the unspeakable tragedy" unfolded, the group went on to call for "Congress to pass comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation that will help stop the slaughter."
Hailing from a diverse pool of theological perspectives (signatories included rabbis, pastors, priests and imams), the religious leaders noted that their faith traditions call them to "protect the weak" and that new legislation would be an avenue for achieving this goal.
"To see the rising incidence of gun violence from Chicago to Newtown, Camden to Aurora, Detroit to Tucson -- and how that violence particularly targets the young and the poor, especially in America’s urban communities -- and yet to refuse to take the steps we know would reduce harm is a violation of religious values so severe that we are compelled to speak out," the group wrote.
While noting that no actions can bring back the lives lost, the letter goes on to claim that Congress must take action to prevent tragedy. Among the targets of these faith leaders' attention are: a ban on so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, universal background checks and an "end to gun trafficking."
An AR-15 is seen for sale on the wall at the National Armory gun store on January 16, 2013 in Pompano Beach, Florida. Credit: Getty Images
"As faith leaders, while we fully support laws that we believe will increase gun safety, we also believe that the larger underlying issue behind violence is spiritual: how we view our obligations to each other in light of our role in God's creation," the letter continues.
Read the letter in its entirety, below:
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
Washington, D.C. 20510
It’s been less than three months since our community experienced the unspeakable tragedy of the murder of children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
As the clergy leaders of Newtown, joined by clergy colleagues from across the nation, we have witnessed the scourge of gun violence in our neighborhoods, and we call on Congress to pass comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation that will help stop the slaughter. The moral mandate to protect the weak in our care is clear and present in all of our faith traditions. Our varied faith traditions teach us to seek the peace of the city, to love our neighbor, and to cherish human dignity. To see the rising incidence of gun violence from Chicago to Newtown, Camden to Aurora, Detroit to Tucson – and how that violence particularly targets the young and the poor, especially in America’s urban communities - and yet to refuse to take the steps we know would reduce harm is a violation of religious values so severe that we are compelled to speak out.
Nothing any of us do will bring back the victims murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As a nation we must do all we can to prevent the next tragedy. We pray that you will vote for meaningful gun violence prevention laws that include a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, enforceable universal background checks, an end to gun trafficking and prosecution of straw purchasers.
After the news crews and cameras leave, after the rest of the nation turns away and resumes their normal routines, it is we who are asked to answer why this happened; to bind up the brokenhearted; and to explain why nothing in Newtown or our many communities will ever be the same again.
As faith leaders, while we fully support laws that we believe will increase gun safety, we also
believe that the larger underlying issue behind violence is spiritual: how we view our obligations to each other in light of our role in God's creation. We draw from a wellspring of tradition that will spark off a spiritual awakening in America that will transform us into a culture of compassion, reconciliation and civility. As faith leaders, we commit ourselves to fostering a culture of peace to complement and serve as a foundation for any proposed gun legislation.
The slaughter of innocence in Newtown awakened our nation to the tragedy of gun violence
throughout our land and we shall neither slumber nor sleep. Rather, by tireless commitment, Page 2 of 42 loving hearts and the sustaining promise of our many faiths, we believe that Newtown shall be remembered as the bridge to a new and kinder world.
Rabbi Shaul Praver, Congregation Adath Israel of Newtown, CT
Rev. Matthew Crebbin, Newtown Congregational Church, UCC, Newtown, CT
Rev. Kathleen Adams-Shepherd, Trinity Episcopal Church, Newtown, CT
Chaplain Eman Beshtawii, Al Hedaya Islamic Center, Newtown, CT
Azeez Bhavnagarwala, Al Hedaya Islamic Center, Newtown, CT
Rev. Mel Kawakami, Newtown United Methodist Church, Newtown, CT
Rev. Leo E. McIlrath, Lutheran Home, Southbury, CT
Khatib Mohamed El Safty, Al Hedaya Islamic Center, Newtown, CT
Rev. Jane Sibley, Newtown United Methodis tChurch, Newtown, CT
Rev. Jim Solomon, New Hope Community Church, Newtown, CT
Rev. Janice Touloukian, Newtown Congregational Church, UCC, Newtown, CT
Monsignor Robert Weiss, St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, CT
In this Thursday, July 26, 2012 file photo, an AR-15 style rifle is displayed at the Firing-Line indoor range and gun shop, in Aurora, Colo. Credit: AP
More than 4,000 faith leaders across America signed on to the letter as well, offering support to the Newtown clergy in their quest for increased gun control measures (the complete list of religious leaders is here).
PICO, a network of faith-based community groups, and Sojourners, progressive Pastor Jim Wallis' organization, were involved in having the letter repurposed as an advertisement that appeared in the Des Moines Register on Monday.
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