For Immediate Release:
March 12, 2013
Newtown Clergy to Senators: “We pray that you will vote for meaningful gun violence prevention laws”
More than 4,000 faith leaders from across the country join Newtown’s call for comprehensive gun reform
WASHINGTON — Ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on whether to impose an assault weapons ban and enact other gun violence prevention initiatives, more than 4,000 religious leaders from all 50 states joined senior clergy in Newtown, Connecticut, in sending an open letter to U.S. senators urging them to pass comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation. Thea clergy are asking senators to pass legislation that includes a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, enforceable universal background checks, an end to gun trafficking, and prosecution of straw purchasers.
The open letter was spearheaded by clergy members from Newtown, Connecticut, and additional religious leaders joined the effort through the PICO National Network’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign and Sojourners. In total, more than 4,000 religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths signed the open letter to senators in less than 72 hours.
“I am proud to stand with my brothers and sisters from Newtown in calling on our senators to take long overdue action to prevent gun violence,” said Pastor Michael McBride, executive director of PICO’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign. “More than 80 people are killed each day by gun violence in the United States. Half of them are our young people. As clergy, we can no longer stand on the sidelines; we have a moral imperative to work for peace in the city, and we must act.”
“Our political leaders need to hear the message and heed the call of these clergy from Newtown,” said Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners. “As religious leaders, they have the hard job of helping a community heal, but they have the prophetic role of asking the moral questions of what we can do to stop this kind of tragedy, and the tragedy of the ongoing violence in our streets, from happening again and again. They, and the 4,000 others who have joined them, are calling on our country to be a better place and create a safer future for all our children. Gun violence is an everyday reality for far too many people, and it is not too late to save many more lives with common sense gun laws.”
The Des Moines (Iowa) Register published the clergy letter yesterday, and it will appear in Politico today. The letter takes up more than two pages in the Register and parts of six in Politico. Representatives of all major faith groups, including the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, signed the letter. The Des Moines Register is the hometown newspaper of Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The clergy letter reads in part, “As the clergy leaders of Newtown, joined by 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.”
Although spearheaded by clergy in Newtown, the religious leaders want to remind senators that gun violence is a much broader problem. They wrote, “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 faith leaders reminded senators in their letter that after the news crews and cameras leave, it is the afflicted community’s clergy who are asked to lead the healing effort. They wrote, “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.”
The clergy go on to say, “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, 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.”
To read the clergy letter in its entirety, see a copy of the Des Moines Register and Politico ads and see the complete list of the more than 4,000 religious leaders who signed this letter, please visit www.piconetwork.org/Newtown .
Two of the organizing clergy members, Rabbi Shaul Praver from Congregation Adath Israel of Newtown, Connecticut, and Rev. Matthew Crebbin, Newtown Congregational Church, UCC, are available for interviews on this effort. Both Rabbi Praver and Rev. Crebbin were in Washington two weeks ago with Newtown teachers and victims’ families for the Senate hearing.