On January 15, 2013, the 84th birthday remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence held a press conference in Washington, DC to announce an initiative to reduce the number of deaths by guns in our country which has reached epidemic proportions, with over 30,000 deaths in 2012. Forty-seven faith leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities, as well as leaders of organizations such as Catholic Health Association, signed a letter which was delivered today to the President, Vice-President and every member of Congress. The signers, including Franciscan Action Network, were represented at the press conference.
The member organizations of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence represent about 80 million people of faith across the United States. The letter calls for immediate legislative action to accomplish the following:
- Every person who buys a gun should pass a criminal background check. (Preventing dangerous people from getting firearms has to be a top priority.)
- High capacity weapons and ammunition magazines should not be available to citizens. (There is no legitimate self-defense or sporting purpose for military-style, high-capacity weapons and magazines.)
- Gun trafficking should be made a federal crime. (Currently, prosecutions only happen through a law that prohibits selling guns without a federal license, which carries the same punishment as trafficking chicken or livestock.)
A number of member groups will also address mental health issues. And these legislative actions, even though they will be difficult to achieve, are not seen as the end of the campaign. People of faith must address the culture of violence in our country though ongoing education and action. Other groups also address gun violence, but it is the faith community that understands that this is a moral requirement because it addresses the sanctity of life.
During a strategy session following the press conference, it was agreed that follow up letters would be sent to congressional members in three key states: Nevada, Kentucky, and Colorado with signatures of 20 faith leaders in each state. Participants are urged to send in names of signatories by the end of January. A second round of states will follow. Also, there will be a National Call-In Day to members of Congress on February 4. Details will be provided.
Addressing gun violence is a natural issue for Franciscans , given our value of peacemaking and the example of Francis of Assisi, who returned from war and imprisonment a changed man, committed to nonviolence. Francis’ practice of and call for peace became a foundation stone of the Franciscan movement which grew so rapidly , with followers refusing to go to war, that it helped to bring about the end of the crusades.