Other posts on gun control >>
comments on GA 2010 actions on gun control >>
A "Conservative Christian
and a Pretty Fair Shot"
By Berry Craig [7-21-10]
Every election year I enjoy bipartisan support
when I tell my history students the only thing I'm running for
is the county line.
In class, I talk a fair bit about old-time
politicians who campaigned the tried-and-true way. They made
speeches, debated each other, shook hands with multitudes of
voters, hosted liquor-lubricated barbecues and, occasionally,
Now one office seeker from the Wild West is
appearing in a TV commercial, shooting guns and invoking the
Almighty. She’s Machine Gun Gorman, an uber-conservative
candidate for Congress in the Arizona Republican primary.
As the cameras roll, Pamela Gorman, already a
state senator, blasts away with a quartet of weapons, including
a gangster-style Tommy Gun, while a narrator praises her as a
“conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot.”
I grew up one of the “frozen chosen” in a
Kentucky Presbyterian Church. But I just don’t see the
connection between firearms and faith.
My Sunday school teachers – one was a World
War II vet who earned four Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and a
Purple Heart – didn’t teach us that Jesus wants us to pack heat.
I learned Jesus was “the Prince of Peace.”
I also read in the Bible that Jesus tells us
to turn the other cheek and to love one another. He advises that
the meek will inherit the earth, to boot.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a pacifist. I
doubt Mother Britain would have let us go without a fight. It
took the Civil War to make the South give up slavery. Hitler,
Tojo and Mussolini got the drubbings they richly deserved in
World War II, which was also my father’s war.
But teaming God and gunfire the on the home
front is borderline blasphemy to me.
Okay, I’m a union-card carrying Hubert
Humphrey Democrat. I’m for gun control laws like those in Great
Britain and in other European democracies – even if we have to
amend the constitution to get them. (Okay, that means I couldn't
get elected dog catcher in the Bluegrass State.)
I believe – like a lot of folks with
Presbyterian pedigrees – that the strict separation of church
and state is good for the church, the state and the whole
Though I don’t buy pistol-packin’ piety,
Gorman obviously thinks a lot of voters do--in her part of the
country, at least. But the idea of macho Christianity isn’t new.
It even isn’t American.
After ancient Rome went Christian, the Romans
sometimes depicted the Son of God as one of their earthly
emperors, armed and dressed for battling Rome's enemies.
During the Middle Ages, European Christian
rulers dispatched or led Christian Crusader armies to the Holy
Land to slay Muslims (and sometimes Jews) in the name of a
merciful, loving Jesus.
The white Europeans and their white American
descendants who conquered this continent seldom turned the other
cheek. Toting guns and Bibles, they killed millions of Indians –
and more than a few Mexicans – and enslaved millions of
Africans. “God, guns and guts made America great!” once
proclaimed a bumper sticker popular in the Kentucky town where I
No doubt, Gorman thinks her commercial is a
winner for her, and it might be.
Many of my fellow Kentuckians – and citizens
of other Tea Bagger-tilting Republican Red States – are cool
with the God-gun combo, too.
They don’t seem to care if Blue State liberals
– and liberals long suffering in Red States – think political
pandering like Gorman’s Ma Barker imitation is way crazy. Nor
are do they appear bothered that many people who live elsewhere
in the democratic world see Gorman as more proof that American
politicians are gun-loving lunatics. Gorman probably would
welcome their scorn – and the scorn of Democrats like me – and
scorn us back as godless pansies.
But abroad, it’s not just leftists who believe
Republicans like Gorman and their Tea Party pals are nut jobs.
The GOP’s far right turn is raising eyebrows, and hackles, among
some conservatives overseas.
David Cameron, Britain’s new Tory prime
minister, bristled when the Republicans and the Tea Baggers
trashed Britain’s National Health Service as part of their holy
war against “Obamacare.”
"One of the wonderful things about living in
this country is that the moment you're injured or fall ill – no
matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you've
got – you know that the NHS will look after you,” CNN quoted
Most Tories, too, are fine with Britain’s gun
laws. Most of them believe that mixing religion and politics is
bad for church, state and the nation.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have shifted far to
the right of any other major conservative party in any other
industrial democracy. The GOP would be a reactionary, theocratic
fringe party in Britain and elsewhere in the democratic world.
Craig is a professor of history at the
West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. He and
his wife, Melinda, are long-time members of the Witherspoon
Society, and now of Voices for Justice.
A litany for The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day –
addressing the issue of gun violence
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has just posted a litany
written for an interfaith service celebrating the Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and addressing gun violence. Feel
free to adapt or use the litany. If it is used, please include
the attribution: Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, Presbyterian
For the full text of the litany >>
Thanks to the Rev. Len Bjorkman of the
for calling this to our attention.
|More on guns in
church. And why not in Congress?
Back in June,
we passed along news about a “God
and guns” rally in a Louisville church back in June – and then
about a “Leave Your Gun at Home” rally presenting the other side.
Peter Smith, religion editor for the Louisville
Courier-Journal, now reports the latest: The initiator of the
un-gun event posted a thank-you note to the pastor who hosted the
pro-gun rally, grateful for giving Interfaith Paths to Peace “a
chance to tell its story literally to the world. Taylor told the
BBC, New York Times and other media that he couldn't fathom why
someone would promote bringing weapons into a place of worship.” And
beyond that, Terry Taylor, executive director of Interfaith Paths to
Peace, thanked the Rev. Ken Pagano, sponsored the God and Guns
But Taylor also thanked Pagano for his
graciousness in the conversation the developed between them.
Find Smith’s report on his blog >>
And then – why not let our legislators carry
their guns in the halls of Congress?
E. J. Dionne, Jr., of The Washington Post, offers this
Heck, let’s let
guns into the U.S. Capitol
Isn’t it time to dismantle the metal
detectors, send the guards at the doors away, and allow
Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights by being
free to carry their firearms into the nation’s Capitol building?
I’ve been studying the deep thoughts of
senators who regularly express their loyalty to the National
Rifle Association and have decided that they should practice
what they preach. They tell us that the best defense against
crime is an armed citizenry and that laws restricting guns do
nothing to stop violence.
If they believe that, why not live by it? ...
Don’t think this column is offered lightly. I
want these guys to put up or shut up. If the NRA’s servants in
Congress don’t take their arguments seriously enough to apply
them to their own lives, maybe the rest of us should do more to
stop them from imposing their nonsense on our country.
The rest of his column >>
Gun rights expansion fails in Senate
The New York Times ran
a good editorial yesterday, July 21, explaining the reasons
why the Thune amendment deserved rejection.
gun violence prevention groups express outrage that in wake of
shootings, U.S. Senate is poised to consider legislation to
dramatically weaken state concealed handgun laws
Joint Release from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Brady
Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Violence Policy Center, Legal
Community Against Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence,
and Freedom States Alliance
Washington, DC – America’s major gun violence prevention
organizations—the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Coalition
to Stop Gun Violence, Freedom States Alliance, Legal Community
Against Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, and
Violence Policy Center—today issued the following joint statement
expressing their outrage that legislation could be considered this
week in the U.S. Senate to dramatically weaken state regulations
concerning the carrying of concealed handguns in public:
“S. 845, the erroneously titled ‘Respecting States Rights and
Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2009,’ would create a national
system for the carrying of concealed handguns, commonly referred to
as CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) licenses. The bill would allow
individuals with state-issued CCW licenses to carry their handguns
in any state that issues concealed handgun licenses—today the vast
majority of states.
"It is an outrage that in a year thus far defined by gun
violence—from massacres, to the murder of police, to hate crimes—the
U.S. Senate is preparing to consider a bill that would dramatically
weaken federal and state gun laws. The practical effect of the
legislation would be to reduce concealed carry permit regulations to
the lowest common denominator. Currently, many states have weak laws
and issue residents permits after only a simple computerized
"This year, there have already been three confirmed mass shootings
committed by concealed carry permit holders. In April, Richard
Poplawski ambushed four Pittsburgh police officers, fatally shooting
three and injuring one. In March, CCW holder Michael McLendon killed
11 people, including the wife of a deputy sheriff, before taking his
own life following a gun battle with police in Alabama. In February,
CCW holder Frank Garcia killed four people in a shooting rampage in
upstate New York.
"Concealed carry laws do not, as their proponents argue, aid police
and enhance public safety. Instead, they threaten law enforcement
and arm criminals. States should be acting to repeal these laws
instead of Congress moving to expand their deadly reach.
"Research by the Violence Policy Center found that from 1996 to
2000, Texas concealed handgun license holders were arrested for
weapon-related offenses at a rate 81 percent higher than that of the
general population of Texas, aged 21 and older.
"In 2007, the 'Florida Sun-Sentinel' conducted an exhaustive review
of the operation of Florida’s concealed carry law—the model for most
permissive state concealed handgun laws. The paper found more than
1,400 people who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felony charges
yet qualified for concealed carry licenses because of a loophole in
the law. In December of last year, authorities in Tennessee reported
that 200 hundred state residents who have permits to carry concealed
handguns could have their permits revoked or suspended because they
have active restraining orders against them.
"Under S. 845, people who obtain a CCW permit under such flawed
systems would be free to carry their guns in any state that issues
concealed carry licenses.
"In the midst of an epidemic of gun violence, the American people
require serious efforts to reform our weak gun laws, not misguided
attempts to appease the powerful gun lobby. The Senate Judiciary
Committee should commit today to holding a hearing on real measures
to reduce gun violence—like closing the gun show loophole in the
Brady background check system, which allows criminals to buy guns
from private sellers at gun shows."
The Coalition to Stop Gun
Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through
research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.
For more information about the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence,
Witherspoon endorses letter to support Gun Show Background Check Act
The Board of
the Witherspoon Society has acted to sign on to
a letter from the Coalition to Stop Gun
Violence, urging members of Congress to support the "Gun Show
Background Check Act of 2009." The Rev. Catherine Snyder, who
is a member of our board, is a pastor in Blacksburg, VA, and has
been deeply involved in the pastoral care with students and others
at Virginia Tech since the shootings in 2007. She urged the group
strongly to sign the letter, and the rest of the group is glad to do
Snyder reminds us that the Presbyterian Church
General Assembly, in 2008, adopted a resolution calling for just
this kind of action to move toward at least some progress in
limiting the availability of guns.
Click here for the report of the Assembly's action.
We encourage others to urge their faith-based
groups to join in on this important letter to Congress.
Coalition to Stop Gun
June 16, 2009
Faith Organizations: Tell Congress to Stand Up for Gun
Americans across the country are frustrated that
the gun lobby is dictating to our Congress during a time when
horrific shooting tragedies continue to mount, one after the
other. Now, more than ever, it is essential for people of conscience
to stand together and tell their Members of Congress that they
must act to make our country safe from gun violence.
Faith groups, with their commitment to peace and justice and
extensive constituencies, can serve as leaders in this critical
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)
have introduced identical
legislation in their respective chambers to close the notorious
“Gun Show Loophole,” which allows private individuals at these
events to sell guns without conducting background checks on
purchasers. S. 843/H.R. 2324, the “Gun Show Background Check Act of
2009,”would close the Gun Show Loophole permanently. The ATF
has identified gun shows as the second leading source of illegally
trafficked firearms in the United States.
The Witherspoon Society can help change the tone on Capitol
Hill by making its support for sensible gun laws known. I hope your
organization will consider signing on to a pair of letters in
support of S. 843/H.R. 2324, the “Gun Show Background Check Act of
2009.” You can view the letters by clicking
here. To sign on, please email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday,
Our nation's diverse faith traditions speak
uniformly to the inherent sacredness of human life and compel us to
seek a world free from bloodshed. Groups like the Witherspoon
Society can make a huge difference by urging their members, clergy,
and constituents to add their voices to the growing chorus calling
for change. I have every confidence that, working together, we can
enact sensible gun laws in our country and eradicate the
unnecessary violence we see around us every day.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Director of Communications
reflections on hate killings – and the guns that come in so handy
for doing them
In the aftermath of the killing of security guard
Stephen T. Johns at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in
Washington, DC, on June 10, many people and organizations have
spoken out about the wider issues of the hatred that seems to be
such a strong undercurrent in U.S. society, and about the reliance
on guns as a primary means to expressing that hatred.
Here are some of the pieces we have found most
helpful for more long-term thinking and action about hatred and
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
has issued a brief statement pointing to the close links between
“the ascendancy of the insurrectionist idea, which was recently
embraced by the Supreme Court in the case of District of Columbia v.
Heller. We believe that this year’s string of shootings is not a
series of random occurrences but part of a new, loosely-knit
political movement characterized by the slogan ‘the guys with the
guns make the rules.’ This is an incredibly dangerous idea that has
real consequences for our democracy and society.”
William Rivers Pitt, in Truthout, also reminds us
of the Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing
extremism. It was attacked furiously by the Right, but now seems to
be “pretty much on the button.” He surveys how right-wing talk show
hosts like Glen Beck and Dean Hannity, along with Newt Gingrich and
many others, seem to be fueling the fear and the hatred.
After These Deadly Hate Attacks, Why Aren't We Talking About Guns?
Bill Moyers, on June
14, put the question this way, acknowledging that hatred is a real
concern underlying numerous killings during this year alone – but
the easy availability of guns, and the absolutist defense of the
“right to bear arms,” must be dealt with immediately and
glimmer of hope in an alternative!
We have reported recently on a
church in Louisville that is holding a “bring your guns” rally on
June 27. But now an interfaith coalition of peace activists is
planning an alternative activity at the same time as the
controversial gun celebration. The sponsoring groups include
Catholic, Quaker, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Buddhist, Muslim and
non-sectarian groups. The theme is "Bring Your Peaceful Heart ...
Leave Your Gun at Home."
Peter Smith, religion
reporter for the Louisville Courier Journal, reports this in
“Faith and Works”
Dr. Tiller’s death
The Women’s Media
Center has posted an article by Alida Brill, looking with depth and
passion at the anti-abortion movement that led to the killing of Dr.
It’s not enough
that pro-choice organizations take this moment to reassess our
effectiveness in defending the rights of women and advocating
for women’s health. Everyone who believes that we are and must
remain a country of social justice, working within the
guarantees of a functioning Constitution, and that women’s
rights are human rights must understand this death for what it
symbolizes. This is the continuation—not the culmination—of a
well-planned and highly organized and financed pernicious
alternative to the legal rights of protest and speech. George
Tiller’s death raises a fundamental fact of democratic life—the
rule of law is for all citizens. This is not only the death of a
man who believed he had to do the right thing, indeed a very
hard thing, a thing that probably shattered him on some days. It
is a public announcement written in his blood of how frayed our
system of honorable dissent has become. And how robust the
campaign, media fed and financed, against the rights of all
women at all times.
The full essay
See more of our
reports and comments on the recent killings, and on gun control
REACTION TO SHOOTING AT UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Statement of Josh Horwitz, Executive Director, Coalition to Stop
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) was
saddened to learn about today’s shooting tragedy at the United
States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Our thoughts and prayers at this
time are with the family of the victim of the shooting.
The shooter in this incident, James W. von Brunn,
was a convicted felon and a “hardcore Neo-Nazi” who believed that
Western civilization was going to be replaced with a “ONE WORLD
ILLUMINATI GOVERNMENT” that would “confiscate private weapons” in
order to accomplish its goals. He was convicted of a felony in 1983
for bringing firearms into the Federal Reserve building in
Washington, D.C., where he attempted to place federal officials
under “citizen’s arrest.” Von Brunn is not the first shooter in the
past year to embrace virulent, anti-government views. He joins a
long list of violent insurrectionists, including Scott P. Roeder,
who killed abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Kansas on May 31;
Neo-Nazi Richard Poplawski, who killed three police officers in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in April; Joshua Cartwright, who killed
two police officers in the Florida panhandle in April; and Jim
Adkisson, who killed two parishioners at the Tennessee Valley
Unitarian Universalist Church in July 2008.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has repeatedly
warned of the ascendancy of the insurrectionist idea, which was
recently embraced by the Supreme Court in the case of District of
Columbia v. Heller. We believe that this year’s string of shootings
is not a series of random occurrences but part of a new,
loosely-knit political movement characterized by the slogan “the
guys with the guns make the rules.” This is an incredibly dangerous
idea that has real consequences for our democracy and society.
What we are seeing play out in tragedies across
our country is the mixing of the insurrectionist idea with
increasingly weaker gun laws. In shooting after shooting, we have
seen individuals disgruntled with government gain easy access to
firearms despite criminal records and troubling mental health
Josh Horwitz is the co-author of Guns,
Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea, a new book published by
the University of Michigan Press. For more information on the book,
visit CSGV’s “Assault on Democracy” website.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) seeks to
secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic
engagement and effective policy advocacy. For more information about
CSGV, visit www.csgv.org.
|The hatred. Will it never end?
Are we called to do something?
killing of Dr. George Tiller has led to the closing of his clinic in
according to an announcement by his family.
But wait ...
Anti-abortion leader Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue,
said today Wednesday that his group is
considering trying to buy the building, and perhaps turning into
a memorial museum, “a tribute to the babies.”
conclusion? What else? “Terrorism works.”
So writes Tracy
Clark-Flory, writing for
Salon.com. She says:
A lesson in the
effectiveness of terrorism: Dr. George Tiller's Kansas clinic is
closing permanently, according to his family's lawyers. In a
statement Tuesday, the family said: "We are proud of the service
and courage shown by our husband and father and know that
women's healthcare needs have been met because of his dedication
and service." They will continue to honor his memory "through
private charitable activities" – in other words, the type of
activism that is less likely to get a person killed.
It's an entirely
understandable response. It's also the exact one aimed for by
extremists. Intimidation, harassment, threats and violence are
the name of the game, and without a resolve on the part of the
government and law enforcement to show that domestic terrorism
doesn't work, it'll keep working. And is it ever: The Wichita
area is now left with zero abortion providers, and the entire
country has but two clinics that provide late-term abortions.
What have we lost? A medical colleague pays tribute to Dr.
Suzanne Poppema is
board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health. She
used to run a clinic near Seattle that provided abortions and
reproductive healthcare. She begins her brief essay:
For the last 20
years, Dr. George Tiller and I were close colleagues and
friends, members of a too-small community of physicians who say
aloud that we perform abortions. Now he is gone, and I am
But I refuse to
let my anger become despair: We must turn George's terrifying
end into the beginning of a new era when doctors can save lives
without risking their own.
She also says:
Since I heard
about George's murder, I've found myself staring at a coffee mug
from his clinic. On it is this list: Kindness, Courtesy,
Justice, Love, Respect. Despite the constant clamor outside his
clinic, George delivered on that motto.
another motto too: "trust women."
[Emphasis added.] As he once told an interviewer, "It is my
fundamental philosophy that patients are emotionally, mentally,
morally, spiritually and physically competent to struggle with
complex health issues and come to decisions that are appropriate
We can all pay
tribute to George's legacy by treating abortion providers as
physicians, not pariahs, and by explaining and openly supporting
their work as doctors. He knew that abortion is an integral part
of women's healthcare. When physicians are afraid to provide it,
The rest of her article >>
And yet more
hatred, more death ...
We’ve all been hearing and seeing reports today of
the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
For one recent report by the New York Times >>
The shooter, it now
seems clear, was one James Von Brunn, an 88-year old who has long
been active in white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups and
anti-government activities. The rhetoric on his website is amazing
in the virulence of its racism and anti-Semitism.
Here’s a brief report (and additional links) from the Washington
Isn’t it time to say NO to this kind of hatred, and the violence
that flows from it?
But how? How can we,
as people of faith who have heard God’s call to love without
reserve, and who know also our own human recalcitrance in the face
of that call, our fear of those who are different, our resentment of
so many people for so many reasons – how can we offer some
alternative to the cycle of resentment and hatred and violence,
leading to more resentment and more violence?
Let’s talk about this. And more – let’s act.
If you have ideas, comments, suggestions,
please send a
and let’s move toward some creative responses
to what seems to be the growing threats of hatred and death.
One further thought: Is this Obama’s fault?
No, we’re not trying to
follow the example of Rush Limbaugh and friends. But recent events,
and comments by a few observers and pundits, remind me of an article
we posted by Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle, back in
November, 2008. He raised the concern that the appearance of an
African American (with a Muslim-sounding name, no less) in the White
House might unleash strong currents of fear and hatred -- and
violence -- in many Americans.
To express fears
of assassination is not to accuse everyone of wishing,
advocating, or promoting it. It is to direct attention to an
atmosphere of hostility not far below the surface. ...
It may be a good
time to remind ourselves of T.S. Eliot's line that, between the
ideal and the reality, "Falls the Shadow." Or God's caution to
Cain, "Sin lies couching at the door" (Gen. 4:7). Or Langston
Hughes' 1938 poem with its complex sequence: "Let America be
America again"; "America never was America to me"; and "America
The rest of TeSelle's article >>
Blog about gun violence
Participate in Presbyterian Bloggers Unite on July 1. The focus
will be gun violence as bloggers are invited to reflect on ways that
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) communities address issues of gun
violence and to offer ways to mobilize efforts.
Presbyterian Bloggers Unite invites Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
bloggers to post their thoughts and musings on the same topic once a
more and sign up to participate.
further thought from Witherspoon:
After recent events, this is the time to connect
abortion rights, women's health and gun violence.
Here’s one point of view for the
bloggers to ponder:
'What gun would Jesus carry?'
A Louisville church is sponsoring an "Open Carry
Church Service" in late June, encouraging people to wear unloaded
guns in their holsters, enter a raffle to win a free handgun, hear
patriotic music and listen to talks by operators of gun stores and
Click here for the report in the Louisville Courier-Journal,
by religion reporter Peter Smith.
In his blog, Smith reports that Roy Fuller, adjunct professor of
religious studies at the University of Louisville, has commented on
the church’s gun celebration
EthicsDaily.com web site:
... But can we all, in the spirit of Jesus'
words in the Sermon on the Mount, agree that promoting the
carrying of guns to church is not anything to encourage, much
less celebrate, inside a Christian church?
While asking the question 'What gun would
Jesus carry?' might sound flip to some, the answer might just
offer guidance to modern believers who confuse constitutional
rights with the call of the one who says, 'If any want to become
my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross
and follow me (Mark 8:35).'
What would you like to say
to the bloggers' conversation online,
come July 1?
Please send a note,
and share your thoughts here!
more of our reports on guns and such >>
Legislation update from the Presbyterian Washington Office:
Support ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN and Oppose GUN ACCESS
This is also on the Washington Office website in PDF format >>
Seven years ago, women around the country were preparing for the Mother’s
Day Million Mom March –a
mobilization for common sense gun laws. Thousands came to the National Mall
in Washington DC to have their voices heard by the policy makers. Sadly,
congressional supporters who voted to support common sense gun laws have
been told by pollster that they may have lost their following election
because of that vote. To get Congress to take up gun control bills again, at
this time just before a Presidential election may be difficult. It does not
mean we should not speak up, especially in the face of the tragedy at
Virginia Tech this week.
There are several gun bills pending in this new Congress. Two of them are
polar opposites of one another. HR 1022, introduced on February 13, 2007 by
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), would reauthorize the Assault Weapons Ban that
was allowed to expire. This revised Act is cited as the `Assault Weapons Ban
and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007'. The second bill is HR 73,
introduced on January 4, 2007 by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), and is called
Self-Defense Act of 2007. Its stated purpose is"to
protect the right to obtain firearms for security, and to use firearms in
defense of self, family, or home, and to provide for the enforcement of such
General Assembly policy would urge us to support HR 1022 and oppose HR73.
The 2000 PC(USA) General Assembly instructed the Stated Clerk of the General
Assembly to urge the President and the United States Congress to: pass
legislation raising the minimum age for private handgun ownership and
possession to 21 years of age, and the licensing of all gun owners in the
same way that drivers of motor vehicles are licensed, with the requirement
that such licenses be presented with picture identification before gun
purchases are made; pass laws banning all forms of assault weapons; pass
legislation strictly regulating the purchase, registration, and
merchandising of all firearms, along with laws enforcing background checks
and three-working-day waiting periods before purchases; and urge the
Attorney General of the United States to strictly enforce the existing and
proposed legislation. (Minutes, 2000, pp 482?483)
HR 1022 would reinstate for 10 years a previously repealed criminal
provision relating to assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding
devices. One of the weapons used at Virginia Tech and previous shootings
around the country was a rapid fire- large capacity ammunition feeding type
of gun. The aim of HR 1022 is to get these weapons off our streets and out
of the reach of anyone, especially anyone who may have a mental illness. The
only purpose of these weapons is to kill people. Opponents of HR 1022 would
say this is not the answer, they argue that HR 73 would assure that some
sensible people would have guns readily available to protect the lives of
the innocent. This rationale would say that some students in our high
schools and colleges should be allowed to carry guns. Our children and young
adults would either carry guns under HR73 or sit in a classroom with someone
who is carrying such weapons.
Through the windows of the Washington Offices of the Presbyterian Church
(USA), we see the Supreme Court. As ordered by President Bush for all
federal buildings, the flag at the front is flying at half-staff in
recognition of the Virginia Tech tragedy. It is striking to look at this
gesture of recognition at the very place where their interpretation of the
Second Amendment has permitted the carrying of such weapons. The Justices
are looking at this very same flag that we see from our windows.
The nation is in mourning. We have 32 funerals to attend as they are surely
to be covered on our television all day news programs. We will pray. We will
cry for the very gifted lives that have been snuffed our too early. We can
then take action by contacting our two Senators, our representative, and the
President between now and Mother’s
Day. An Action Alert in the Act Now Box on this web page is set to expire at
midnight on May 13th, the evening of Mother Day. Contact your officials and
send letters to the editors of your local newspapers.
For the action alert click here >> Say you support the
sentiment of HR 1022 –to
ban assault weapons and that you do not support an increase in guns as
advocated in HR 73. (General Assembly policy does not call for the banning
of guns used for the purpose of hunting)
Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick has called for prayer. A PC (USA) News
Service story has recounted
messages from around
the world in the face of our experience last week. Do we really
need these weapons?
Moderator and Stated
Clerk urge actions to end gun violence in the USA
Noting that some
11,000 people have died during the conflict in Iraq, Moderator Susan R.
Andrews and Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick then remind us that some
28,000 people have died during the past year in the USA, as a result of
They urge support of the
Million Mom March to "Halt the
Assault Weekend," May 8-10, in Washington, DC. And they reaffirm frequent
policy statements by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in support of gun
gun laws aid terrorists [11-13-02]
The Presbyterian Washington Office recommends an
upcoming PBS show on American's gun laws, and how they make life easy
for terrorists. Friday, Nov. 15, at 9 pm
|After the serial killings around Washington,
"fingerprinting" gains a hearing
Received 10-17-02; posted here on 10-19-02]
It has been striking over the past few days, as the
unknown sharpshooter has continued to kill random innocent people in the
area of our nation's capital, that few reporters or commentators have so
much as breathed a question about what some kind of rational gun control
might have done to prevent such a killing spree.
Finally a few brave souls have dared to mention the
notion of "ballistic fingerprinting," which would enable law
enforcement departments to trace guns from the marking on bullets fired
in the commission of a crime.
The Washington Office has circulated a series of
answers to common questions about this issue, provided by the Coalition
to Stop Gun Violence, a Washington based advocacy group to which many
religious group belong.
|"Chicks with guns"
New York Times opinion piece takes note of increasing
number of people carrying guns, and raises the question of where this
all may lead.
"...Already, since the beginning of September, more than four times
as many Americans have fallen to guns as to terrorism, but quietly, one
by one, with no one noticing."
The PC(USA) position on gun control can be found at:
300 national, state, and local groups are calling for swift passage of S. 767,
The Gun Show Background Check of 2001 [2-6-02]
8th Annual Citizens'
to Stop Gun Violence:
Winning in 2002
Presented by the Coalition to Stop Gun
and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence
February 22 - 23, 2002
Gun free pledge for young people
Date: 10/12/01, posted here on 10-13-01
from our Presbyterian Washington Office:
October 17th has been designated a 'Day of National Concern about Young
People and Gun Violence.' In recognition of this designation, students
nationwide will be encouraged to sign the Student Pledge to Stop Gun
"I will never bring a gun to school; I will
never use a gun to settle a dispute; I will use my influence with my
friends to keep them from using guns to settle disputes. My individual
choices and actions, when multiplied by those of young people
throughout the country, will make a difference. Together, by honoring
this pledge, we can reverse the violence and grow up in safety."
Students are asked to sign two copies of the pledge:
once copy to keep for herself/himself, and the other copy to give to the
most trusted adult in her/his life. This adult can then remind the
student periodically of the importance of keeping that promise. In 2000,
2.4 million young people signed the Pledge.
As always, organizers hope for an even greater demonstration of youth
commitment to ending gun violence this year.
Please consider encouraging the young people in your life to take the
Pledge to end the cycle of youth violence that leaves more than 4000
children and teens dead each year.
The Student Pledge Against Gun Violence has been endorsed by numerous
educational, medical and violence prevention groups, as well as by many
For more information on the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence or to
download Pledge materials, please visit www.pledge.org.
|Coalition to Stop Gun Violence warns that
Attorney General Ashcroft's misinterpretation of the Second Amendment
could seriously weaken gun-law enforcement
May 23, 2001 [posted here 5-31-01]
In a May 17 letter to the National Rifle Association, Attorney General
John Ashcroft stated that his Justice Department believes that the
Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees an individual right
to own firearms a view that runs contrary to federal court decisions
spanning nearly 120 years and reverses the stance of the previous
The change in position is troubling not only because it ignores legal
precedent, but because it could undermine the promise Mr. Ashcroft made
to the American people during his confirmation hearings to fully enforce
the nation's gun laws. How can our Attorney General enforce laws that he
and his Justice Department believe violate the Constitution of the
The meaning and intent of the Second Amendment are clear:
The U.S. Supreme Court case U.S. v. Miller (1939) ruled that the Second
Amendment protects a state's right to maintain a well-regulated militia
rather than an individual's right to possess a firearm. The Supreme
Court has declined to hear another Second Amendment case since that
ruling. The courts have let stand gun control laws including the Brady
Law, and even handgun bans in several U.S. cities. Former Supreme Court
Chief Justice Warren Burger vigorously argued that the Second Amendment
referred to a collective state right, and characterized attempts by
those who would distort the meaning of the Second Amendment as
While Mr. Ashcroft's personal interpretation of the Second Amendment is
not surprising (he espoused the same view as Governor, and later Senator
from the state of Missouri), his view now takes on added significance in
his role as Attorney General.
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence President Michael K. Beard took issue
with Mr. Ashcroft's irresponsible misinterpretation of the Second
Amendment, and called on the Justice Department to renew its commitment
to enforcing established law: "Attorney General Ashcroft swore to
uphold and enforce the law during his confirmation hearings. For the
Justice Department to take a position so contrary to the established
meaning of the Second Amendment sheds a wary light on where Mr.
Ashcroft's true commitments lie.
"The intent and meaning of the Second Amendment is clear. In ruling
after ruling, the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have
ruled that the Second Amendment refers to the collective right of states
to maintain militias, and not an individual right to own a
|The Million Mom March in Washington on Mother's Day
2000 attracted plenty of attention, and we have no unique eye-witness report
to offer here. But a Mother's Day sermon reflected on the reasons
for the march, and we're happy to be able to share that here. It
is by the Rev. Jean Rodenbough, of Madison, NC, formerly
Secretary-Communicator of the Witherspoon Society. She now serves as a
Hunger Action Enabler.
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!