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Gun Control
Other posts on gun control >>

Reports and 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, kissed babies.

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 country.

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 live.

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 Cameron.

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.


The author:

Berry 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    [1-9-10]

The 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 Church (U.S.A.), .

For the full text of the litany >>

Thanks to the Rev. Len Bjorkman of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
for calling this to our attention.

More on guns in church. And why not in Congress?     [7-30-09]

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 rally,

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 brilliant suggestion:

Heck, let’s let guns into the U.S. Capitol

He begins:

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? ...

He concludes:

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    [7-22-09]

The New York Times ran a good editorial yesterday, July 21, explaining the reasons why the Thune amendment deserved rejection.

National 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 background check.

"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, visit


Witherspoon endorses letter to support Gun Show Background Check Act of 2009

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 just that.

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 Violence

June 16, 2009

Faith Organizations: Tell Congress to Stand Up for Gun Violence Prevention

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 campaign

Senator 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 by Tuesday, June 30. 

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.


Ladd Everitt
Director of Communications

More 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 guns.


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.”


Death Talkers

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.  More >>


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 effectively.  More >>


A 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 his blog, “Faith and Works”


On 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. George Tiller.

She writes:

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 issues >>



Statement of Josh Horwitz, Executive Director, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence


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 histories.

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

The hatred. Will it never end?
Are we called to do something?

The killing of Dr. George Tiller has led to the closing of his clinic in Kansas, 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.”

The conclusion? What else? “Terrorism works.”

So writes Tracy Clark-Flory, writing for 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. Tiller.

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 furious.

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.

George had 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 for them."

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, women die.

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 Post >>

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 note,
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.

TeSelle wrote:

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 will be!"

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 month. Learn more and sign up to participate.

A 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 firing ranges. 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 on the 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!

For more of our reports on guns and such >>

Legislation update from the Presbyterian Washington Office:


This is also on the Washington Office website in PDF format >>

Seven years ago, women around the country were preparing for the Mothers 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 the
Citizens' 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 right."

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 Constitutions 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   [3-27-04]

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 gun violence.

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 control.

US 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, ballistic "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"     [3-5-02]

A 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:

Over 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' Conference to Stop Gun Violence:
Winning in 2002

Presented by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence 
and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence

February 22 - 23, 2002
Arlington, Virginia


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 Violence, saying,

"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 religious denominations.

For more information on the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence or to download Pledge materials, please visit

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 administration.

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 United States?

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 "fraud."

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 firearm."

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.

GA actions 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 of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

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 thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

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 lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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