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NCC Joins "Interfaith Call To End Gun Violence"

              March 15, 2000, WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a statement that blasts a Congress that constantly discussing the epidemic of gun violence in the United States “but decides against taking substantive action,” National Council of Churches General Secretary Dr. Bob Edgar today detailed the Council’s support for several proposals to reduce access to guns, including waiting periods and background checks prior to purchase along with efforts to ban the sale of handguns and assault weapons.

          “Because we are so committed to ending this scourge of violence, the National Council of Churches has made the issue of gun violence one of its top priorities and will focus significant educational and advocacy resources on this matter in the years to come,” Dr. Edgar said.

              Dr. Edgar’s statement is in support of an Interfaith Call to End Gun Violence, to be released publicly at a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 15, at the United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C.

              Participants will underscore that, in spite of their diverse religious backgrounds, all are compelled as people to faith to make ending gun violence a personal priority.

          In addition to Rabbi David Saperstein and other prominent members of the religious community, the Honorable Andrew Cuomo, Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development, will speak on the issue of gun violence. 



By Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

 March 15, 2000

Our nation continues to reel under the flood of stories about the death of children from gunfire – one small child at the hands of another child in a Michigan school, two teenagers going home from a high school ball game in Washington, D.C., toddlers caught in the crossfire of street warfare.   Every day children suffer injuries or death as a result of the misuse of guns, either through accident or by intention.  Even when they are not physically the victims, they suffer from the loss of parents and friends, their fear of going back to a place where violence has occurred, and the disruption of their young lives.

Gun violence has occurred in epidemic proportions in the United States for many years, and Congress constantly discusses the issue but decides against taking substantive action, in the face of pressure from advocates for gun ownership and use.  We are aware that new laws alone will not end the wave of gun violence sweeping the nation, but we are convinced that the number of shootings will be reduced by making it harder for individuals to purchase the kinds of guns which have no function except to injure and kill humans. Because we are so committed to ending this scourge of violence, the National Council of Churches has made the issue of gun violence one of its top priorities and will focus significant educational and advocacy resources on this matter in the years to come.

Guns are readily available in every segment of the society, and the death and injury caused by their use is rampant.  More than 200 million guns are in circulation in the U.S. today.  Between one-third and one-half of all households own at least one.    Every day in the U.S. an average of 87 people, 12 of them children, die as a result of gun wounds, a figure which is rapidly approaching the rate of deaths through car accidents.

The Clinton Administration and several leaders in Congress have proposed a variety of ways to reduce access to guns, such as waiting periods and background checks prior to the purchase of guns.  We support these initiatives, as well as efforts to ban the sale of handguns and assault weapons.

These guns are the weapons of choice in the commission of crimes.   They are also the instruments by which children accidentally shoot themselves and others and adults act out their aggressions in conflicts or disputes with friends, family, and strangers, simply because these weapons are so available.  If guns were not readily at hand, people in conditions of stress might be motivated to find a less violent way to resolve their conflicts.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a major focus on efforts to reduce gun violence in public housing, including the release in February of a HUD report entitled “In the Crossfire:  The Impact of Gun Violence on Public Housing Communities.”   The report reveals that people who receive government housing assistance are twice as likely as those in the general population to be victims of gun violence, with one person killed each day by gunfire in the nation’s 100 largest public housing communities.

The HUD report points out that, of course, the greatest loss from gun violence is in the lives of those who are killed and injured; but families suffer as well from the isolation caused by fear, a sense of lost community, and the tendency of people whose circumstances improve to flee from the area, leaving behind their less fortunate neighbors.  Additionally, there are high financial costs associated with policing and attempts at security.

Recently a bipartisan group of Members of Congress who are distressed about the torrent of gun violence in our nation’s schools issued a report that grew out of their year-long study of the matter.  They identified a number of programs which could be expanded and strengthened to protect our children and prevent future gun violence, including such things as early childhood programs, after-school centers, community policing, and better access to job training and college.  It is a sad and telling comment that this group -- with its positive motivation and its commitment to ending the scourge of gun violence -- felt that it could not address the issue of gun control because doing so would impede its ability to arrive at its beneficial recommendations.

It is increasingly evident that guns, rather than providing the security people seek and rightfully deserve, only add further to our sense of unease and danger.  The escalation of gun violence compels us to call for an end to the manufacture and easy distribution of such instruments of destruction.  A faith that expresses compassion for all God’s children is opposed to violence in all forms.



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