As of July 2022, our nation has been traumatized by 617 mass shootings. Bishop LaTrelle Easterling has released a number of statements as these shootings have continually unfolded in places like Smithsburg, MD, Uvalde, TX, Buffalo, NY, Charlottesville, VA, Colorado Springs, CO, and Chesapeake, VA. We mourn, grieve and pray for those who have lost their lives and now we must engage in concrete actions to stop preventable gun violence.
What Does the Church Say?
As United Methodists, we follow Jesus who commissions us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9 NRSV). This identity holds us in relationship with God and echoes God’s dream for peace for all people so that there is no need to live in fear of violence (Micah 4:2-4 NSRV).
Scripture passages like that in Micah 4:2-4 inspire our 2016 United Methodist Resolution to end gun violence, which lifts up the understanding that violence, in so many ways, is fueled by a culture of misplaced fear and a distorted desire for self-preservation.
The biblical “swords” and “spears” in the Bible today take the form of gun violence. Random mass murders are committed by enraged and distraught individuals; persons use guns to kill and terrorize others who are culturally, ethnically, racially, and socially different; guns are used in hate crimes aimed at terrorizing entire groups; domestic and intimate partner aggression and other crimes are complicated by access to guns; and tragically, suicide and self-harm are further escalated because of access to guns.
Unaddressed gun violence escalates every other form of violence in our families and neighborhoods.
Congregations Called to Take Action
We call on congregations to prayerfully address gun violence in their own local contexts. To live in God’s presence means that we must learn how to practice peace together by rejecting the presumed inevitability of gun violence and bloodshed.
1. Make preventing gun violence a regular part of conversations and worship. Frame conversations theologically by hosting a showing of The Armor of Light or The Interrupters and study “Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities: Reflections on Gun Violence from Micah 4:1-4.”
2. Stand with survivors and their families by providing financial support, pastoral care, and creating a safe space for those impacted to share their stories; join families and community members as they walk through the process of grieving and recovery. Pray for those who’ve perpetuated this violence and their families. Offer resources for these families to receive the support needed.
3. 2016 UM Resolution (3428) on Gun Violence provides specific ways for us to take action on the safe storage of firearms; invites us to partner with ecumenical and law enforcement efforts in our community, and advocates for realistic legislation that will reduce gun violence.
4. Go to the Gun Violence Prevention team webpage to find more resources for congregations.
Take Action in the Public Square
As United Methodists, we join thousands of people of faith to advocate for two pieces of national legislation.
Ethan’s Law (H.R. 748)
Click on this Action Alert and Write a Letter to Congress and ask them to pass Ethan’s Law. Your letter will be sent to your U.S. representatives, senators, and the White House, asking that they support Ethan’s Law.
- An estimated 4,600,000 minors in the United States live in homes with at least one unsecured firearm.
- Seventy-three percent of children under the age of 10 living in homes with firearms reported knowing the location of their parents’ firearms.
- Thirty-six percent of those children reported handling their parents’ unsecured firearms. The presence of unsecured firearms in the home increases the risk of unintentional and intentional shootings.
- Over 75 percent of firearms used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional firearm injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend.
- To learn more watch our recent BWC webinar “Safe Firearm Storage Saves Lives.”
Ethan Song and his friend died in a neighbor’s home where a firearm was not properly stored. Both children had played with unsecured guns hoping to make a Tik-Tok video. The owner of the gun was not held liable. According to the family’s memorial page for Ethan, “handguns were often not secured or locked up in this home. A rifle was frequently stored in the front hall closet. According to police reports, kids pulled the trigger of the rifle on at least one occasion. Young people were able to access weapons for months, even when a parent was in the home.”
As a matter of faith and conscience, we ask Congress to pass, and President Biden to sign, Ethan’s Law (H.R. 748) law so that we have storage requirements of firearms within residences at the federal, state, and tribal levels if a minor under the age of 18 is able to access the firearm without permission, or if a resident within the household is ineligible to possess the firearm.
Assault Weapon Ban of 2021 (S.736)
Click on this Action Alert and ask Congress to pass the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 (S. 736) by clicking on this Action to Write a Letter. The bill was passed by the House on July 29th, and is now awaiting action in the Senate. Your letter will be sent to your Senators and the White House asking that they support the Assault Weapons Ban.
AR-15-style rifles were used in 11 mass shootings since 2012, most recently being in Boulder, CO., and Uvalde, TX.
- While other types of guns have been used in past shootings, AR-15-style rifles are known for their ability to reload automatically and lack of recoil, making it easier for a shooter to take multiple targeted shots.
- AR-15-style firearms are the weapon of choice for shooters looking to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible and have been used in the deadliest mass shootings in our history, from Sandy Hook to Parkland to Uvalde.
The Assault Weapon Ban of 2021 (S. 736) would ban the sale, import, manufacture, or transfer of certain semi-automatic weapons. This will make it illegal to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semi-automatic assault weapon (SAW) or any large-capacity ammunition feeding device (LCAFD). It would make it unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, or transfer the following: All semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one of the following military features: pistols or forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock, ability to accept a detachable magazine, or as otherwise defined in the bill.
As a matter of conscience and faith tell Congress and the President that you support The Assault Weapon Ban of 2021 (S. 736) and we recommit ourselves to stand against the epidemic of gun violence so that weapons of terror will not take the life of one more precious child of God.
For more information and to learn how to get involved with Gun Violence Prevention, please contact:
- Susan Bender, Gun Violence Prevention Team Chair | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rev. Neal Christie, Executive Minister of Connected Engagement | email@example.com