Enough is enough.
The continued gun violence is, of course, caused largely by evil and sinfulness, but it is guns that kill people. It seems relentless, but we cannot accept this as our norm. We must continue to fight against the racism, hatred, and evil that drive the shooters of mass killings, but we also must make it harder for shooters to attain such deadly guns, and harder for accidents involving guns to occur.
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) Executive Committee has developed a statement against gun violence that we are inviting religious leaders (clergy and lay), and people of goodwill, from around the commonwealth to sign. We will deliver it to the Governor and to legislators when gun bills are considered next session. Feel free to share it with friends and neighbors. Add your name and affiliation to the statement below. If you feel inclined, include a short note sharing why this issue is of significance to you.
Faith traditions nationally are clear in their affirmation of the need to address our crisis of gun violence. Visit our website to view a compilation of faith statements. If you would like to suggest additional statements to share – of other faith traditions or secular –please email VICPP Director of Communications at: ayeshaGT@virginiainterfaithcenter.org
Please make sure to indicate your name, title, and your congregation/faith community affiliation.
You will be signing on as an individual - not speaking for your institution. The final document will include this language, "Clergy's/community members' institution affiliations are listed for identification purposes only."
The text of the actual letter you are signing begins below the following line.
Leviticus 19:16 tells us:
“Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.”
As religious leaders in Virginia, and people of goodwill who stand by this statement, we can no longer remain silent to the scourge of gun violence in our midst. We know how much people treasure their guns, but we must treasure our neighbors and our children more. We must address common sense approaches to reducing gun violence in our communities.
We call upon our Virginia legislators to:
- Increase the age at which a person can purchase a gun. You can’t buy alcohol till you are 21. You can’t rent a car till you are 25. Given how many mass shooters are young men and given the science of brain development, raising the age of gun ownership makes sense.
- Ban assault weapons and bump stocks. These military-style weapons have no place in communities.
- Require safe storage of guns when children are present. Children are killed or can become killers when they have easy access to guns. Gun owners should be required to store their guns safely when children are present in their homes.
Although there are many other policy proposals that can be considered, including ones that need to happen at the national level such as universal background checks, these three have widespread support within faith communities and could make a difference here in Virginia.
We call upon religious communities, and the community at large of people of goodwill, in Virginia to:
- Encourage gun owners to store their guns safely. Although we believe Virginia needs a policy on safe storage, we can save lives now by educating gun owners to store their guns safely when children are present.
- Flag friends, family members, or congregants who are at risk of committing violence. On July 1, 2020, Virginia’s new “Red Flag” law, officially called “Substantial Risk Order” went into effect, but many communities aren’t using the law. The Virginia Substantial Risk Order laws allow for the removal of firearms from persons deemed to be a substantial risk to themselves or others by their purchase, possession, or acquisition of firearms. Religious communities and the greater community of people of goodwill should help identify people and encourage law enforcement to use these “time-outs” for those who possess, exhibit, or engage in alcohol abuse, substance abuse, extreme anger, racism and hate, or show other risk signs for injuring themselves or others. Flagging potentially dangerous people could save lives.
- "Research of similar laws in Indiana and Connecticut suggests that one life is saved for every 10-20 cases where firearms are temporarily removed," according to this 2019 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.
- Join in community gun violence prevention efforts. Communities across the Commonwealth are developing approaches to reducing gun violence. Religious communities, and the community at large of people of goodwill, should be actively engaged in developing these programs.
We pledge to pray, in the manner which speaks to our individual souls, for the victims of gun violence and their families and communities. We also pledge to work together for policies and practices in Virginia that can stop the shedding of blood among our neighbors.
*Clergy's/community members' institution affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.