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Church agencies voice dismay at ruling on gun control


The U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 overruled the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. A UMNS photo by Franz Jantzen, Collection
of the Supreme Court of the United States.

By United Methodist News Service
July 2, 2008

Two United Methodist agencies, disappointed with a U.S. Supreme Court decision on handgun ownership, are urging church members to advocate for legislation that would tighten federal laws on gun control.

 
Jim Winkler

In a joint statement July 1, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the Commission on Religion and Race said they were "deeply disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strip local municipalities of the right to enact sensible and necessary gun restriction laws." A week earlier, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that a Washington, D.C., ban on handgun ownership was unconstitutional.

"The Supreme Court’s decision stands in direct contrast to the stance of our denomination," the church agencies said.

The denomination’s top legislative assembly, the General Conference, condemned gun violence in a resolution at its April 23-May 2 gathering in Fort Worth, Texas.

"No appeals to individual autonomy are sufficient to justify our church’s ignorance of this threat," the General Conference stated. "The need to prevent the incidence of firearm-related injury and death is an issue of increasing concern and a priority public health issue. The United Methodist Church is among those religious communities calling for social policies and personal lifestyles that bring an end to senseless gun violence."

 
Erin Hawkins

In keeping with the resolution, the agencies "urge all United Methodists to continue to advocate for federal legislation in the U.S. Congress to regulate the importation, manufacturing, sale and possession of guns and ammunition by the general public." The resolution also calls upon all governments in countries with a United Methodist presence "to establish national bans on ownership by the general public of handguns, assault weapons, automatic weapon conversion kits and weapons that cannot be detected by traditionally used metal-detection devices."

The agencies noted that, following the ruling, the National Rifle Association filed lawsuits in Chicago and San Francisco to overturn other municipal laws on gun ownership.

The statement was signed by Jim Winkler, top staff executive of the Board of Church and Society, and Erin Hawkins, top staff executive of the Commission on Religion and Race. Both agencies are based in Washington. The board focuses on advocacy on social issues and international affairs, and the commission works to ensure racial inclusiveness.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

The full text of the statement follows:

The Statement

The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) and General Commission on Religion & Race (GCORR) are deeply disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strip local municipalities of the right to enact sensible and necessary gun restriction laws. Gun violence in local communities has risen in recent years due to the proliferation of weapons as powerful and well-financed gun lobbies have been chipping away at gun control regulations at the state and federal levels.

The Supreme Court’s decision stands in direct contrast to the stance of our denomination.
In response to the violence that so often accompanies the abundance of guns, the 2008 General Conference, the United Methodist Church’s top policy-making body, stated unequivocally last month in a resolution on gun violence: “No appeals to individual autonomy are sufficient to justify our church’s ignorance of this threat. The need to prevent the incidence of firearm-related injury and death is an issue of increasing concern and a priority public health issue. The United Methodist Church is among those religious communities calling for social policies and personal lifestyles that bring an end to senseless gun violence.”

Unfortunately, the sensible policies in place in various municipalities are now likely to be challenged through an avalanche of lawsuits, such as those already filed in San Francisco and Chicago. This litigation will slow down our already clogged judicial system and most likely open the floodgates for weapons to pour into local communities.

Unfortunately, the decision, also opens the way for gunshops to be opened in communities that had previously banned them. The expected proliferation of weapons will profit weapons manufacturers and powerful gun lobby groups, but will bring more violence to local communities. As with legislation involving alcohol and tobacco, we know that restrictions do not prevent loopholes from being exploited. This decision will continue to make our children and youths unnecessary targets and users, while we continue to merchandise for profit the wares that doom us all.

The Supreme Court decision overturned numerous lower court rulings permitting state and federal governments to enact reasonable regulations on access to weapons. The 5-4 decision stretched the language of the Second Amendment in regard to the right of an armed militia to refer to an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

In writing the dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out, “The Court’s announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms … leaves for future cases the formidable task of defining the scope of permissible regulations.”

With the memory of the Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University shooting tragedies still fresh in our minds — and the six people killed in Kentucky just the day before the 5-4 decision was released — it is a sad day when the Supreme Court justices fail to understand the heartbreaking implications of easy access to weapons.

GBCS and GCORR, in accordance with the General Conference resolution on gun violence, urge all United Methodists to continue to advocate for federal legislation in the U.S. Congress to regulate the importation, manufacturing, sale and possession of guns and ammunition by the general public. They also call upon all governments in which there is a United Methodist presence to establish national bans on ownership by the general public of handguns, assault weapons, automatic weapon conversion kits, and weapons that cannot be detected by traditionally used metal-detection devices.”

Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society, The United Methodist Church
and
Erin Hawkins, General Secretary, General Commission Religion and Race, The United Methodist Church

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Resources

Board of Church and Society

Commission Religion and Race

General Conference 2008


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