Obama Takes Action On Gun Violence

Obama announced a package of Executive Actions aimed at fighting gun violence by strengthening and expanding the background check system to cover more sales, ensuring the the system has good records, and implementing new regulations and procedures to curtail trafficking and the illegal gun trade.

Complete transcript follows the video below.
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Another Horrific Gun Massacre: Children Slaughtered At Will

Time for the American Faith Community to Acknowledge Gun Violence as Religious and Moral Issue and Demand Action

— by Bryan Miller

According to press reports, as many as 27 people, including 18 elementary school children, were shot and killed by a lone gunman who attacked a school for 1st to 4th graders in Western Connecticut this morning.

Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Vice Chair of Heeding God’s Call and Senior Rabbi of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia said:

In this time of year sacred for so many Americans it is beyond rational comprehension how such a massacre of innocents could occur, but it did.  How much more obvious can it be that such senseless loss of life — loss of God’s Children, as we all are — demands that the American faith community call on all people and communities of faith to address gun violence as the religious and moral issue it is.

More after the jump.
The Reverend James F. McIntire, Board Chair of Heeding God’s Call, the growing faith-based and grassroots movement to prevent gun violence, and Pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Havertown, PA, said:

First, we pray for the lost and all that knew and loved them.  Second, we pray for our country to heal from the deep psychic wound this morning’s slaughter has opened.  Thirdly, and most importantly, we pray that the American faith community goes beyond prayer – to demand action to move this country to safety from mass shootings and the daily carnage of illegal guns that cities like Philadelphia suffer every day.

The Reverend Belita Mitchell, Chair of Heeding God’s Call’s Harrisburg Chapter and Pastor of Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren said:  We at Heeding God’s Call have long recognized gun violence as hostile to God’s peaceable kingdom, so we believe it is absolutely a religious and moral problem that demands that all people of faith take activist roles in diminishing it – which is exactly what we are about.  We call today and everyday on our sisters and brothers in faith to join with us in seeking an end to the carnage, for God’s sake and ours.

The Reverend Todd Stavrakos, Heeding God’s Call Board Member and Pastor of Gladwyne Presbyterian Church in Gladwyne, PA said: “This is the time of the year when Christians witness to the birth of a child, yet we just lost eighteen.”

Heeding God’s Call is the faith-based and grassroots movement to prevent gun violence.  Headquartered in Philadelphia, Heeding is growing rapidly and has active chapters in NW, NE and West Phila, in its western suburbs, in Harrisburg, Baltimore and Washington, DC.  Heeding seeks to bring faithful and public pressure on gun shops to persuade them to avoid selling to those who would put guns on the street.  Heeding was instrumental in leading federal authorities to shutter notorious Colosimo’s Gun Center on Spring Garden Street in late ’09.  Heeding is currently active at two gun shops in NE Philadelphia.

Another Day, Another Gun Massacre

This time in a house of worship…

Faith-based Gun Violence Prevention Organization Calls on Religious Institutions to Act to Halt the American Epidemic of Gun Violence

— by Bryan Miller

The most recent reports of another gun massacre, this time at a Sikh house of worship near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, speak of 7 dead and several wounded.  This predictable event, follows close on the heels of the killing and wounding of dozens at a movie premier in Aurora, Colorado.

The Reverend Belita Mitchell, Coordinator of Heeding God’s Call’s active chapter in Harrisburg, PA said:

We at Heeding God’s Call grieve for those killed and injured and their families, friends, neighbors and co-religionists. Americans believe that houses of worship should be places of safety and refuge, not places of carnage and terror.  But, as long as we allow people intent on mayhem to gain guns with ease, often illegally, houses of worship will be as dangerous as so many neighborhoods and communities are now in our country.

The Reverend James McIntire, Board Chair of Heeding God’s Call, said:

These predictable mass shootings keep coming and will continue to do so. We’ve barely begun grieving for those lost and wounded in Aurora and now more of the same. The response of our country’s leaders has, once again, been weak and limited to platitudes, while gun advocates tell us to be silent in the aftermath of such grievous acts.  The faith community has, largely, eschewed moral leadership, speaking only of prayer, grief and solidarity with the damaged community. This is far from enough. In addition to our grieving and our prayers, this country needs the faith community to be prophetic in its call for justice and to act for change in American attitudes and measures.

Bob Fles, Co-Coordinator of Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence, a chapter of Heeding God’s Call, in Philadelphia, said:

We at Heeding God’s Call and NPEG say unequivocally that enough is enough. When the easy availability of guns results in places of worship and those within them being shot up, it is time for all faithful to get off their couches and get active in seeking an end to the violence. We call on all faith traditions in this country to show courageous religious leadership and work unrelentingly to end the bloodletting.

More after the jump.
Bryan Miller, Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call closed with:

We also call on people of faith who are concerned about the rising tide of gun violence to join with us as Heeding God’s Call works in neighborhoods and communities to make guns less available to those all agree shouldn’t have them.  We seek, as well, to be the spark that ignites the faith community to activism to halt the American epidemic of gun violence.

Faith Communities Organize Against Gun Violence


John O. Mason

Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence

On Sunday, February 13, 2011, the Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence, a group of religious communities organized to bring down handgun deaths, held its first meeting at First Presbyterian Church in Germantown. The group is based in the Northwest Philadelphia — including Germantown, Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, Roxborough, Nicetown — and is affiliated with Heeding God’s Call, a religiously-based advocacy group against gun violence.

Congregations involved with NPGV include:

  • Mishkan Shalom Synagogue,
  • First Presbyterian Church in Germantown,
  • Chestnut Hill United Church,
  • Germantown Mennonite Church,
  • Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, and
  • the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

The Reverend Linda Noonan, pastor of Chestnut Hill United Church, is one of the Co-Coordinators for NPGV. “The Northwest part of the city,” she says, “has the highest incident of gun-related violent deaths of the whole city… So it affects us very significantly in this corner of the city.” NPGV is a faith based organization, says Noonan, “that consists of churches, synagogues, faith-based organizations, and partnerships.”

Of the organization of NPGV, Noonan says, “Folk in the faith communities in the Northwest have been aware that we have the highest incident of gun related deaths in the city, and so we felt moved, as clergy and lay people and people of faith, to take action. Many of us are already connected with Heeding God’s Call, which is a broader citywide and national organization, and we wanted to focus specifically in the northwest corner and mobilize our congregations in this part of the city to take action with a specific gun shop in Philadelphia.”

More after the jump.
The illegal sale of guns, adds Noonan, “knows no neighborhood boundaries. Guns sold in one neighborhood are easily moved across the city and across state lines as well. While there are no gun shops in Northwest Philadelphia, we still have the highest incident of gun-related deaths.

“Our position,” Noonan goes on, “isn’t gun control, it’s reducing and eliminating the gun-related deaths in the city…Our mission is to pressure gun-shop owners to voluntarily sign on to the code of conduct which implements ten measures that would significantly reduce the likelihood that the guns they sell will not be resold illegally (a “straw purchase”) and used in violent crimes.”

The Code of Conduct for gun retailers, which NPGV and Heeding God’s Call advocates, includes videotaping the sale of guns at the point of transaction; a computerized crime gun trace system; a declaration by purchasers that they meet the legal requirements for purchasing a firearm; accepting only state and federally issued identification cards; signs alerting customers of the legal responsibilities; employee background checks for selling and handling firearms; employee responsibility training; daily and quarterly audits of inventory; no sales without background check results; and firearms in secure and locked cabinets.  

Bryan Miller, Director of Public Advocacy of Heeding God’s Call, says that HGC and NPGV are “explicitly non-legislative” (they do not participate in contacting state or federal legislators on firearms bills). “Although we will contact on specific legislation is moving, we’ll ask our members to make phone calls, but we don’t lobby in Harrisburg or Washington, we’re sort of behind the scenes if you will, but we do view our work as having an important long-term legislative effect. In order to pass legislation, you need to build grassroots support for it. That an important part of what we do.”

As for working with police, Miller says, “We contact the police before we do any public actions, like the ones we did at Colosimo’s (the gun store on Eighth and Spring Garden streets, since shut down), and soon at a couple of gun shops in Philadelphia. Although we obviously support law enforcement very strongly, we don’t work too closely together. Law enforcement’s goal is to deal with demand for illegal guns and the crimes that result. What’s we’re seeking to do is restrict the supply, it’s a whole different way of looking at it and a different set of activities… We focus on diminishing the likelihood of gun going from the gun shop to the street, and if there are fewer guns on the street, there are fewer people that are going to be able to use them.”

Bob Swenson worked as an internist and infectious disease doctor at Temple University Hospital for forty years. “That is the busiest emergency room in Philadelphia,” he says, “I think it’s the biggest in the United States. The level of gun violence was incredible, we were in the emergency room every day, trying to save somebody, many of which we couldn’t. The thing that got to me was seeing the people who survived — lives were altered forever. Fifteen-year-old kids who are now paraplegic or quadriplegic, I would see them over the years because of their infection, and they would die at twenty-seven. For me, the level of people maimed, it’s like a hundred and fifty thousand people a year in Philadelphia are shot and (they) survived. Many of those people are left with deficits that make their life difficult, and they eventually die at an early age because of complications.”

Swenson heard of the organizing of NPGV several months ago when he decided “that I wanted to be involved, to try to do something, because…(in foreign countries), it’s like a hundred people are shot in Japan a year, and maybe three hundred in Great Britain. It’s something that’s at least in theory preventable.”  

Tucson Rampage’s Dangerous Combination: Extremism and Guns

— Bryan Miller

In the wake of the devastating shooting rampage of Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, Heeding God’s Call, the faith-based movement to prevent gun violence, expressed sadness at the predictable loss of life and damage to society, and called for citizens and the faith community to ‘step up’ and take the country from those who would use the deadly mix of guns and political extremism to endanger democracy and sell guns.

Rabbi Linda Holzman of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in Philadelphia said: “I call on all of my sisters and brothers of all faiths to take courage, get off your couches and out of your homes to bring this country to a place of safety and sanity where persons like the Tucson shooter cannot easily acquire guns and where there is no tolerance for those who would use the deadly mix of guns and extremism to seek power or disrupt our democracy.  It is high time the faithful in this country said no to extremists and the gun industry and lobby.  We can no longer allow their narrow single-mindedness and selfishness to dictate policies and laws.”

See statement by State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) after the jump.
State Representative Babette Josephs

State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phila., is expressing her horror, shock and outrage at Saturday’s attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which wounded her and 19 others at a community legislative event in Tucson, Ariz., leaving six dead and Giffords in critical condition.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families, including Representative Giffords,” Josephs said. “This is a terrible tragedy for them, for Arizona and for this country.

“But this incident reminds us that there can be consequences to speech that makes it seem OK to physically attack people for having a different viewpoint. I fear that many extremist talk radio and TV commentators do not make that distinction. People who are unstable are likely to take this rhetoric of violence as permission to act. And in states with weak gun control laws, that permission can be deadly. This is not a First Amendment issue, but one of self-censorship, self-restraint and the assumption of responsibility.

“A great friend of mine, the late Larry Frankel, championed the First Amendment, but even he said the First Amendment does not give us the right to act like idiots,” she said. Josephs pointed to the oft-noted map distributed by former Alaska governor Sara Palin with cross hair marks on certain legislative districts, including Giffords’.

“One cannot shout ‘fire’ in a crowded room without cause because of what it may incite. Responsible individuals self-edit their comments in the same way.”

Josephs also said she believes that Saturday’s shooting puts more light on the issue of responsible firearm laws.

“There are many instances in which women are the intended victims of troubled young men. Who will be next? Pennsylvania is similar to Arizona in having weak gun laws. Now is the time to reconsider enacting responsible gun-safety laws,” Josephs said. “It is up to the politicians to temper their extreme discourse and enact responsible gun-safety laws.”