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.

Do More Than Pray & Grieve, Take Action to Prevent Gun Violence

From Heeding God’s Call

Heeding God’s Call, the faith-based and grassroots movement to prevent gun violence headquartered in Philadelphia expressed deep remorse about the ‘too predictable’ massacre of innocents early this morning in Aurora, Colorado.

The Reverend James F. McIntire, Board Chair of Heeding God’s Call, said: “As people of faith, all of Heeding God’s Call grieve the loss of life that occurred this morning in Colorado. We pray for those who mourn the lost, for the wounded, their friends and families and a community that will never be the same. But, prayer and grief are not enough. It is time for the faith community to stop ignoring the deep malaise that besets our nation. It is time for the faith community to lead this country out of the hell of gun violence.”

The Reverend James Atwood, Coordinator of Heeding God’s Call of Greater Washington, DC said: “There is something frighteningly wrong in this country when these massacres keep happening.  We, as a nation, cannot simply blame disturbed individuals and ignore the fact that our unique gun culture and the ease of availability of guns, especially those made to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible, is also to blame for the incredible loss of life and community.”

Bryan Miller, Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call said: “Despite the claims of the gun industry and lobby, these massacres and the daily toll of gun violence in this country are absolutely about guns.  It would be irresponsible and unconscionable for people of faith to just point to a disturbed individual and seek no change in American attitudes, policies and laws regarding guns.  If Americans, and especially people of faith, don’t seek real and meaningful change about guns it’s easy to predict more such massacres.  And, who knows who will die or be wounded in the next one, and the one after that and the one after that…”

Transcript of President’s remarks on the shootings follows the jump.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE SHOOTINGS IN AURORA, COLORADO

Harborside Event Center, Fort Myers, Florida

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me, first of all, say how grateful I am for all of you being here, and how much we appreciate everything that you’ve done.  I know that there are a lot of people here who have been so engaged in the campaign, have sacrificed so much, people who’ve been involved back since 2007. (Applause.)  And so I want all of you to know how appreciative I am.

And I know many of you came here today for a campaign event. I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election.  But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family.

By now, many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town call Aurora, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, and dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital.  Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital.

We’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody.  And the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice.  (Applause.)  And we will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people.

We’re going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.  And I had a chance to speak with the Mayor of Aurora as well as the Governor of Colorado to express, not just on behalf of Michelle and myself, but the entire American family, how heartbroken we are.

Now, even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.  Such violence, such evil is senseless.  It’s beyond reason.  But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living.  The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved.  They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors.  They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.

And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile.  Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.  (Applause.)

It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose.  That’s what matters.  At the end of the day, what we’ll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others.  That’s why we’re here.

I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news.  My daughters go to the movies.  What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children.  But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.

So, again, I am so grateful that all of you are here.  I am so moved by your support.  But there are going to be other days for politics.  This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.

So what I’d ask everybody to do, I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.  So if everybody can just take a moment.

(Moment of silence.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today.  May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come.

I am grateful to all of you, and I hope that as a consequence of today’s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Obama!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)