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Seattle-area religious leaders call for stricter gun control
More than two dozen clergy from across the Puget Sound region signed a declaration calling for stricter gun controls nearly a week after the Connecticut massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead.
Nearly 30 local faith leaders representing a diversity of religious beliefs signed a declaration Thursday calling for stricter gun control.
Nearly a week after an armed man entered an elementary school on the other side of the country and killed 20 children and six adults, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh clergy signed what they are calling a Declaration of Clergy United Against Gun Violence.
They hope eventually to add 5,000 signatures to the document before presenting it to lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session.
Leslie Braxton, pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in Renton, delivered what was possibly the most powerful message Thursday when he declared: "We need to rethink the Second Amendment."
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects "the right of people to keep and bear arms."
"I understand why it made sense for white men in the 18th and 19th century" to arm themselves, Braxton said, listing factors such as fear of reconquest by the British, control over slaves and the capturing of Native-American land.
"But why can't we move away from the gun war and gun culture of the 18th and 19th century? For us to not have the courage to change laws that don't make sense, makes us all enablers to mass murder."
Thursday's event was organized by the Faith Action Network (FAN), a faith-inspired statewide organization with the ultimate goal of bringing about change for the public good. It came on a day when many of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., massacre were buried.
Paul Benz, co-director of FAN, said the call for change will go out to elected leaders on both sides of the aisle, urging them to "take courageous political action ... " to prevent further gun violence in our communities.
Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest Church in Ballard, pointed out that this region has not been immune to mass shootings. He recalled the slayings at a bar in the University District earlier this year and the shooting on Capitol Hill in 2006 that left six dead and two injured.
"Collectively, we gather to form a choir expressing our unified voice against gun violence," Cho said.
Not all religious leaders believe gun-control legislation is the answer.
Joe Fuiten, conservative pastor of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, did not attend the event but said his colleagues are "looking at the wrong thing." It's not a matter of gun but a matter of evil."
Leaders of faith in particular, he continued, "should be more interested in what's in a person's heart than the mechanism of expressing the evil that's in their hearts.
"With or without guns, violence can occur and does occur," he said.
Braxton pointed out that on the same day as the Newtown killings, a man in China attacked 22 children and an adult outside a school. No one died, he said, "because he attacked them with a knife."
Three times as many people died from gun violence in this country last year as died on Sept. 11, 2011, he said. "We went to war to stop al-Qaida," he said. "What will we do to stop each other?"
The declaration signed by the clergy seeks:
• A ban on all assault and assault-style weapons, including a buyback of such weapons.
• A ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines.
• Universal background checks, including at gun shows
• Requirements for trigger locks and safe gun storage.
• Microstamping technology on all firearms sold, bought or delivered in the state to improve bullet tracing by law enforcement.
• Investment in the state's mental-health system to promote well-being among those at risk for committing acts of violence.
• An end to the glorification of violence in the media and in games played by young people.