Massacre Galvanizes 'Cross Lobby' on Gun Control
The shooting deaths of 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school has revived religious support for gun control, galvanizing a movement that has struggled to gain traction against the powerful gun lobby.
"We are going to win this and save lives, and faith leaders will not need to be pulled into that," said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "They will be at the forefront of that."
Everitt said rank-and-file people of faith have flooded his office's e-mail and social media accounts, giving donations and offering to volunteer in their communities following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.
Episcopal bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of Washington is teaming up with Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, to "dedicate ourselves to the work of passing national legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons and ammunition in this country."
Everyone in Washington "seems to live in terror of the gun lobby," Hall said, "but I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby."
Even though the gun control debate has been relatively dormant in recent years--despite high-profile mass shootings in Arizona, Colorado and elsewhere --religious voices have been a key part of the gun control coalition.
"Any time this movement has made a push, whether you're looking at the Brady bill, the assault weapons ban or the 1968 Gun Control Act, faith leaders have been at the forefront of that," said Everitt, whose coalition was started by religious activists. "We can't win without them. We need them."
Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence worked earlier this year to prevent passage of the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act, which would have made it easier for people to carry concealed weapons, said Vincent DeMarco, the group's national coordinator.
In the wake of the Newtown shootings, DeMarco said "the possibilities are much better" to try again to renew a Clinton-era ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. "The faith community is committed to doing this, and it makes sense and it will happen," he said, "and this sad tragedy in Connecticut is only going to add to the commitment."
His coalition of 39 Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh organizations was launched in 2011 after the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six and injured then-Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. …