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They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Psalm 106:37-38 NRSVue

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) grieves for the 21 lives lost at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. We pray for the loved ones of the 19 children and two teachers who were killed and for the 17 who were wounded.

There are no words sufficient for the horror of this act. Our United States are covered with blood – the blood of innocent children and their teachers. We mourn these new victims as we still grieve the lives lost and traumatized during past school massacres at Columbine High School, Red Lake Senior High School, Nickle Mines schoolhouse, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Stoneman Douglas High School, and Santa Fe High School. This year so far, there have been 27 school shootings and over 200 mass shootings in our country. The long-term effects of these shootings exacerbate the harm and trauma experienced by those most impacted as well as our nation as a whole.

We must act to stop this from ever happening again. It is sinful to offer thoughts and prayers without taking decisive action to reform gun legislation.

An overwhelming majority of Americans want tighter gun laws. A recent survey found that 90% of registered US voters want background checks required for all gun sales. Yet, those who have made idols out of guns they sell for profit continue to be in control of national gun laws through political contributions and lobbying efforts. A false theology of “God and guns” has also seeped into too many churches giving cover for elected officials who are intent on doing nothing to stop these mass shootings. Since this horrendous shooting of elementary school children, the main gun lobby organization, the National Rifle Association, continued to promote the sale of guns at their annual meeting in Houston, just a few hundred miles from Uvalde, with the participation of the former president and current Texas elected leaders. When will there be justice?

We admonish those who assert that even more guns should be placed in our communities. Arming more people is not the solution. We know that the best way to stop bad people with guns is to prevent them from having guns. We hold the simple truth that with more guns, there are more gun deaths.

Every country has people with mental health issues and racist beliefs but only US laws make it easy to pick up a gun and kill people, easier, in fact, than it is to obtain a driver’s license. The US has more gun violence than every other developed nation in the world.  This is shameful and we should not accept that we must live like this.

“We are angry,” said Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, NCC Interim President and General Secretary. “The right to bear arms is not the right to kill innocent children, teachers, or grocery store shoppers. We can’t be tempted to blame everything on mental health instability, either. No one should be able to purchase assault-style weapons, especially not someone not even old enough to buy alcoholic beverages.”

There are legislative solutions that we know will be effective. In addition to expanding Medicaid in every state in order to make mental health services available to all who need them, stricter gun laws must also be passed. The NCC continues to call for thorough background checks and the ban of assault guns and other military-grade weapons, which have no practical use in our communities beyond mass shootings. The nation should also have “red flag” laws so that law enforcement and others can stop people from buying guns and confiscate guns if they already own them.

Today, we again reaffirm, our 1967 statement calling for Firearms Control. The NCC holds that the God-given “right to life” is fundamental and sacred and that it is not possible to protect life and maintain public order when individuals have unregulated access to firearms. Then and now, the NCC calls for permit requirements that incorporate “proper identification of applicant (by the fingerprint method if possible), and a waiting period prior to issuance so that an adequate check can be made of the prospective purchaser to verify such matters as age, absence of mental illness, and lack of a felony record.” In addition, we repeat our 2010 call for local, state, and federal legislators “to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns, including closing the so-called federal ‘gun show loophole,’ which allows for the purchase of firearms from private sellers without submitting to a background check, or providing documentation of the purchase.”

Furthermore, we challenge those who have embraced White Christian Nationalism and associate guns with their identity as Christians. We ask them to examine how unchecked use of guns reflect our Christian beliefs. Considering guns as sacred above every other right including voting, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion is immoral.

“We pray but we know that prayers are not enough,” stated Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, NCC Governing Board Chair and Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. “The NCC calls on the members of our denominations to advocate, vote, and campaign for appropriate gun laws and elect people who will continue to put our lives, and the lives of our children, above the profit of gun companies. Over 50 years of advocacy has not brought results. We need our churches to have the tough conversations around gun laws and hope that ministers will feel compelled to bravely enter into discussions about gun safety laws in their congregations. We will not be silent and as people of faith, we must act.”

NCC’s policies adopted by the NCC Governing Board regarding gun control:

Ending Gun Violence: A Resolution and Call to Action by the National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A. 2010

Firearms Control Adopted by the General Board 1967