NCC: Gun violence goes deeper than the easy availability of guns

Washington, September 17, 2013 – National Council of Churches officers expressed shock and grief today following the tragedy Monday at the Washington Naval Yard in which 12 persons died at the hands of a gunman.

“Our hearts and prayers go out for the families of the victims,” said NCC President Kathryn Lohre. “We shudder at the suddenness with which so many innocent lives were taken from us.”

The shootings by a former Navy Reservist resulted in the highest number of dead and wounded in Washington since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

“Yet this kind of incident is all too common,” said Lohre. “One commentator on MSNBC said yesterday that attacks of this nature are happening in our country on the average of once a month.”

The easy availability of firearms, including hand guns and automatic weapons, is the basic reason for the prevalence of gun violence, Lohre said. The National Council of Churches has called upon government leaders to take action to restrict the flow of guns, especially through background checks of gun buyers.

“It is obvious that strict gun controls in other countries are the main reasons these kinds of attacks are so rare outside the U.S.,” Lohre said. “This country has the most available guns and the most gun violence.”

But the frightening frequency of gun attacks such as the one in Washington Monday make it clear the problem goes deeper than the availability of guns, Lohre said.

“No one knows what causes some individuals to take guns into public places to shoot innocent people,” Lohre said. “There are deeply disturbing forces that underlie the emotional and psychological imbalances in such extreme cases, and we have very little understanding what causes it, or how to identify the disturbances before they erupt in violence.”

Many of the 100,000 congregations related to member communions of the National Council of Churches have already reached out in ministries to families and individuals at risk for losing their way amid the shadows of our society, Lohre said.

“This will continue to be a growing challenge to all of us called to be sensitive to the confusion and needs of persons who are steering a dangerous course for their lives,” Lohre said. “The churches can’t solve all the problems of society, but they must be the place where people can turn to find the love of God and the peace of Christ."

Please click here to view the NCC's Gun Violence Policy.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 646-853-4212 (cell),