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Everytown Announces New Initiative With Interfaith Leaders and Organizations to Mobilize People of Faith Around Gun Safety in 2020

Initiative Will Focus on Activating Communities of Faith in Support of Electoral Candidates Dedicated to Gun Safety

NEW YORK — Today, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, the nation’s largest gun violence prevention group with nearly six million supporters, announced a new initiative with faith leaders and faith organizations across the country who are pledging to mobilize faith communities to elect gun sense candidates up and down the ballot in the 2020 elections. 

Faith leaders and organizations partnering with Everytown know that gun violence prevention is morally imperative, as more than 100 Americans die from gun violence every day. The faith community has seen the devastating effects of gun violence in places of worship firsthand, and the coalition includes a faith leader whose loved ones were shot and killed in a place of worship. 

Individuals and organizations partnering with Everytown will work to activate their networks around gun safety in the 2020 election, including communicating with their networks around the importance of voting for gun sense candidates in 2020; hosting community conversations and events, and encouraging their networks to register to vote and pledge to vote for gun sense candidates. Partners will host at least 50 events to mobilize communities of faith, with a focus on key battleground states including: AZ, CO, FL, GA, IA, MI, MN, NC, NH, NV, PA, TX, and WI.

Coalition leaders will also participate in an online training and organizing summit in summer 2020, where Everytown will host faith leaders from across the country to discuss the role of gun safety in faith communities and how to mobilize this community ahead of the 2020 election.  

Interfaith organizations and individuals partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund are listed below, and are available to speak to the press.

  • Rev. Michael McBride, founder and Lead Pastor of The Way Church in Berkeley, CA. Director of Faith in Action’s LIVE FREE gun violence prevention campaign, co-founder of the Black Church PAC, and the National Black Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium
  • Shane Claiborne, president of Red Letter Christians and a prominent speaker, activist, and best-selling author
  • Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, who is the subject of the Emmy Award-winning documentary, The Armor of Light and the author of Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love
  • The Rev. Traci Blackmon, executive minister of Justice & Witness Ministries of The United Church of Christ and senior pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri
  • Dr. Michael W. Austin, Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and author of God and Guns in America
  • Joel Hunter, retired senior pastor, Northland Church, chairman of Community Resource Network, and prominent author and activist
  • Rev. Sharon Risher, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose mother, Ethel Lance, and Cousins, Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders, were shot and killed on June 17, 2015, at The Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina
  • Rev. Deanna Hollas, gun violence prevention ministry coordinator, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship 
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights 
  • Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, author of Fauja Singh Keeps Going, and host of the Spirited podcast
  • Amy Sullivan, founder of the Impolite Company podcast, author of The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats are Closing the God Gap
  • Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • Hemant Wadwahni, advisor, Hindu American Seva Communities
  • Colin Christopher, gun violence prevention advocate and Muslim faith activist
  • Rev. Jason Carson Wilson, founding executive director, Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative, a faith-inspired organization dedicated to angelic troublemaking for justice to help make policies protecting same-gender-loving (SGL)/LGBTQ+ people and people of color a reality
  • Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of Pax Christi USA, the National Catholic peace and justice movement 
  • Lisa Sharon Harper, president and founder of Freedom Road Inc. and Author of The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right 
  • Sharmaine Brown, Everytown Survivor Network Fellow whose 23-year-old son, Jared Brown, was killed after being hit by a stray bullet in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 11, 2015

“We’re coming together to promote a consistent message of life, inclusion, and justice. As communities of faith, we must ensure that we are agents of peace and not war. In our country, we are too comfortable with the rhetoric, weapons, and ideology of war,” Rev. Michael McBride, Founder and Lead Pastor of The Way Church in Berkeley, California, director of Faith in Action’s LIVE FREE gun violence prevention campaign, co-founder of the Black Church PAC, and the National Black Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium, “Our hope is that we can help raise the moral standard for peace-making and that our voices will help amplify the voices of our front-line practitioners and those directly impacted by gun violence in this country. Together, we will continue to lift up strategies, tools, and evidence-based practices that work to reduce gun violence, all of which need to be scaled up across the country.”

“There are people who respond to the 100 lives lost to guns each day by saying that it is not a gun problem, it’s a heart problem,” said Shane Claiborne, president of Red Letter Christians and a prominent speaker, activist, and best-selling author. “I’m convinced it is both. God heals hearts, and people change laws. We need both of those to happen in America. That’s why I am honored to join this interfaith partnership to end gun violence.”

“God invites us to reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18),” said Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, who is the subject of the Emmy Award-winning documentary, The Armor of Light and the author of Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love. “After all, it was the Creator who designed our intellect. We need to use our capability to develop reasonable policies and practices when it comes to firearms. Deadly unintentional shootings, suicides, and murders can be reduced through common-sense regulations. In order to do that, we need leaders who will act. act.  Finding solutions to gun violence is our reasonable and moral obligation to our loved ones, neighbors, and all our fellow human beings. It will also honor the Creator of us all.”

“Even in the midst of a global pandemic, gun violence does not stop,” said The Rev. Traci Blackmon, executive minister of Justice & Witness Ministries of The United Church of Christ and senior pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri. “America is experiencing many epidemics. We owe it to ourselves to address them all. We must enact common-sense gun safety legislation to quell the tide of gun related deaths that infect our society daily.”

“One of the fundamental guiding principles for Christians in the voting booth is the value of all human life,” said Dr. Michael W. Austin, Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and author of God and Guns in America. “Common sense gun laws will reduce the level of gun violence, literally saving human lives. As Christians decide who to cast our vote for, we must remember this fact.”

“As an evangelical who cares deeply about the value of human life a comprehensive pro-life view, one of the issues I consider when I am voting is this: Is this candidate likely to advocate for common-sense gun laws that will save lives?” said Joel Hunter, retired senior pastor, Northland Church, chairman of Community Resource Network, and prominent author and activist.

“As a minister and a person of faith, I understand that our faith in God has a profound impact on the lives and souls of myself and our neighbors,” said Rev. Sharon Risher, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose mother, Ethel Lance, and Cousins, Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders, were shot and killed on June 17, 2015, at The Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. “Along with faith and prayer, I also know that ‘faith without work is dead.’ I am imploring everyone to continue to fight for more comprehensive background checks — especially as we see gun sales surge.”

“The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a long history of being involved with and concerned about public life because we understand that how we organize and govern ourselves affects people’s lives,” said Rev. Deanna Hollas, gun violence prevention ministry coordinator, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. “Gun violence is the greatest religious, spiritual, ethical, and moral issue before our nation. As over 36,000 people die by a gun and another 100,000 are shot and wounded every year in the United States, we can no longer allow ourselves to passively tolerate higher and higher levels of violence in our communities and our homes. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, but loving our neighbor is not just a warm and fuzzy feeling or act of charity — it also means advocating for policies that will extend protections to the greatest number of people.”  

“Judaism treats every single human life as an irreplaceable and infinitely valuable creation in the divine image,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. “Sensible gun laws are necessary to stop the plague of lives lost to violence, suicide, and unintentional shootings”

“Gun violence in America is an issue of justice,” said Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, author of Fauja Singh Keeps Going, and host of the Spirited podcast. “Our children are scared to go to school, our neighbors are being shot in the streets, and our siblings in their places of worship — but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are simple measures we can take to ensure our freedoms and ensure safety for ourselves and our loved ones. It’s time we take control and do what’s right, both for ourselves today and for our children going forward.”

“Too often leaders respond to gun violence by encouraging us to fear each other, to arm ourselves and see threats in every unfamiliar face,” said Amy Sullivan, founder of the Impolite Company podcast, author of The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats are Closing the God Gap. “But we know that God has not given us a spirit of fear. And we cannot love our neighbors from the inside of a bunker.”

“Every act of gun violence, no matter the scale, forces our communities to both mourn and act — to remember in our grief that we must be God’s partner in building a world with more justice,” said Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “As Jewish tradition teaches us, we must not ‘stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed’ (Leviticus 19:16). The Reform Jewish Movement is proud to lend its voice to ending the era of ‘thoughts and prayers’ unaccompanied by action. We are prioritizing lasting change to keep people safe and demand that those seeking to represent us in elected office do the same.”

“We need to revise our thinking as a nation to make human values and valuing and protecting life an essential part of our policy and strategy going forward,” said Hemant Wadwahni, advisor, Hindu American Seva Communities. “We need to look at this world holistically and make it truly nonviolent. Let’s be the change and be a force for change on gun sense in 2020.”

“In Islam, similar to other faith traditions, God tells us all in the Qur’an that ‘if anyone kills a person…it is as if he kills all humankind, while if any saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all humankind,’” said Colin Christopher, gun violence prevention advocate and Muslim faith activist. “We are nearing a tipping point in public pressure demanding that our elected leaders reflect these values. Faith communities have always been at the center of demanding positive societal shifts, and we are excited to join other communities of faith to build power and demand these changes be made.”   

“Life is a precious gift. Confronting COVID-19 and comforting those losing loved ones reinforces that reality,” said Rev. Jason Carson Wilson, founding executive director, Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative. “Fighting and preventing gun violence also reinforces that reality. If we truly believe life is God’s precious gift, finding a cure for gun violence must remain as important as finding a vaccine. Precious gifts shouldn’t be squandered.”

“At the heart of Catholic social teaching is the fundamental belief in the dignity of every human being – that each and every person is sacred, a creation of God,” said Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of Pax Christi USA, the National Catholic peace and justice movement. “I live in St. Louis, where we’re experiencing an epidemic of gun violence, of children being shot and killed in our city with mind-blowing regularity. It’s the same story in cities all across our country. It’s time we honor the dignity of our children by putting concrete action behind all those ‘thoughts and prayers.’”

“A land that holds individual liberty as sacred must acknowledge the highest liberty of all—the right of every person to live,” said Lisa Sharon Harper, president and founder of Freedom Road Inc. and Author of The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. “The gun lobby has put its fingers on the scales of human value; placing guns over people. We say, ‘Woe to legislators who participate in this evil compact. We will remember you in November.’”

 “As a Christian believer, I have faith that with prayer, and action, we can end our nation’s gun violence crisis,” said Sharmaine Brown, Everytown Survivor Network Fellow whose 23-year-old son, Jared Brown, was killed after being hit by a stray bullet in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 11, 2015. “This epidemic of gun violence will end one day, but it will take a joint effort of prioritizing gun sense candidates now who will enact legislation to keep our communities safe.”