The National Council of Churches USA says it found the US Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favour of gun ownership to be “disappointing,” but emphasises that the ruling does not negate the possibility of enacting laws to reduce gun violence.
The court ruled that citizens have a right to keep handguns in their homes for self-protection but did not declare whether state and city laws against gun possession are constitutional under the Second Amendment. That decision was referred back to lower courts.
Even so, Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago was clearly frustrated, and said that the ruling made the city’s handgun ban “unenforceable.”
The Rev Dr Michael Kinnamon, NCCUSA General Secretary, said the ruling highlights the urgency of a National Council of Churches resolution passed in May 2010 calling on local, state and federal legislators “to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns.”
‘Ending Gun Violence, A Resolution and Call to Action,’ pointed out the fact that 100,000 Americans are shot or killed by guns each year, and that every day an average of 300 Americans are victims of gun violence.
Responsible gun ownership is consistent with constitutional rights, the resolution acknowledged, but “there are relatively few shootings by average citizens defending themselves. Rather, most fatal and non-fatal shootings result from abuse or misuse of guns.”
“The member communions of the National Council of Churches do not for a moment suppose that the justices who voted in the majority are insensitive to this reality, or think that the Second Amendment protects the right of irresponsible or criminal gun owners to misuse their weapons,” Kinnamon said. “That makes it even more urgent that the Supreme Court clarify how laws can be implemented and enforced to protect all citizens from the misuse of guns.”
Kinnamon said most NCCUSA member communions understand the Second Amendment as a move by the framers to enable 18th century citizens to keep arms available for military use if the country were attacked.
“We would agree with Justice John Paul Stevens, who said in his dissent that the amendment has ‘only a limited bearing on the question that confronts the homeowner in a crime-infested metropolis today,’ and his observation that ‘firearms have a fundamentally ambivalent relationship to liberty,’” Kinnamon explained.
Peace churches, who see the refusal of violence as central to the Christian profession of Christ, are among those who would wish to see more radical action against guns.
The NCCUSA resolution calls upon member churches to “participate with movements such as ‘Heeding God’s Call’ (http://www.heedinggodscall.org) to insist that commercial (gun) sellers adopt and adhere to responsible sales practices,” and to “prayerfully, financially, and otherwise support the NCC staff in coordinating ecumenical efforts for gun violence reduction.”
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCCUSA’s 36 member denominations - from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Peace churches - include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the country.
The full text of the resolution can be found at: http://www.ncccusa.org/NCCpolicies/gunviolence.pdf (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF file).