(By Peter Smith, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). The Pittsburgh Presbytery is urging state legislators to ban assault rifles used in recent high-profile shootings.
While Pennsylvania legislators have shown more willingness to expand than contract gun rights in recent sessions, the presbytery is nevertheless arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court allows for local regulations of arms sales and manufacturing. It says there are reduced “death rates due to gun violence in states which have rigorous gun safety provisions.”
The open letter to Pennsylvania legislators and congregations of the Pittsburgh Presbytery follows the passage of the statement at the Dec. 8 meeting of the presbytery. It represents 140 congregations and about 30,000 members of Allegheny County churches in the Presbyterian Church (USA)
The letter cites the use of specific assault rifles in two recent massacres earlier in 2016 — the killings of five adults and an unborn child in Wilkinsburg in March and the killings of 49 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
“We … call on our commonwealth to ban this type of weapon from the state, city and county except for its use by governmental authorities,” the resolution states. It also calls for banning armor-piercing handgun ammunition and .50-caliber sniper rifles.
It urges “social justice and opportunity for oppressed populations and those aggrieved citizens tempted by violence.”
It recommends that Presbyterians “consider destroying their assault weapons” and that the church consider divesting financial support for those manufacturing them.
Read the resolution, approved at Pittsburgh Presbytery’s Dec. 8 meeting below:
The Pittsburgh Presbytery Peacemaking Ministry Team moves the following resolution be sent to selected members of committees of the State Legislature, and others as noted.
In the spring of 2016 the Pittsburgh Presbytery addressed State Legislative leaders to develop several measures for gun safety; we now address the same leaders to ban the semiautomatic assault weapons, armor piercing handgun ammunition, and .50 caliber sniper rifles as requested by the 219th general Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. There is no objection to sporting or hunting guns in this resolution.
Our actions follow the recommendations of the 219th General Assembly entitled Gun Violence, Gospel Values which concurs with the actions of The United Methodist Church, The United Church of Christ, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the National Council of Churches in promoting public safety by reducing gun violence. Controlling and regulating guns reduces death rates due to gun violence in states which have rigorous gun safety provisions.
The Gospel values of peace, life, and community responsibility for order all lead to the protection of the image of God in human life while recognizing we also sin and in fits of rage or mental weakness are capable of murdering human life. We understand the commandment not to murder implies social responsibility for the community to protect life from murderous acts by establishing social order and striving for a more peaceable society while reducing the threats of violence.
Our region and nation have recently suffered from the use of repeating rifles sometimes called assault weapons and the ban on assault weapons which was U.S. law nationally for ten years has expired:
The importation of the infamous AK 47 of Russian manufacture has been eliminated by sanctions imposed on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. We welcome this ban, and it has forced the company manufacturing them to turn to the production of other products.
The U.S. Supreme Court recognizes the right of local governments to regulate arms sales and manufacture. We concur with the second amendment’s call for a well‐regulated militia and the proper limitations of arms.
The AR‐15 is suspected in the recent massacre in Wilkinsburg. The Sig Sauer MCX was used in Orlando. We therefore call on our Commonwealth to ban this type of weapon from the state, city and the county except for its use by governmental authorities. The weapons that need to be banned are listed in legislation before the State Legislature submitted to the Judiciary Committee on June 29, 2016. The list is available from your state legislator.
We urge social justice and opportunity for oppressed populations and those aggrieved citizens tempted by violence. We strongly affirm the Apostle Paul’s commendation of respect for the state and urge his ethic of love lead to justice for the oppressed.
We urge all church property to be gun free and we oppose the manufacture and sale of military style weapons to the American public. We recommend the investigation and divestment of all possible church financial support for the gun manufactures of assault weapons except for governmental institutions. We recommend all Presbyterians consider destroying their assault weapons.
This resolution and recommended action is a continuation and deepening of the Presbytery’s previous action recommending gun safety measures to certain state legislators and the General Assembly’s policy of 2010 urging action for gun safety.
Resolution approved by the Peacemaking Ministry Team of Pittsburgh Presbytery: Oct. 19 at the Eastminster Presbyterian Church.
To be sent in attached letter to: Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, Sen. Jay Costa, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, Rep. Ron Marsico, Rep. Brandon Neuman, Rep. Joseph Petrarca, Sen. Guy Reschentaler, Rep. Rick Saccone, Speaker Mike Turzai, and Sen. Randy Vulakovich, Governor Tom Wolfe, The Pittsburgh Courier, The Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh‐Post Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, and Pittsburgh P‐news email.