The following editorial appeared Thursday in The Kansas City Star:
Some 30,000 people in the U.S. die each year by gunshot, and one reason there aren't more effective efforts to stop the carnage is that "the faith community has been asleep - fast asleep," says a pastor who has worked for decades to reduce gun violence.
The Rev. James E. Atwood, author of America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, urges religious congregations to take a stand for sensible gun safety legislation that would protect both lives and Americans' Second Amendment rights.
Such advocates are badly needed. As Harper's Magazine noted recently, since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., more than twice as many laws have been passed in various states weakening gun controls than laws strengthening them. That certainly holds for Missouri and Kansas. It's an outrage, but there may be hope in this deeply religious country if Atwood is right that since Newtown "we are seeing a tipping point where the faith community is at last waking up."
People in congregations of various religions would do well to heed Atwood's advice and find ways to add their voices to such groups as the Newtown Action Alliance, which, with other advocacy groups, has been in Washington in recent days lobbying members of Congress finally to pass needed gun legislation, starting with universal background checks.
Atwood, a Presbyterian who is himself a gun owner and hunter, said one of the problems is that many Americans have moved from "respect" for firearms to "reverence" for them.
"It's an idolatrous belief," he said, "that violence can produce security. On the other hand when guns become idols we can document how their presence transforms the personalities of individuals and entire communities."