WASHINGTON, D.C., January 15, 2013 -- Today, religious leaders gathered under the banner of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence to call on Congress to act swiftly to pass comprehensive legislation to address gun violence. Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, closed the press conference noting the shared values that unite the religious community in a call for action. Her prepared remarks follow:
"Today, on the 84th anniversary of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth, we gather as religious leaders inspired by his life and work to carry onthe pursuit of justice and repair what is broken in our world.
Before he himself became a victim of gun violence, Dr. King bore witness to the damage such violence does to our country. He said, "by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes."
Those words spoken in 1963 are as relevant today as they were five decades ago. When 20 children and seven adults are killed in a matter of minutes by a single gunman with a high capacity ammunition clip, our grief is all-consuming. When, on average, 33 Americans are murdered with guns every single day, we feel a sense of loss of control and despair. When semi-automatic weapons like AK-47s and Bushmasters are sold for sport and result in the easy destruction of human life, we shake our heads in disbelief and shudder at life's fragility. When those who suffer from mental illness cannot access the resources they need, we recognize injustice. When our society worships violence and weapons, we recognize idolatry. And when we see clearly a system where a gun can be sold legally without a background check to a person who otherwise would fail one, we must say we are done sitting shocked on the sidelines.
We are here today to say: "Enough pain. Enough despair. Enough injustice." Let us learn from our grief and the errors of the past and resolve in this very moment to do better. We will work with Congress to achieve sensible gun violence prevention. We will demand that military style weapons be taken off of our streets. We will insist on mandatory background checks for all gun purchases. We will persevere in our pursuit of improved mental health services. And we will call on our own communities and congregations to address the culture of violence that has pervaded our nation for too long.
None of these goals will be easily achieved. But we can and will achieve them - together. We announce today that, on February 4th, an array of groups reflecting the diversity of faith traditions across the country will mobilize their congregants to join in the Interfaith Call to Prevent Gun Violence. This congressional call-in day will ensure that our elected officials are held accountable for the safety of our communities.
Rabbi Hillel, a great ancient sage, once asked: "If not now, when?" Today, the answer to that question cannot be "After one more mass gun tragedy" or "after another child is the victim of a stray bullet." The answer to Rabbi Hillel's question must be the moment is now. Because, as Dr. King reminded us: "The time is always right to do what is right."