Letter to President Obama re: gun control
Below is a letter sent to President Obama urging him to propose sensible legislative actions to curb gun violence and to reject “knee-jerk policy responses” that would infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Download this letter on ERLC Letterhead. (PDF 194 KB)
January 15, 2013
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The horrific mass shooting last month in Newtown, Connecticut, leaving 20 innocent children and six innocent adults dead, has undoubtedly touched the soul of nearly every American in acute and piercing ways. That anyone would conceive of and execute such bloodshed is difficult to comprehend. The enraged gunman’s heinous actions are a cogent reminder that evil exists in our world. In solidarity with millions of Americans, we mourn each loss of life and grieve with and pray for each of the families who now must face life ahead without their loved ones.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and several others around the country that preceded it in recent years, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission welcomes the national dialogue about what can be done to try to prevent similar acts of gun violence in the future. As you prepare to offer a series of gun-control proposals, we would like to take this opportunity to add our voice to the discussions.
First, it should be well noted that we affirm and uphold the Second Amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” Our more than two centuries of history as a nation point to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers in securing citizens’ right to maintain firearms, notably for self defense. It should be remembered that people, not guns, kill. It is quite likely, for example, that gunman Adam Lanza, left to his own devices, would have ended many more than 26 innocent lives on December 14. The arrival of armed officers, not a shortage of bullets, ended the killings. With this in mind, we urge you to focus your efforts on practical means to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable, without adversely restricting firearms from law-abiding citizens.
While no set of policies or gun restrictions can inoculate us from future Newtown-like killing sprees, we believe our nation can and should take some preemptive actions to quell gun violence in ways that do not infringe on the Second Amendment. Among legislative actions we support are mandatory criminal background checks for all gun sales. Such a policy should close existing loopholes, including the so-called gun show loophole, which enables private sales of firearms without background checks. Additionally, we support making gun trafficking a federal crime. Under present law, a gun trafficker can be convicted only if proven to have knowingly transferred a gun to a felon. A strong federal gun trafficking statute is needed to address this weak standard. Taken together, these reasonable steps would better prevent, though certainly not guarantee, guns from flowing into the hands of felons or others with malevolent intent.
Further, we urge you to take into consideration regional differences regarding the possession of guns. We consider an effort to apply the same gun restriction laws across the entire populace to be unworkable and of considerable offense to many. We recommend that you allow the individual states’ elected representatives to decide whether to implement any restrictions you may choose to enforce or to enact their own restrictions based on the needs and interests of their own citizens.
Efforts to curb gun violence should also take into consideration First Amendment rights. Just as Second Amendment rights are not absolute, neither are First Amendment rights. For instance, no one has a right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater unless there is a fire. We need to address the vastly increased prevalence of graphic violence in both popular entertainment and video games. This desensitization to violence, especially among young people, wrought by this on-screen “entertainment” only helps to breed minds prone toward gun violence.
Another area necessitating attention is mental health. Under current policies, it is exceedingly difficult to get someone committed to a mental health facility against his or her will. Our nation needs a complete review of its mental health reforms of the last 30 years to consider whether they need to be reformed to address this and other existing policies.
At the same time, we oppose knee-jerk policy responses—however well-intentioned—that would infringe on the Second Amendment and leave law-abiding citizens more vulnerable to gun-toting criminals. Noble desires to protect innocent lives from another killing spree should not translate into short-sighted legislative or executive actions.
As you soon propose actions to help make Americans safer from gun violence, we urge you to include what we consider to be sensible proposals offered here, while rejecting proposals that would needlessly restrict the Second Amendment right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms, which remains one of the surest deterrents of gun violence in our nation. Thank you for your attention to these concerns.
Richard D. Land
Download this letter on ERLC Letterhead. (PDF 194 KB)
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