Gun Violence Prevention

Position Statement

The Peace and Justice Committee supports actions by The House of Hope Presbyterian Church and by church members to prevent gun violence on a national, statewide, and local community level.

Our faith calls us to do more about gun violence. “All who live by the sword will die by the sword,” said Jesus in Matthew 26:52b, admonishing Peter for drawing his weapon in defense.

Far from being a political issue, gun violence is an epidemic that affects the United States and church communities profoundly. Last year, more than 30,000 American deaths and countless injuries traumatized families and neighborhoods, and the church is where the bereaved and the shell-shocked come to find peace, understanding, and a place of rest for their lost loved ones. The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship on their website states “This is a crucial moment for people of faith to take action to prevent gun violence.”

Here are a few reasons why we are particularly concerned about gun violence in the U.S.  Whereas:

  • 80 people die every day from guns in the United States, 10 of these are children. (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • The US rate of firearms deaths for children under fifteen is twelve times higher than 25 other industrialized countries combined. (International Journal of Epidemiology
  • 30,000 Americans die from guns every year in the US. In three years of war in Iraq, 1700 American servicemen and women were killed. In the same period of time, 90,000 Americans died from guns on our own streets. (NCHS)
  • Since 1933, when statistics were first kept, more Americans have been killed through gun violence in “peacetime” than have been killed in all of our nation’s wars since 1776. (US Dept. of Defense and The World Almanac)

Our city of St. Paul experienced 18 gun homicides in 2017. Police report there was a 37 percent increase in shots fired in 2017, compared to 2016. And more than 130 people were injured by gun violence in St. Paul in 2017. St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell addressed the City Council about those rising numbers. In doing so, he called it a “public health crisis.”

Our Twin Cities community has also experienced two high-profile police shootings, Philando Castile in July 2016, and Justine Ruszczyk on July 15, 2017. The circumstances for each of these shootings were troublesome, and suggest that police are potentially becoming unnerved by the prevalence of guns in our society, and are reacting to their perceived vulnerability with quick use of a gun when doing police work.

Action Plan

In response to the increase in gun violence in St. Paul in 2017, former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman stated, “We have to stand up as a community and say we won’t tolerate this. As community members we need to step up and take responsibility.”  The Peace and Justice Committee believes that as a church in St. Paul, we need to heed former Mayor Coleman’s words, and step up and take responsibility for what House of Hope Presbyterian Church and our members can do to respond to this public health crisis.

Therefore, the Peace and Justice Committee will inform the congregation of legislation on a national and statewide level that if enacted could increase or reduce gun violence. We will also present opportunities for the congregation and its members to become involved in the legislative process regarding gun legislation. We support common sense legislation that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous and suicidal individuals, and prevent the unintentional injury and death of children. Some of the gun violence prevention measures we support include:

  • Closing the background check loopholes that enable felons, domestic abusers and other legally prohibited individuals to purchase guns from unlicensed dealers, at gun shows, and online without a criminal background check;
  • Creating Gun Violence Protective Orders, also called “Red Flag Orders,” so that family members and law enforcement officers can have firearms temporarily removed from the possession of individuals who are exhibiting signs of dangerous mental illness, until they get the help they need.
  • Removing prohibitions in state and federal law against the collection of data about gun violence and gun deaths which prevent law makers from having the information they need to make informed decisions about gun safety.
  • Raising the minimum age to purchase or possess a semiautomatic military-style assault weapon in Minnesota from 18–21, while working to establish a federal ban on assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and other weapons of war.
  • Blocking state and federal bills that could enhance gun violence including “Permit-Less Carry,” “Stand Your Ground,” and “Permit Reciprocity” legislation.

On a local level, the Peace and Justice Committee will support congregational involvement with organizations and initiatives that are committed to reducing gun violence in our neighborhood in St. Paul. We believe that a multi-faceted approach is required to reduce gun violence, focusing not only on legislation, but also inter-related public health problems including racial and income disparities, adverse childhood experiences, mass incarceration, gang violence, and improper use of violence during policing. We believe that a bipartisan effort is required to reduce gun violence on a local, state, and national level.