Thousands of Religious Leaders Join Newtown Clergy in Supporting Gun Control Legislation

More than 4,000 clergy members across the U.S. have joined clergy in Newtown, Conn., in signing a letter urging the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to enact greater gun control measures, primarily an assault weapons ban.

"The moral mandate to protect the weak in our care is clear and present in all of our faith traditions. Our varied faith traditions teach us to seek the peace of the city, to love our neighbor, and to cherish human dignity," the letter reads.

"After the news crews and cameras leave, after the rest of the nation turns away and resumes their normal routines, it is we who are asked to answer why this happened; to bind up the brokenhearted; and to explain why nothing in Newtown or our many communities will ever be the same again.".

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The clergy go on to add that they believe the issue of gun violence in the U.S. is a spiritual one, and that a change in gun legislation will hopefully "spark off a spiritual awakening in America that will transform us into a culture of compassion, reconciliation and civility."

In the letter, they specifically ask the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on legislation that puts a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines and enforces universal background checks.

According to the New Haven Register, some of the clergy members who signed the letter have presided over funerals for those killed in the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown where 20 children and six adults were killed.

The Rev. Matthew Crebbin of Newtown Congregational Church, who was one of the signers, told the Danbury News Times that after witnessing the Newtown tragedy firsthand, he and fellow local clergy members felt they had a moral obligation to voice their concern to the committee.

"As we talked with fellow clergy in Newtown, we felt it was important for our leaders, our elected officials, to know we have concerns," Crebbin told the local newspaper.

"We see the impact not only in loss of life, but also in the whole communities that are affected, not only the towns but the cities as well, and we feel there is a moral imperative to act.

The letter, which includes approval from religious leaders of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths, was issued to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sunday, right before the committee voted on U.S. President Barack Obama's gun control package.

On Tuesday, the committee approved a bill which would require federal background checks on the majority of gun purchases.

It also approved a bill which will provide $40 million a year for school safety programs.

The panel delayed, however, a vote regarding a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The Thursday prior, the panel voted to approve long prison terms for illegal gun traffickers and straw purchasers, those who illegally purchase guns on the black market or from other non-authorized agent.

The letter issued Sunday was also advertised in the Des Moines Register, the largest paper in the home state of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who is one of the Judiciary Committee's Republicans, as well the political news website Politico.

In a separate act of advocacy, well-known evangelist Franklin Graham, president of Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, and Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Time Magazine that they too support universal background checks on all gun purchases.

"As ministers, we agreed together that we could stand on a united front for universal background checks," Graham told Time, adding that he reportedly spoke with civil rights leader the Rev. Amos Brown about the issue.

"We think that's reasonable and responsible," Graham added.

The topic of gun control has become a widely disputed issue in the U.S. since the recent rash of mass shootings took place, including the Newtown tragedy and a movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

Those opposed to gun control legislation argue that enacting more laws will not effectively prevent gun violence, as many firearms are still accessible in the country's black market.

Others argue that there exists a deeper issue in the U.S. regarding violence and compassion, one that is fueled by violent video games and movies.

Those supporting gun control legislation argue that enacting stricter laws will effectively limit the circulation of guns in the country, and prevent them from falling into the hands of unstable people so easily.

According to MSN, the National Rifle Association, which opposes universal background checks, has encouraged its supporters to contact their members of Congress. Leaders of the GOP-dominated House of Representatives will wait to act on the legislation until it passes the Senate.

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