Forty religious leaders urge quick Congress action on gun violence

((Photo: Reuters / Steve Marcus))Sig Sauer handguns are displayed during the annual SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas January 15, 2013. Gun dealers at the show are reporting booming sales resulting from worries about possible gun control legislation.

A coalition of forty national religious leaders sent a joint letter to Congress Tuesday urging immediate legislative action to end gun violence in the wake of the tragic Newtown shooting.

In the letter, members of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a Washington D.C.-based coalition of faith leaders seeking to end gun violence and gun-related deaths, called on the nation's lawmakers to quick action on ensuring the "epidemic" of gun violence in the country comes to an end.

Signers of the letter - including Peg Birk, Transitional General Secretary of National Council of Churches; James Winkler, General Board of Church and Society, of United Methodist Church, and Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO of Sojourners - demanded that every person who buys a gun pass a criminal background check, civilians be prohibited from purchasing high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, and gun trafficking be made a federal crime.

"Gun violence is taking an unacceptable toll on our society, in mass killings and in the constant day-to-day of senseless death," the interfaith group said Tuesday in the letter. "While we continue to pray for the families and friends of those who died, we must also support our prayers with action."

Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, which was formed two years ago on Martin Luther King Day, held a press conference about the letter today in the United Methodist Building , which is across from the White House.

Tomorrow, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden is expected to unveil a set of proposals to curb gun violence and prevent tragedies like the Newtown massacre, which suspect Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 adult and children at an elementary school with his mom's guns.

The religious leaders also pointed to mass shootings that have also taken place in Aurora, Tucson, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Columbine and Oak Creek to stress the urgency of congressional action.

The signees of the Jan. 15 letter include:

-- Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, Executive Director, American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
-- James Winkler, Chair, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
-- Rabbi Steven Wernick, Executive Vice President and CEO, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
-- Jim Wallis, President and CEO of Sojourners
-- Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Director, Social Action Commission, African Methodist Episcopal Church
-- Sayyid M. Syeed,National Director for Interfaith and Community Alliances. Islamic Society of North America
-- Rabbi Gerald Skolnik, Rabbinical Assembly
-- Rajwant Singh, Chairman, Sikh Council on Religion and Education, USA
-- Suhag Shukla, Executive Director and Legal Counsel, Hindu American Foundation
-- Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, Director, Mennonite Central Committee, Washington Office
-- Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
-- Djamillah Samad, National Executive, Church Women United, Inc.
-- James Salt, Executive Director, Catholics United
-- Fred Rotondaro, Chairman of the Board, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
-- Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, Witness Ministries Director, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
-- Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
-- Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski Program Coordinator, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
-- Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM, President, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
-- Walter L. Parrish, II, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of the South
-- Sr. Margaret Ormond, O.P. and the Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters of Peace
-- Harriett Jane Olson, CEO and General Secretary, United Methodist Women
-- Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary Church of Brethren
-- Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II, Director for Public Witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
-- Janet Mock, CSJ, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
-- Bryan Miller, Executive Director, Heeding God's Call
-- Pastor Michael McBride, PICO Network Lifelines to Healing
-- Kevin E. Lofton, President and CEO, Catholic Health Initiatives
-- Rabbi Mordecai Leibling, Jewish Reconstructionist Movement
-- Sister Gayle Lwanga, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
-- Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO, Catholic Health Association
-- Rabbi Steve Gutow, President, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
-- Rabbi Marla Feldman, Executive Director, Women of Reform Judaism
-- Marlene Feagan, President, Health Ministries Association
-- Matthew Ellis, Executive Director, National Episcopal Health Ministries
-- Very Rev. John Edmunds ST, President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men
-- Rev. Ronald J. Degges, Disciples Home Mission, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
-- Shan Cretin,General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
-- Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
-- Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
-- Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
-- Carol Blythe, President, Alliance of Baptists
-- Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President-United Church of Christ
-- Peg Birk, Transitional General Secretary, National Council of Churches
-- Carroll Baltimore, President, Progressive National Baptist Convention

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