Ways to stand against gun violence

Book of Resolutions Gun Violence

The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church calls us to work for a world free from mass killings. (Photo by Kathleen Barry, illustration by Cindy Caldwell; United Methodist Communications)

Prayers of mercy and comfort for those in Roseburg, Ore.: But is that all we can do?

As United Methodists, we mourn with the families of the teachers and students of Umpqua Community College who will never return home after the deadly shooting spree of Oct. 1. We grieve with those who were wounded physically and emotionally. We pray for the family of the gunman who will wonder if there is anything they could have done to avert these heinous acts.

While we may not agree on a solution, many of us agree there is a problem.

But should we do more? Can we do more?

While we may not agree on a solution, many of us agree there is a problem. What can we do?

The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church contains official denomination positions on many issues.

The statement, "Gun Violence,” was originally adopted in 2000, and revised and readopted in 2008. It calls upon United Methodists to do 11 things.

1. Convene workshops

Our denomination’s Book of Resolutions calls us to bring together “clergy and mental health care professionals … to discuss ways by which The United Methodist Church should respond to this growing tragedy.” In order to be part of the solution, we need to research and understand the specific problems in our community. We need to work together to find creative solutions to stem the tide of violence.

2. & 3. Educate the community

We are also called upon to teach “gun safety, violence prevention, adult responsibility around gun-violence prevention, and the public health impact of gun violence.” We are to equip parents, members, and all in our community with steps they can take to make their homes safe, to lock and store their guns, and to deal with the dangers they may encounter.

We are also called to “identify community-based, state, and national organizations working on the issue of gun violence, and seek their assistance to design education and prevention workshops around the issue of gun violence and its effect on children and youths.” In addition to creating helpful resources, this work facilitates cooperation among key players in the conversation.

4. 5. & 6. Advocate for regulation

Next, we are called to “develop advocacy groups within local congregations to advocate for the eventual reduction of the availability of guns in society.” While we may disagree about what those laws might be, we can agree to work to remove guns from the hands of those who have them illegally, and those who would use them to harm others.

The resolution further calls us to support U.S. federal legislation, and to call upon other governments throughout the world to regulate the sale and possession of guns and ammunition.

7. and 8. Discourage promotion of gun usage

Sometimes gun usage is glorified in print media, movies, television, video games and elsewhere. We are to call upon “the entertainment industry, to refrain from promoting gun usage to children” and to “discourage the graphic depiction and glorification of violence” in all media.

9. Assist victims

The Book of Resolutions then urges United Methodists to “call upon the federal and state governments to provide significant assistance to victims of gun violence and their families.” More than our thoughts and prayers, we want to provide physical, lasting relief to people who are grieving.

10. Name the sin and point to hope

Annual conferences of The United Methodist Church are to “make visible public witness to the sin of gun violence and to the hope of community healing.” As Christians, we are people of the resurrection. We know that systems, no matter how lost they appear, can be redeemed when we are willing to repent of our sin and submit to the healing power of Jesus Christ.

11. Provide weapon-free zones

The final statement in the resolution on gun violence states, “Reflecting the traditional role of The United Methodist Church that has been one of safety and sanctuary, every United Methodist church is officially declared a weapon-free zone.”

Our prayers should lead us to action.

We read in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, “We are constantly praying for you for this: that our God will make you worthy of his calling and accomplish every good desire and faithful work by his power” (CEB). We, too, pray for God to give us the wisdom and strength needed to fulfill the desires the Almighty has put within us for a world that is free from the violence of mass killings.

As United Methodists, this means responding to violence, working to prevent events like those at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., on Oct. 1.

A suggested tweet: “Acts of senseless violence should not be an acceptable occurrence in any community.” #UMC Book of Resolutions

Editor's note: Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications.

Letter to the Editor