Nearly 30 pastors, chaplains and theologians of the United Church of Christ are part of an interfaith effort of 500 leaders who are asking lawmakers to close loopholes in federal laws that allows domestic abusers to purchase or own a firearm. For the Rev. Michelle Torigian, one of the signatories, the letter is one way to give voice to some of society's voiceless and reduce abuse against women.
"Just as the UCC's 'Be the Church' sign says to 'Fight for the Powerless,' we are called to make a stand for those who are the most vulnerable in our society," said Torigian, pastor of St. Paul UCC in Cincinnati. "Many of us have friends, family and congregants who have survived or perished at the hands of their abusers. By ensuring people who have proven they have a tendency to act violently and impulsively out of anger do not have access to guns, fewer women, men and children will experience trauma in their lives."
The letter, signed by Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders, urges Congress to support new laws (the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act and the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act) that would expand prohibitions of firearms to include stalkers and those people who abuse dating partners. The letter, to be sent to members of Congress next month, was organized by Jewish Women International.
"Domestic violence, dating abuse, and stalking are extreme violations of the dignity and humanity of a person, and these crimes have no place in our faith traditions," the letter reads. "As people of faith, we affirm the right of every person to live free from violence, and we ask that you act now to protect that sacred right."
According to the Center for American Progress, from 2001 to 2012 more than half the women killed by an intimate partner were killed with guns. Although federal law already prohibits anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse from purchasing a gun, the law's loopholes make it possible so that unmarried, non-cohabitating partners are not excluded from purchasing a firearm. The federal definition of a domestic abuser excludes dating partners. Even convicted stalkers are not restricted from buying a gun.
The Rev. Richard Edens, co-pastor of United Church of Chapel Hill in North Carolina who also signed the letter, believes that closing the loopholes is common sense. "If you have someone already identified as offender of domestic violence, it seems that's the last person you would want to have access to guns," he said. "They've shown themselves to be prone to violence, and adding a weapon should be a common sense reform."