Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Post-Internship Reflection from our Intern, Nelson Cowan

Nelson Cowan is a 2nd-year Master of Divinity student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. He has been serving the Office since September 2012 and is filling part of his Practice in Ministry & Mission (field education) requirement through his service. His educational background is in International Relations at the University of North Florida. At the Office of Public Witness, Nelson focuses on issues of domestic economic inequality, just food systems, and energy reform. In addition to interning at the OPW, Nelson works at St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Annandale, VA, as the director of Modern Worship Music. He is an avid reader, blogger, and songwriter.

An Ant's Tale: A Theological Reflection

Doing the work of advocacy and justice is not easy work. Impact is difficult to measure. When serving at a homeless shelter, the work there is seen, felt, and it addresses an immediate need. But when addressing the problems of economic inequality, broken social systems, and systemic corruption on the national level, this work takes years, perhaps even decades to bear any fruit. As an intern for one academic year at the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, this can be quite disconcerting. What is the point of my role here? Nothing is happening right now. Will there ever be significant change?

As much as I consider myself participating in the work to advance God's reign on earth, I often feel like an ant trying to build a mound taller than the Washington Monument. The proliferation of household and street guns, the perpetuation of endemic poverty and unemployment, and the unswerving allegiance to the military industrial complex makes it seem like I have no voice in a room full of loud, clanging cymbals of injustice. Where is God in all of this? Can God not wipe out injustice with a giant thunderbolt composed of holy discontentment and righteous wrath, fused with steadfast love? Perhaps God could. But that is not the portrait painted in the scriptures, the same scriptures where we find the tangible expression of God's self: Jesus Christ. 

If I have learned anything from this internship, it is that Jesus was not subservient to the status quo. Jesus did not settle for the paradigm of empire, which included the systemic oppression of the least of these. We must speak truth to power in love. We may feel like an ant trying to construct a tall mound, but the good news is that there are other ants on the journey. One person's work is never rendered meaningless; there are always more laborers in the workforce. Many times, workers like myself feel as if we can never defeat the seemingly endless piles of money that sustain these injustices in our nation. But I will never forget what J Herbert Nelson often articulates in this office: "Organized people can beat organized money any day." That is a reality I am willing to engage. I thank the Office of Public Witness for re-instilling a hope in me for the institutional church. May we live and love as Christ did. In doing so, perhaps oppression, systemic injustice, and marginalization can one day be old-time folktales for our great-grandchildren and future generations to come. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Urgent Action Requested from our partners in ministry of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowhsip: 

Justice for murdered land rights defender and his community

Yesterday we received an urgent communication from the Rev. Jaira Barriga of the Presbytery of the North Coast in Colombia concerning the murder on April 12, 2013, of a young man, Narcisco Enrique Teheran Mejia.  His murder followed a series of death threats and paramilitary operations in an area called El Tamarindo in the municipality of Galapa, near the city of Barranquilla.  Mr. Teheran was the son of a land restitution activist and was shot pointblank in his face while sleeping in his home.


The Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IPC) has been supporting this community for some time in their process of land restitution.  This community is comprised of internally displaced persons from a variety of regions who are working to regain their land and stay together in the safety of the zone of El Tamarindo.  This community has been together since 2001 and includes over 135 forcibly displaced families.  Beginning on January 28, 2013 a paramilitary group called “El Cartel de la Costa” has been carrying out intimidation, evictions and threats to these families.   Homes have been burned to the ground, crops have been destroyed and community leaders have been threatened.   Mr. Teheran lost his life last week as part of this systematic and increasing project of threats to the community of El Tamarindo.

Our response in Colombia:

We have accompaniers who are based in Barranquilla for the month of April.  Two days ago they visited the El Tamarindo community to offer their solidarity and support, alongside leaders from the Presbytery of the North Coast.  They visited with Mr. Teheran’s grieving family and community.  They reported that while in El Tamarindo they saw bulldozers entering the town, presumably to inflict even greater acts of aggression and destruction upon that community.  While there the bulldozers began their work of destroying one farmer’s land.  Our accompaniers continued to talk to leaders and take photographs of the destruction.  They report that a Colombian Army official ran across the field to tell them to stop what they were doing.  They identified themselves as U.S. citizens and members of the PC(U.S.A.).  We give thanks for their bravery and ministry of accompaniment in this important time.   Our accompaniers wrote these words about their time in the community and the attempted intimidation they faced while accompanying that community:  “All of the actors in the complex dynamic in the struggle for land were present:  the thuggish paramilitary wielding a machete and a few of his cronies, the local police, at least 8 armed military carrying assault weapons, the spokesperson for the “presumed" land owner trying to appropriate the disputed parcel of land, the land owner by the law of usage who together with his campesinos had worked the land for more than 10 years, and a grief stricken father whose son had received a bullet through his head execution style only days before.  And we were there, our delegation of four Presbyterians, there to bear witness and to stand in solidarity with the farmers.”

Thank you so much for your immediate attention to this urgent action that is a direct request from our ministry partners in Colombia. 

Please share this action alert widely through your social media and personal contacts.  Please respond to this action alert to let us know that you have reached out to these persons or with any questions you might have.

Please join us in prayer for our sisters and brothers in the El Tamarindo community and for the grieving family of Mr. Teheran.

Please take the following steps immediately:

Write to the following persons, letting them know that you are a U.S. citizen (and name any other titles, leadership and membership you have in organizations such as the Presbyterian Church or the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship).   You may write these letters in English/Spanish.
·       Tell them that you demand an immediate investigation into the deteriorating situation in El Tamarindo
·       Demand immediate protective measures to be put in place for the IPP families in El Tamarindo
·       Request a response to your letter detailing the actions they are undertaking on behalf of the community of El Tamarindo

There is a sample letter below for your use.

Send a letter to the United States Embassy

ATTN: The Honorable P. Michael McKinley
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia
Fax to: 011-571-275-4600 (this is the direct dial from the US to fax to Colombia)
(faxing is THE most effective way to get the attention of the Embassy)

Presidente de la República (President of Colombia)
Casa de Nariño Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 edificio administrativo calle 7 no. 6-54 Bogotá D.C.
Colombia- conmutador (571) 5629300

Vicepresidente de la República (Vice-President of Colombia)
Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C. Teléfonos (571) 4442120, 4442122

Ministro del Interior (Minister of the Interior/Colombia)
Carrera 8° no. 7 - 83 Bogotá D.C.
(571) 2427400

Fiscal General de la Nación (Justice Department/Colombia)
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01 (ciudad salitre) Bogotá D.C.
conmutador: 57(1) 5702000 – 4149000

Sample Letter

Ambassador P. Michael McKinley
Carrera 45 No. 24B-27
Bogotá, D.C. Colombia 

Dear Ambassador McKinley,

I am deeply concerned by the murder of our brother in Christ, Narciso Enrique Teherán Mejia on April 12, 2013 in the town of El Tamarindo, Colombia in the municipality of Galapa.  Mr. Teherán was murdered by unknown persons as he slept in his home in a community of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), where his father was a land right’s activist.

I strongly urge you to direct officials from our Embassy to prioritize the immediate investigation of this case and to demand that the Colombian government conduct a thorough and fair investigation into this murder. I also ask that you direct officials from our Embassy to call upon the Colombian government to protect Mr. Teheran’s remaining family, colleagues and community members.  Finally, I encourage you to press for an investigation into security and development policies on Colombia’s northern coast that leave small farmers vulnerable to violence.

Our church partners report that Mr. Teherán was a campesino working for people’s rights. He was not doing anything illegal or untoward. He was a leader working on farming projects with fellow farmers who have been displaced by violence.

Presbyterians have engaged in ministry with our sisters and brothers in Colombia for over 150 years. We support the ministries of our partners in the face of the violence and instability within their country. We pray and work for an end to the violence and a just peace for all Colombians.  Since 2004 our denomination, of which I am a part has been engaged in a program on nonviolent community accompaniment with our church partners in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. 

As part of that program, two United States citizens serving as accompaniers visited the El Tamarindo community and Mr. Teheran’s grieving family on Friday April 19, 2013.  While there they encountered members of the Colombian armed forces assisting with the forcible displacement of the El Tamarindo community.  They witnessed bulldozers in the area and were told they were not allowed to take photographs.  Nevertheless they visited the community and did take photographic evidence of what is happening in that community.  It is concerning to me that members of my church, and who are United States citizens serving on behalf of our shared ministry were treated in this fashion as a response to their ministry of accompaniment and solidarity in the name of Jesus Christ. 

I invite you to join us in this work by taking the steps outlined above in response to the murder of Narciso Enrique Teherán Mejia and the urgent threat his community is under today. I look forward to hearing the steps you take in this matter.

Respectfully yours,

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Gun Violence Prevention Debate is NOT Over!

Yesterday, Senate consideration of amendments to S. 649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, failed.  The Senate declined to take any action, either to strengthen or weaken the bill, in a stunning act of political cowardice. 

The Office of Public Witness had expressed concern over the gun bill debate, urging the Senate to do better, and we continue to believe that common-sense gun regulation is not only possible, but absolutely essential to the life and health of our nation.

To read our statement from Wednesday, April 17, the day of the Senate gun violence debate, visit our blog.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gun Proposals Fall Short of Common Sense Measures to End Gun Violence

Notice: if you are viewing this blog post after April 17, 2013, please take action here, instead of the link below - this action alert has been updated to reflect the Senate's stunning failure to accomplish even partial gun violence prevention legislation.


Do Our Legislators Remember the Virginia Tech Tragedy?
Gun Proposals Fall Short of Common Sense Measures to End Gun Violence 
Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. As our Senate prepares to debate and vote on a new proposal aimed at reducing gun violence, we must evaluate whether this proposed bill honors the integrity of voters’ call for gun laws that save lives. Send a message to your Senators today!

Today, the Senate will begin consideration of nine amendments to the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S. 649).  This underlying bill includes provisions for universal background checks, but political calculations show that it will not pass without some changes.  Of those proposed changes, most common in the media and conversations today is a proposed bipartisan amendment offered by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), which, if approved, would essentially replace the underlying bill.  The Manchin-Toomey amendment, as it is called, requires background checks at gun shows and for internet sales, but not for other private sales. We thank Senators Manchin and Toomy for their efforts to propose a compromise bill while working in a bipartisan manner. It is not often that we see this type of cooperation across the aisle on Capitol Hill. However, this amendment fails to go far enough toward achieving legislation that will effectively reduce gun violence.   

Background checks proposed in this amendment are far from universal. The policy approved by the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 2010, entitled Gun Violence and Gospel Values calls for (a) limiting legal personal gun acquisition to one handgun a month; (b) require licensing, registration, and waiting periods to allow comprehensive background checks, and cooling-off periods, for all guns sold; and (c) closing the “gun show loophole” by requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

The Office of Public Witness is concerned that the weakened background check proposal in the Manchin-Toomy amendment does not adequately address our denominational policy position. Under the proposed bill, private sales of firearms at gun shows and websites require background checks, but other types of sales are not addressed.  Therefore, unregulated sales can occur in homes, on street corners, among friends and family members, in work places, through newspapers, and other means. Given the highly favorable polling data that indicate that nearly ninety percent of persons in the United States support universal background checks, it is appalling that our political leaders feel that a compromise on this important issue is needed at all.

Some proposed amendments, however, would strengthen the bill, including one offered by Senator Feinstein (D-CA).  Her amendment would ban certain assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, while trying to close some of the loopholes in the now-expired assault weapons ban, which was in effect 1994-2004.  Another amendment, offered by Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Blumenthal (D-CT), is a slimmed down version of Senator Feinstein’s assault weapons ban, and would ban magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition.  To read about all nine of the proposed amendments, see this blog post by the Washington Post.

All nine amendments, including Manchin-Toomey, will require sixty votes to pass, and the likelihood is very high that the bill will be weakened, not strengthened through the amendment process. There comes a time, in evaluating a bill, when we have to decide about compromise – is this the best we can do and should we accept it?  Well, this may be the best that Congress thinks it can do, but it is not.  Barring major and unexpected amendment votes, this bill will not be the bill we need.  It is not adequate nor is it justice.

We are calling upon members of the PC(USA) to send a loud message to our Senate that the Manchin-Toomey proposal is not adequate to address the epidemic culture of violence that leads to more than 30,000 gun deaths per year in the United States.    

Yesterday, Director for Public Witness, J. Herbert Nelson said,

J. Herbert Nelson visits Virginia Tech Memorial
“My last visit to Virginia Tech was less than two months before the Newtown shooting. I engaged in discussions with three campus ministry groups regarding the then upcoming Presidential election. Before leaving the campus, my wife and I visited the memorial dedicated to the students and faculty members killed in the April 16, 2007, campus shooting. It was a sobering moment. Prayerfully, I thought of the parents, as I remembered the deaths of children who were sent to college for an education, but instead lost their lives in a senseless massacre. Tears came to my eyes as I stood over the memorial space dedicated to Liviu Librescu, a 76-year-old professor who lost his life while barricading the classroom door to save the lives of his students.  He survived the Holocaust, but could not escape an angry kid with a gun on a university campus in the United States. The personal stories of tragedy continue for the families of the thirty-three people killed that day, including the family of the gunman. There are no words to fill the void or heal the pain that the families of these persons and others feel.

“Even now the killing continues. Over 30,000 persons are killed by guns each year in the United States. Since the Newtown shooting in December, 2012, over 3,000 persons have been killed in the United States due to guns. Our culture of violence permeates every facet of our society. Despite these gun deaths our political leaders choose to water down legislation, catering to the perceived power of pro-gun lobbyists, including the National Rifle Association. We need common sense gun laws in this nation! We need courageous political leaders! It is time that we begin to hold these elected officials accountable for the promises they make to serve the best interest of the country.

“I encourage you to write, call, email, tweet and/or text your Senator and tell them to pass strong legislation that will include 1) truly universal background checks, 2) stiffer federal gun trafficking laws and 3) a ban on assault weapons. Click here to write them now.         


Notice: if you are viewing this blog post after April 17, 2013, please take action here, instead of the link below - this action alert has been updated to reflect the Senate's stunning failure to accomplish even partial gun violence prevention legislation.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Advocacy as Discipleship: Guns and Our Culture of Violence

First Quarter Publication; March 2013

Advocacy as Discipleship is produced quarterly by the Office of Public Witness to provide background information to advocates on why we, as Christian Citizens, engage in public witness ministries.

Guns and Our Culture of Violence
By J. Herbert Nelson

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9

Our Culture of Violence

I participated in a conference several years ago in Philadelphia in which a panel discussed the media’s reaction to escalated violence in the United States. The culture of violence in our nation was illumined for me during this conference. One reporter on the panel shared with the audience that “violence sells.” She told the crowd gathered in this hotel ballroom that each night before the eleven o’clock news, her television station attempted to lead the broadcast with a story of murder. “We wait up to three minutes before the eleven o’clock news broadcast is to air for another murder to happen before determining our lead story.” I heard for the first time the phrase “if it bleeds, it leads,” referring to the headlines chosen to lead late night news stories in the media. We are living in a nation in which, since 1979, over 30,000 people per year suffer gun-related deaths.i  The need for the Church to speak both theologically and prophetically is long overdue.

The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a prophetic statement entitled Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call. At the same time, the Washington, DC, political environment was overwhelmed with an economic crisis and political gridlock. The National Rifle Association (NRA) supported many political campaigns and remained one of the strongest lobbies in Washington, DC.  A consequence of the NRA’s efforts was a complete lack of political will to pass any new legislation that would reduce gun violence.ii  But we saw a turning point in the gun violence discussion with the Tucson, Arizona, shooting during a “Congress on the Corner” event that killed six persons and wounded thirteen others in front of a Safeway on January 8, 2011. Gabrielle Giffords, a sitting member of Congress, was severely wounded and is now a high-profile advocate against gun violence. Since the Tucson shooting, the Office of Public Witness has become invested in countering the violence that permeates our culture through guns, athletic competitions, video games, television programs, movies, music, common idioms, and a host of other embedded normative cultural behaviors and activities.iii

The Root Causes of Gun Violence

J. Herbert Nelson visits the Virginia Tech Memorial
Gun violence does not operate in a vacuum. The high rates of inner city poverty brought on by the suburbanization of jobs and ever-widening income inequality and unemployment have created massive pockets of poverty in many urban cities.iv Underground economies such as drug sales, prostitution, and robbery fuel turf battles, high crime, and a host of other illegal gun-protected businesses. Many of these gun deaths are directly associated with failed educational and missed economic opportunities. It is imperative that we address our collective, social failings regarding poor education and failing schools, gentrification, joblessness, high poverty rates, inequality, and other community dysfunctions. Many of these issues are at the core of gun deaths associated with domestic violence, suicide, and murder in impoverished communities.       

Another area that requires a broader discussion regarding gun violence is mental health care. We must not demonize the mentally ill in this debate. In 2012, we witnessed a number of high profile mass shootings that were committed by persons with mental health issues. But epidemiological studies show that the vast majority of persons with mental illness do not commit violent crimes and that most violent crimes are not attributable to mental illnesses.v  In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.vi  

Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that our health care system is failing people with mental illness.  We must do better, ensuring that people with mental illness and their families have access to the care and services they need.  People with mental illness who commit violent crimes are outliers, and yet it is possible that better mental health care may have prevented even just one of the tragic mass shootings in recent years. It is important that we admit our nation is not doing enough to provide adequate care for persons with mental illnesses. Gun violence is a symptom of deeper ills prevalent in our nation. It is imperative that we address some basic issues regarding the restoration of community values and neighborly love in redirecting our culture of violence. 

Gun Laws Work

The murder of twenty-six school children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, has further exposed the culture of violence permeating our society. Adam Lanza, a mentally disturbed man, brought three legally-purchased weapons inside the school on December 14, 2012, and left a fourth in his car, according to police. Those weapons were a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two handguns -- a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm. The military style Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle capable of firing 45 rounds per minute in semi-automatic mode was the primary weapon. Lanza used numerous 30 round magazines. Under the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, buying some variants of new AR-15s was against the law. The ban expired in 2004.vii

Weapons of war, including assault weapons, are available to common citizens. The easy accessibility of guns, including assault rifles in the United States, is a major contributor to gun violence in mass shootings. Gun shows provide a forum for unregulated gun transfers which often place guns in the hands of people who could not otherwise legally purchase a gun. In thirty-three states, private gun owners are not restricted from selling guns at gun shows. This so-called “loophole” does not require purchasers to submit to federal background checks. Sales through the gun-show loophole comprise forty percent of gun sales in the United States, including most guns that are later used in crimes.viii   

Random gun violence makes each one of us at risk of premature death. Whether it be at the movie theater, a house of worship, on a college a campus, or at an elementary, middle, or high school, none of us are safe as long as automatic weapons continue to be available through illegal sales, limited background checks, and a host of inconsistencies that exist in present gun laws. We must call on our elected officials to engage in committed action to strengthen gun laws in this country.

Building a Movement

Elder Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the Presbyterian
Mission Agency, calls her Congressman from the OPW on
a faith call-in day to reduce gun violence.
The Office of Public Witness (OPW) is working with Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violenceix to press for common-sense measures to reduce gun violence in the United States.  Recognizing the legitimate use of private firearms for protection and hunting, there remain sensible steps that we can take, as a nation, to help prevent guns from falling into the hands of people with criminal intent.  We are calling for:

1. A ban on all assault weapons. These high capacity weapons are designed for war. There is no reason for common citizens to purchase or possess them. We do not use AK-47’s to hunt; their only purpose is to kill a lot of people - quickly. We need to reinstate the assault weapons ban to ensure that high capacity weapons are not sold to the public.
2. Universal background checks. Currently, there is no federal provision requiring a background check in order to purchase a gun and some states do not require them at all. Therefore, people who do not know how to properly handle a firearm or who have criminal records can make gun purchases.
3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime. Enforcement of gun trafficking and straw purchases, both inside and outside of the country, is weak. Many of these weapons end up in the hands of individuals who are focused on criminal intent. At present, the penalties for trafficking guns in the U.S. are on par with the trafficking of chickens or other livestock. The trafficking of guns and straw purchases should be federal crimes with commensurate penalties.

In states where these measures have been implemented, they have been proven effective at reducing gun violence.x The challenge for U.S. citizens is to become active and informed on political issues – not only those directly related to gun violence, but also poverty, inequality, poor education, our culture of violence and perpetual war, the military industrial complex, and the lack of access to needed physical and mental health care. The OPW is here to help educate members of the PC(USA) and others on how to become an effective advocate.

Action Steps that We Can Take Together

1. Pray for our President and the United States Congress as they struggle with the issue of gun violence.
2. Sign the  PC(USA) Office of Public Witness’ online petition to reduce gun violence.
3. Email our office to request post cards of this petition to use in your church and local community.
4. Encourage your pastor(s) to preach sermons, teach bible studies, and become involved in the efforts to eradicate gun violence in your local community.
5. Host a screening of TRIGGER, the PC(USA) documentary on eradicating gun violence. Hold congregational and community discussions in your house of worship.  Learn more.
6. Write and/or call your Congresspersons and the President each week stating your support for federal legislation to reduce gun violence. (See the requested actions outlined in the petition in #2). Find contact information for your elected officials.
7. Read the gun violence policy statement of the PC(USA) General Assembly and bring the bible study to an Adult Christian Education class - Gun Violence and Gospel Values: Mobilizing In Response to God’s Call


The Church of Jesus Christ is called to challenge the present culture of violence in the U.S. We cannot eradicate gun violence without addressing the underlying issues that create hostility, inequality, illegal, underground economies, and underserved, desperate populations of people. We must encourage our elected officials to implement gun laws that work, while claiming our faith as the central motivation for our advocacy.

Our role as Christians is to be peacemakers. Peace is not the absence of controversy or discord; nor is peace the quiet retreat amid confusion and rancor. Peace requires our active participation in the work to serve the common good. The words from the Beatitudes -- “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”  -- in Matthew 5:9 remind us that peace must be made. Making peace often stirs controversy. Peace represents the active process of engaging a faithful witness on behalf of Jesus Christ despite the impending struggle that will occur. Peace exposes human frailty and sin in order to make repentance possible.

Jesus affirms that his presence and teachings in the world will create division among those who are closest to him (Matthew 10:34). Therefore, the gospel is a double-edged sword that evokes unrest while creating a platform for peaceful reconciliation. The power in a deliberate effort to establish peace is found in the love that that makes it possible. As the PC(USA) General Assembly reminds us, “We must keep our ‘eyes on the prize,’ of preventing gun violence and the unnecessary deaths and injuries that result. Enough blood has been spilled.”xi  We affirm that through good organizational effort, animated by the passion for justice that comes to the people of God through the Holy Spirit, gun violence can be dramatically reduced.


i. Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing In Response to God’s Call (Louisville, KY: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, 2010), 14.

ii. Walter Hickey, How The NRA Became The Most Powerful Special Interest In Washington, in The Business Insider, Dec. 18, 2012.

iii. James E. Atwood, American and Its Guns: A Theological Expose (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2012)

iv. William Julius Wilson, There Goes the Neighborhood (New York: Vintage Books, 2006); Wilson, When Work Disappears (New York: Vintage Books, 1996) Wilson, analysis of the suburbanization of jobs in Chicago which led to inner city poverty and growing social problems that have created more crime and dysfunction in African American communities. It must be noted that Chicago had over 500 murders in 2012. The escalation of the Wilson’s studies continues in that city. 

v. Seena Fazel and Martin Grann, The Population Impact of Severe Mental Illness on Violent Crimes, in The American Journal of Psychiatry; Vol. 163 No. 8, 2006.

iv. Grounded in Faith: Resources on Mental Illness and Gun Violence, a forthcoming publication prepared by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), April 2013.

vii. Steve Almasy, Newtown shooter’s guns: What we Know, CNN, Wednesday, December 19, 2012.

viii. Obama Takes on the NRA, in The Week  Magazine, January 25, 2013, 2.

ix. Faiths United Against Gun Violence, http://faithsagainstgunviolence.org.

x. Deborah Kotz and Brian MacQuarrie, States with strictest firearm laws have lowest rates of gun deaths, Boston Children’s Hospital study finds, in Daily Dose: Health News, Advice and Information. Accessed: http://www.boston.com/dailydose/2013/03/06/states-with-strictest-firearm-laws-have-lowest-rates-gun-deaths-boston-children-hospital-study-finds/zaIGbTdwtVaPFiGlCfSlTP/story.html

xi. Full Rationale for Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call—From the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. 2008 Referral: Item 09-05. Direct the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy to Prepare a Comprehensive Study on Gun Violence—From the 218th General Assembly (2008), (Minutes, 2008, Part I, p. 860).