Gun Violence Policy
The PC(USA) and its predecessor bodies have addressed gun violence through the actions of many General Assemblies in the last fifty years. Beginning in the late 1960’s, in response to the assassinations of public leaders, the General Assembly called for “….control [of] the sale and possession of firearms of all kinds.” Similar resolutions were passed again in 1976, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1996 and 1998.
Each resolution reflected a sense of moral urgency in response to rising gun violence and the cultural trends that contributed to it. These resolutions have called on the church to be involved in education and advocacy at the federal, state, and community level to prevent gun violence. In 1991 and 1996, these resolutions were backed up with strong educational curricula as well as comprehensive strategies for advocacy.
In 2008 the General Assembly recommended that churches should take seriously the pastoral implications of caring for members of our community who have experienced the pain of gun violence, advocate for legislation that would increase the safety and well-being of communities in relation to the presence of guns, and conduct a national study on gun violence. From this recommendation, a gun violence prevention task force of ten people was formed under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.
The task force worked tirelessly over the next two years and produced a comprehensive study of contemporary gun violence in the United States, complete with recommendations for the church as to how to address this critical issue. This study was unanimously approved by the 219th General Assembly.
Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call
This policy and study paper was approved by the 219th General Assembly (2010). It includes not only the policy and supporting material, but also a study guide, wordlist and list of additional resources.
Action of the 221st General Assembly (2014)
This action of the General Assembly affirms and continues the actions of the 219th General Assembly. It furthers the church’s witness by encouraging congregations and others with church-related property to consider action to proper signage to prohibit guns on church property.
Webinar Series: “Standing Our Holy Ground: A Year-Long Look at Gun Violence and What the Faith Community Can Do About It”
Standing Our Holy Ground is a year-long webinar series that challenges the faith community to stand up against gun violence, a far-reaching crisis of our day. Touching on a large variety of topics and utilizing those at the forefront of the work and research, this comprehensive webinar series delves deeply into the epidemic of gun violence and explores the ways in which people of faith and the communities to which they belong can respond and act to bring about change.
Each 1-hour webinar is free to view and features knowledgeable and experienced presenters, provides time for questions from viewers and suggests actionable steps to be taken following the webinar. Registration for upcoming webinars and recordings of past webinars are available on the series’ webpage.
This two-sided flyer provides an overview of the schedule for the “Standing Our Holy Ground” webinar series on one side and on the other side lists “Ten Things You Can Do to End Gun Violence.” These are suggestions approved by the 2019 General Assembly (2010) report Gun Violence, Gospel Values.
This resource was produced and has been updated by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. It provides educational resources, online links, recommended reading and documentaries, guidance for small group conversations, pastoral and worship resources and suggestions for action and advocacy.
It includes the following study sessions:
- Gun Violence 101 and the Citizen’s Test on Gun Violence in America
- Guns in the US Today, Including “Battleground America”
- Illegal Gun Sales
- Guns and Suicide
- What Does the Lord Require of Us?
*Logo used with the permission of Community United Church of Christ in Boulder, CO
The Guns to Gardens project is a way to responsibly dispose of unwanted firearms, turning them into garden tools rather than returning them to the gun market. It was approved by the 225th General Assembly (2022) to be included in the list of gun violence prevention resources for the PCUSA. Congregations, presbyteries, and synods to are encouraged to prayerfully consider participating in this project as part of their witness to prevent gun violence, save lives, and provide healing for a nation traumatized by violence. Those who already have participated are to be commended. The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship organizes Action Circles to prepare people and congregations to host their first Guns to Gardens event.
Documentary “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence”
A film by David Barnhart, an award-winning producer, director, and documentary filmmaker.
This documentary frames gun violence as both a disaster and a public health issue. It addresses the critical issue of gun violence prevention by moving the conversation away from the polarizing extremes that have long dominated the debate and lifting up the voice and experiences of those who seek common ground and a new way forward. Trigger was produced in part as a response to the 219th General Assembly (2010) resolution Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call and to shed light on the growing issue. The documentary and its accompanying resources are the result of a collaborative effort between the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.
Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence is a documentary that frames gun violence as a Disaster and Public Health issue by taking an in depth look at how one shooting impacts individuals, families and communities, while also giving voice to the questions and insights that arise from these conversations. In the documentary, all those scarred by gun violence eventually arrived at the same question: “Why…Why did this happen to us?” After looking at these in depth experiences of gun violence “Trigger turns its attention to the bigger question: “What can we do to prevent gun violence?”
Available at the PCUSA Store. $19.99 Item # 2541212006
TRIGGER: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence has been screened across the United States by groups of all sizes. This screening kit is a free resource that offers a step-by-step guide to organizing a local screening event in your community. The screening kit includes: best practices, a sample press release, promotional posters, gun violence statistics, background information on the film, and suggestions for local engagement in gun violence prevention.
Available at the PCUSA Store. Free. Item #2435813006
This 4-session study and action guide written by Carol Wehrheim is intended to accompany the documentary Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence. It takes participants from an awareness of the devastating problem of gun violence to ways that they can commit to being a part of the solution. Sessions 1 and 2 focus on bringing an awareness of the breadth of the gun violence problem and culture to the participants. Sessions 3 and 4 provide entries into actions that participants or groups of participants can take to stop gun violence.
Available at the PCUSA Store. $4.00 Item #2435813003
Gundamentalism & Where It Is Taking America
By James E. Atwood
Atwood offers an immensely readable and comprehensive overview of the issue of gun violence in America, with discussion questions following each chapter. While written from a faith perspective, the book is designed for both church groups and a broader audience, including college, law, medical and public health schools; law enforcement agencies; local government and community groups.
America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé
By James E. Atwood
Foreword by Walter Brueggemann
Atwood documents how Americans have been deceived into believing that the tools of violence will provide ultimate security, whether they take the form of advanced military technology or a handgun in the bedside stand. He offers a wake-up call to the faith community, which he says is America’s best hope to unmask the extremism of the Gun Empire. This book will appeal primarily to persons of faith because it brings together multiple aspects of the gun death crisis in America –the statistics, the laws, the players, the options— with the underlying spiritual and theological imperatives of what is often considered to be a “hands-off” political issue.
Collateral Damage: Changing the Conversation about Faith and Firearms
By James E. Atwood
Atwood issues an urgent call to action to Christians to work together to stop gun violence. An avid hunter for many years, Atwood enumerates the tragic and far-reaching costs that accrue in a country with more guns than people. Collateral damage includes a generalized fear and loss of trust. Suicides and homicides. Trauma for children in neighborhoods plagued by gun violence and in schools with frequent lockdown drills. A toxic machismo that shapes our boys and men in unhealthy ways. Economic costs that exceed $229 billion per year. Atwood also considers the deeper story of racism, inequality, and mass incarceration in which the conversation about gun violence is lodged.
Available on Amazon.com
Recovering from Un-Natural Disasters
By Laurie Kraus, David Holyan and Bruce Wismer
Recovering from Un-Natural Disasters is a must-read handbook for pastors and church leaders of communities who could or perhaps already have experienced an un-natural disaster, such as gun violence, suicides, or sexual abuse.
Common Ground: Talking about Gun Violence in America
By Donald V. Gaffney
Newtown, Connecticut, native and Disciples of Christ minister Donald V. Gaffney brings a calm and compassionate voice to these complex questions, offering a guide for individuals and groups to reflect on and discuss guns and gun violence. Common Ground explores the place of guns in our individual and national histories, violence in Scripture, the legal issues surrounding gun rights, and ways in which we as moral, life-valuing people can bridge the divide to help solve the problem of gun violence in the United States. To move beyond the talking points and rhetoric dominating gun violence discussions, Gaffney concludes chapters with questions for reflection and discussion to encourage self-examination, exploration, and evaluation of potential solutions to gun violence.
Available on Amazon.com
Preaching and Worship Resources
These texts certainly do not exhaust the passages that may speak to the challenges of gun violence, public violence and mass shootings. These are only a few of the passages that may be instructive in study, preaching and reflection on the epidemic of gun violence and the challenges we face in preventing it.
Listed are an assortment of hymns from the Presbyterian Hymnal (1990), Glory to God Hymnal (2013) and from Presbyterian hymn writer Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.
This litany was written in 2010 to accompany the resources for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but it is appropriate for any worship service or gathering that draws attention to the escalation of gun violence, public violence and mass shootings in the United States. It can be used as written or adapted to a particular context.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a good Sunday to draw addition to the practices of non-violence and the epidemic of gun violence in the US
This hymn, set to the tune of BEACH SPRING 220.127.116.11 D (“God Whose Giving Knows No Ending”), was originally written at the request of the PCUSA UN Office for the 2009 International Day of Peace. It is suitable for services that addresses gun violence. (Available in 2 formats)
This hymn set to the tune of EBENEZER 18.104.22.168 D (“Why Do Nations Rage Together”) was written by Carolyn Gillette Winfrey in response to the June 12, 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 people and wounded 58 It can be used, regrettably, following other instances of mass shooting. (Available in 2 formats)
This hymn was written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillete in remembrance of the beloved children of God who died in the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 22. Many of us, as individuals, do not accept violence, keep silence, or clamor for guns. Yet, as a nation, we do these things, and as a nation, we need to repent; we need to turn around and live a different way. All of us are called to do more than sing and pray; please work for gun safety laws in your community and state. (Available in 2 formats)
This four-session study helps youth and young adults, particularly college students, explore the many facets of the problem of gun violence in our country. Sessions are built around the movements of worship—Gather, Encounter, Respond, and Send. In each session, the topic of gun violence is addressed through the lens of one of these movements of worship. In each session, participants will have time for small group discussion, journaling, large group discussion, learning, and a brief service of worship. Each session includes extensive background for the leader to prepare them for these difficult discussions. Ideal for retreat settings or to be held over the course of four weeks. Download the study or order a copy at the PC(USA) Store.
Youth Conversation Guide – Through a Mirror Dimly
This session outline will help youth talk about, pray about and think about life and faith following a violent situation.
“No Guns in God’s House” Sign (2 versions available)
This sign was created for congregations and places of worship to provide a posted notice that guns are not allowed in the building or on the premises. Two sign designs are available for purchase through Presbyterian Distribution Service. One design has an additional section at the bottom of the sign to add a local ordinance number. The downloadable artwork is also available at no charge.
The 221st General Assembly strongly encouraged sessions, PCUSA entities and community groups to adopt policies and prominently display signage as gun-free zones. This sign has space at the bottom to add a reference to a local ordinance or state statute where applicable.
Dimensions 6” x 6.75” Pack of 10 for $5.00 Item # 2435816005
Version 2: Sign without additional space
The 221st General Assembly strongly encouraged sessions, PCUSA entities and community groups to adopt policies and prominently display signage as gun-free zones.
Dimensions 6” x 6” Pack of 10 for $5.00 Item #2435816006
“They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy” Resources
This design was created using the image of a gun with a peace sign superimposed over it. It cites the passage from Isaiah 65:25 “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” It is available as a window cling that can be used on a church, home or car window. It is also available as a zipper pull to attach to a bag or backpack. The downloadable artwork is also available.