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Gun-control laws urged by US bishop

22 February 2013

by a staff reporter


Anti-gun marchers: hundreds in Seattle joined a march and candle-lit vigil against gun violence on 10 February

Anti-gun marchers: hundreds in Seattle joined a march and candle-lit vigil against gun violence on 10 February

THE Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, has urged a Senate committee on gun control to ban assault rifles, and to impose comprehensive background checks on gun owners.

Dr Jefferts Schori said that, while the Church "supports the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms", it was clear that gun laws in the US had to be tightened to keep guns out of the hands of children, and those who would use them for crime.

Calling for "tighter curbs" on weapons designed to kill human beings more effectively, she said: "The Episcopal Church also supports the highest level of accountability for violation of all existing laws pertaining to violence in our midst."

Her testimony was submitted to the US Senate Judiciary Sub-committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, which held a hearing on "Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence: Protecting our communities while respecting the Second Amendment".

The Sub-committee, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, was established by President Obama after the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, in Newtown, Connecticut, before Christmas, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six teachers ( News, 21/28 December). The recommendations by Dr Jefferts Schori echoed President Obama's own proposals to crack down on gun violence, which included universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Dr Jefferts Schori said that more than 3000 children in the US were killed every year by guns. "The easy accessibility of guns to those prone to commit crimes, and the danger posed by the increasingly lethal character of both the weaponry and the ammunition available, are constants running through much of the recent violence in our culture."

But she also called for a "more serious approach to mental-health care", noting that the gunman in the Sandy Hook massacre was reportedly suffering from mental illness.

Gun control took centre stage in the President's State of the Union address earlier this month, when he told members of Congress that the victims of the Newtown school massacre and other killings "deserved a vote" on his legislative proposals to curb gun violence.

But some observers said that his words were carefully chosen and effectively admitted that he knew that the votes to pass laws such as the reinstatement of a national ban on assault weapons would not be available in the Republican-controlled House of Congress.


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