Dear Senator and Representative,

As of this morning there have been 131 mass shootings in the United States. The ratio of gun deaths between other western developed nations and the United States is 25:1. Honestly, do 400 million guns keep us safe?

I write as chair of ENGAGE: Lutherans for Gun Violence Prevention, a Public Witness Work Group of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, representing 109 congregations. I also serve on the Protect Minnesota: Interfaith Alliance for Gun Safety. Gun violence is a faith issue and a human life issue. The Will of God is nonviolence. The Garden of Eden was a place of nonviolence. It was by human choice that evil entered the world. Cain killed Abel as an act of human choice. Similarly, the foundational ethic of Jesus Christ is nonviolence. Tell me, where does Jesus say it is OK to kill another human person? Also, what does Paul say about the Fruits of then Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity and self control. Where is the justification for violence?

Many gun owners say in defense of their rights, “It’s my Second Amendment right to own a gun.” Or, “It’s a step towards preventing government oppression.” At the entrance of the NRA Office in Washington, DC are the words, ” . . . the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” What is NOT included on the welcome board are the words, “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, . . . ” Note the words “militia” and “well regulated”. Why is it that those opposed to any gun regulation omit these these words? Furthermore, in the Heller Supreme Court decision, Justice Scalia says that states can legitimately regulate/limit gun purchases. Also, consider the words from political philosophers and a founding leader of our nation: “Liberty is not license.” – John Locke. “Freedom, where unconstrained, is a war of all against all.” – Thomas Hobbs. And George Washington, “Natural liberty has to be balanced with everyone else’s.” The Declaration of Independence writes of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (for all). And finally, the Preamble to our constitution reads: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” It is clear that our Founding Documents proposed guides for how we can live together in peace and community. Unabashed, unlimited rights were not allowed. Consider all of the Amendments, all for us living together.

I am writing to urge your support for gun violence prevention bills that will be or have been presented for your consideration. These bills will save lives while allowing for responsible people to purchase a weapon. It is also true that those states with the most comprehensive gun violence prevention bills are safest while allowing for weapon purchase.

Enclosed with this letter is a script used in ENGAGE presentations. It covers theological, church, statistical data, the NRA and Founding Documents, plus specific laws to support, and actions you and people can take for gun safety. I believe together they represents a convincing argument for gun safety action. Thank you.

Blessings and Peace!

Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)

ENGAGE: Lutherans for Gun Violence Prevention