By ANAMIKA ROY
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - A coalition of religious leaders is calling for the federal government to impose three major gun control measures: ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines, mandate background checks for all gun sales and make gun trafficking a federal crime.
The coalition, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, came to the United Methodist Building behind the Capitol on Tuesday to announce its proposals.
"Gun violence is a moral issue," said Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator for Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and public health lobbyist. DeMarco played a role in advocating Food and Drug Administration regulation for tobacco 10 years ago. He said the same vigilance will help with gun control
The group is sending a letter to Congress signed by religious leaders representing 40 different faiths, outlining the details of the reforms advocated by Faiths United. The letter, which will also be distributed to congregations across the country, highlights recent tragedies caused by gun violence, from Newtown, Conn., to Oak Creek, Wis.
"Our faith overcomes our politics," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, a Christian ministry in Washington, D.C., dedicated to social justice.
DeMarco said that gun control will not interfere with the rights of lawful gun owners, responding to concerns about Second Amendment rights.
"Congressmen will realize 90 percent of their constituents support this," said DeMarco.
On Monday, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley discussed his gun control policy with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a gun violence summit at Johns Hopkins University. O'Malley plans to release a legislative package calling for an assault weapons ban and tougher licensing requirements.
An assault weapons ban has also been supported by leaders locally. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is among the leaders who have also called for a ban on assault weapons.
Ulman said that banning assault weapons and reducing magazine size is not a cure-all, but a step.
"It's one common sense approach that has to be part of the dialogue," said Ulman.
O'Malley said in a quote to the Associated Press, "This will be a comprehensive legislative package to prevent gun violence, and it addresses not only the guns, but also mental health and school safety."
DeMarco's group and O'Malley are asking the federal government to administer strict background checks for anyone wishing to purchase a gun.
Faiths United's news conference coincided with Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, who was an advocate for gun control and victim of gun violence.
The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of Public Witness Presbyterian Church USA, said, "If he were alive today, this issue would be a priority."
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