After 30 minutes of deliberation, delegates to the United Church of Christ’s 31st General Synod tonight (July 3) passed a Resolution of Witness calling for research into gun violence and declaring gun violence a public health emergency.
The resolution, sponsored by the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, passed with a 97 percent majority. Two-thirds was required for passage.
In introducing the resolution to the delegates, Committee Chair Marilyn Kendrix of the UCC’s Connecticut Conference, reiterated that there were an estimated 35,000 deaths by gun violence in 2016. But, she said, sometimes smaller numbers mean more.
“Seven children and teens die every day as a result of being shot by a gun,” Kendrix said. “We need to know everything we can about gun violence in order to save lives.”
Kendrix noted that in bringing the resolution to the Synod floor, her committee had clarified gun violence to include homicide, suicide, and accidental death.
“The contagion of gun violence spreads from one to the next just like a disease,” she said. “Gun violence IS a public health emergency.”
The resolution calls for funds to be released so that both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health can do research on gun violence and gun safety, and implement training methods on safe storage and handling of guns.
During the resolution’s debate, representatives from the General Synod Youth Core voiced their support of the resolution. “It is crucial to study gun violence as the crisis and emergency it is,” the youth concluded as delegates gave them a resounding standing ovation.
CHHSM brought the resolution to General Synod because of the impact of gun violence on its member ministries. Addressing the delegates this evening, CHHSM President and CEO Michael Readinger said, “Most of our 400 ministries across the country deal directly with the effects of gun violence, both in the communities they serve AND with the staff who do that work.”
“By allowing the scientific community to do research on the public health effects of gun violence,” Readinger said, “we can begin to better understand how to change the tide of devastation caused by the ever-increasing gun violence in our country.”
Committee members emphasized that the resolution is not about gun control or taking away guns. “This is a resolution for researching gun violence,” said a committee member from the Massachusetts Conference who also is a veteran and NRA member.
A Michigan Conference Synod youth delegate concurred. “We need to study gun violence before we can start developing a solution,” she said.
CHHSM now plans to advocate on behalf of funding for research into this public health emergency, said the Rev. Danielle Bartz, Associate for Program and Leadership Development for CHHSM. “We’re going to raise our voices and call on Congress to release these funds,” Bartz said.
Readinger said the resolution “will aid in the truthful dialogue we must have as a community of faith.
“Let us, the UCC, be the truth tellers and the prophetic voice towards ending this epidemic.”