Pastors and advocates seek common sense gun legislation over permitless carry expansion

Published 10:18 am Thursday, March 9, 2023

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Wednesday afternoon, right as the Tennessee House Civil Justice Committed== postponed a vote on HB1005, which would expand permitless carry to include all firearms including assault style rifles, pastors and advocates called for common sense gun legislation instead of policy that expands use of firearms in the state.
Rev. Dr. Kevin Riggs, Pastor of Franklin Community Church in Franklin, opened the press conference saying, “As Christians, we believe no matter where anyone lives, the color of their skin, we ALL deserve to live safely without gun violence, and that it is our moral obligation as Christians and as a pastor to stand for legislation that keeps our communities safe. Yet, our Supermajority Legislature is currently trying to pass a bill that would expand our already dangerous permitless carry law and make all of our communities, families, and children less safe.” He then explained how one year ago he delivered a letter to Governor Bill Lee that was signed by dozens of pastors across the state that called for gun safety legislation and to get rid of permitless carry, but that none of that was even considered. “What we are asking for is actually very simple. We are asking for Governor Lee and the State Legislature to value the lives of Tennesseans. Why is it so difficult to value life more than guns?
He ended his comments by sharing how his cross necklace came from a friend who melts down firearms to create garden tools and jewelry. And he said this was inspired by the prophet Isaiah as it was written, ‘they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks’ and called Governor Lee and the State Legislature for fewer guns and more gardening tools and works of art as symbolism of peace over violence.
Kari Kuefler, mother and survivor of the Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in 2017, shared her scary and traumatic story of surviving this shooting along with her (at the time) 3 month old son. She explained not only the trauma of the 12 minutes of the shooting but the stress and fear of the hours and even years that have followed as she is still scared to be in areas with tall buildings, loud sounds, and even in elevators with strangers. To this day, even with a job in the music business, she often still stays away from live concerts and crowded places because of the fear of another mass shooting and that the trauma and fear is ongoing for years. She explained how the trauma of a mass shooting doesn’t just affect those whose lives were lost, but also those who were there, and their friends and families as well.
“It doesn’t just affect me,” she said. “It affects my mother, my husband, my brother, and my friends and family as we adjust our lives and move forward. Thankfully we were not physically hurt, but it’s unimaginable the trauma of those who lost loved ones that day In Tennessee to offer up an option and put on the table an opportunity to increase the gun traffic in our own state is embarrassing and it’s hurtful.”
Rev. Rick Roberts, Pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Nashville, called for an end to legislation that expands permitless carry. “This legislation is not only dangerous, it’s immoral and puts all of us, including our children, at even greater risk of gun violence and death. Tennessee is already the 3rd leading state when it comes to violent crime. That last thing we need are people walking down Broadway with any kind of gun, especially an AR-15. The U.S. is the only country among its peers that has seen a substantial increase in the rate of child firearm deaths in the last two decades (42%). All comparably large and wealthy countries have seen child firearm deaths fall since 2000. I’m absolutely appalled that our elected leaders have already passed multiple bills targeting the LGBTQ community because they claim that they are “protecting” children. Yet they have refused to take action to prevent the #1 cause of death of children in our country, death from a firearm. How can we take them seriously if they claim to protect children but only use that as a guise to discriminate?
Rev. Roberts continued his remarks, “As a Christian pastor, father, and community member, I am sickened and horrified at the rise in gun violence here in Tennessee. I’ve seen way too many of the effects of gun violence. I know people who fear sending their children to school and I know the devastating effects of teen suicide by a gun from my congregation. The verses that come to my mind come from the prophet Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah warned, ‘woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees.’ And Jesus in his famous Sermon on the Mount said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.”

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