FOX16.com

Arkansas Pastors Group Seeks Help from Pryor, Boozman on Gun Violence Solutions

Group writes letters to state's U.S. senators requesting speeches in front of church congregations.
LITTLE ROCK, AR (News Release) - A newly-formed group called Arkansas Pastors for Gun Sense is reaching out to the state's two U.S. senators.

The pastors have written letters to Sen. Mark Pryor and Sen. John Boozman inviting them to speak to church congregations about gun violence in African-American communities.

Citing a new study by the Children’s Defense Fund showing that gun violence is the leading source of deaths among black children in the U.S, the group has announced church events will be held on August 31 and September 7 to find common ground on gun safety solutions.

The group says Arkansas sees twice the number of aggravated assaults with firearms than the national average[1] and that the overwhelming majority of Arkansans support expanding background checks.

Led by Reverends Julius McDade, Tracy Bell, JaCori Smith, Alex Geiger, Roderick Barnes, and Jonathan Hayes, the pastors group gathered Friday at the New Beginnings New Birth Ministry in North Little Rock to discuss gun violence in their communities.

Their goal is to keep guns from making their way into the wrong hands.

This is the second event Arkansan Pastors for Gun Sense has held since its launch earlier this month.

Text of the letter from the pastors to Senators Boozman and Pryor is below:

Dear Senators Boozman and Pryor,

After listening to pleas from our congregants and consoling far too many grieving families, we feel it is time to speak up on gun violence.  Together we represent congregations all over Arkansas, from Little Rock to Parkin, from Forrest City to Marianna, all the way to Helena, and the overwhelming concern we hear from our communities is that we must come together to stop the bloodshed.  Our churches provide support and healing, and we continue to combat this problem on the local level.  But the leadership we need to save lives must come from our elected leaders we help to send to Washington. At the time of writing this letter, we have yet to hear back from you on the gun violence plaguing African-American communities. It is our sincere hope that this letter will prompt you to join us in person to listen, engage and finally— take action to help make our neighborhoods, children and schools safer.

According to the FBI, Arkansas sees nearly double the national average of aggravated assaults with firearms.  And while gun violence affects everyone, it has an outsized impact on African-American communities.  Just look at the numbers: the number one cause of death among black children in the US – above car accidents, disease, and drugs –is gun violence.  And while the statistics speak volumes, we can’t forget the personal toll each gunshot leaves on the victims and their families.  Pastor Blocker’s very own daughter was shot earlier this year.  It is an understatement to say this is a deeply personal issue for us.

Crime rates involving guns are on the rise and a sizeable percentage of these crimes occur as a result of teenage criminal acts.  A mother in Helena recently lost her son to gun violence—and while we as pastors are here to provide comfort, strength and support, there’s nothing one can really do or say in that moment to fill her family’s void.  But what we can do, with your help, is channel that emotion into a positive force to make our neighborhoods safer. 

While the background checks measure failed in the Senate in April, we have seen firsthand that the topic of reducing gun violence is not going away in conversations in church.  In that spirit, we would love an opportunity to speak with you further about passing long overdue changes to our gun laws that are proven to save lives.

You are each invited to attend one of our community gatherings over the next couple weeks.  On August 31st our organization, Arkansan Pastors for Gun Sense will be hosting a summit with pastors from all over the state to discuss how we can mobilize churchgoers to keep neighborhoods safe.  A week later on September 7th we’ll engage community members at church to get their ideas for gun violence prevention going forward. 

There is widespread support for sensible regulations to keep guns out of the hands of criminals here in Arkansas, and the time for action is now. Please join us for constructive conversation. Our congregants and all the people in our African-American communities are counting on you for leadership.

Sincerely,

Pastor Roderick Barnes, Little Rock

Pastor Tracy Bell, Little Rock

Pastor Elliott Blocker, Little Rock

Pastor Stanley Blocker, Parkin

Pastor B.T. Cooper, Forrest City

Pastor Alex Geiger, Higgins

Pastor James Hayes, Little Rock

Pastor Jonathan Hayes, Mayflower

Pastor Julius McDade, Lonoke

Pastor Danny Roberson, Marianna

Pastor JaCori Smith, Woodson

Pastor Jarvis Smith, Helena

Senator Boozman and Senator Pryor have not yet responded to their requests to discuss gun violence in African American communities.

[1] Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reports. 2011.
Page: [[$index + 1]]
comments powered by Disqus

Weather Right Now

84°F
Mostly Cloudy
High: 84°F
Low: 77°F

7 day forecast