Covering religious responses to gun violence

Activists rally against gun violence at the "March for Our Lives" in Washington, D.C. on Mar. 24, 2018.(Ted Eytan via Creative Commons)

In the wake of mass shootings, many faith leaders do far more than offer thoughts and prayers.

Increasingly, they organize rallies, lobby politicians and even invest in gun manufacturers in order to play an active role in limiting access to guns.

These efforts are controversial, since gun control is a highly politicized issue. But recent attacks on houses of worship give religious communities a powerful reason to address gun violence.

This edition of ReligionLink explores the religious response to recent mass shootings, highlighting unique developments such as the appointment of a gun violence pastor. These articles and experts will help you reflect on current gun control debates through the lens of faith.

Background reading

U.S. sources

  • Jamie Aten

    Jamie Aten is founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College. He is an expert on religious responses to public emergencies, including hurricanes and mass shootings. Aten is also a founding signer of the Prayers and Action petition, which calls on the evangelical Christian community to do more to address gun violence.

  • Zarina Baber

    Zarina Baber is chairwoman of the Muslim Caucus of America. Along with the rest of the organization, she works to boost political engagement within the Muslim community during election season around issues like immigration, gun violence and racism.

  • Joseph R. Black

    Rabbi Joseph R. Black is senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Denver. After the 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, he spoke out about rising gun violence and the need for improved gun laws.

  • Mariann Budde

    Bishop Mariann Budde leads the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. She is a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, an ad hoc group of around 60 Episcopal leaders. Contact the Rev. Daryl Paul Lobban to arrange an interview.

  • Shane Claiborne

    Shane Claiborne is a Philadelphia-based Christian activist and author. He is a co-founder of Red Letter Christians, a Christian group that focuses on people at the economic and social margins and organized a day of prayer in support of an impeachment inquiry.

  • Daniel DiNardo

    Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is metropolitan archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Contact through Jo Ann Zuniga.

    The USCCB has called on Catholics to pray and advocate for changes to America’s gun laws and an end to gun violence.

  • Jerry Falwell Jr.

    Jerry Falwell Jr. is president of Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia. He serves on President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board. Arrange an interview through Scott Lamb, the university’s senior vice president for communications.

    Falwell has criticized efforts to limit access to guns, and he approved concealed carry on Liberty’s campus and added a gun range.

  • Douglas Fisher

    The Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher serves as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. He is chairman of the denomination’s Executive Council Committee on Corporate and Social Responsibility, which oversees the Episcopal Church’s efforts to invest in gun manufacturers in order to force reforms.

  • Melissa Florer-Bixler

    Melissa Florer-Bixler is pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church. She writes and speaks on a number of justice issues, including gun violence. Arrange an interview through the contact form on her website.

  • Valerie Heinonen

    Sister Valerie Heinonen is a Catholic nun who works as director of shareholder advocacy at Mercy Investment Services. She aims to use strategic investing to force change in the gun industry.

    Contact: 314-909-4609.
  • Deanna Hollas

    Deanna Hollas is the minister of gun violence prevention for the Presbyterian Church (USA.) She coordinates related programming through the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

  • Robert Jeffress

    The Rev. Robert Jeffress is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a contributor to Fox News. He serves as one of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisers.

    He’s argued that gun violence stems from the nation’s poor spiritual health.

  • Movita Johnson-Harrell

    Movita Johnson-Harrell is a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She got involved in gun violence prevention efforts after the death of her son in 2011 and became the first Muslim member of the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2019.

    Contact: 215-879-6615.
  • Pardeep Singh Kaleka

    Pardeep Singh Kaleka is executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. He’s also a member of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, the site of a 2012 mass shooting. Kaleka lost his father in the shooting.

    Contact: 414-276-9050.
  • Seth M. Limmer

    Rabbi Seth M. Limmer leads Chicago Sinai Congregation, a faith community involved in gun violence prevention efforts.

  • Eric S.C. Manning

    The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning is the pastor of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., the site of a 2015 mass shooting. He has served in this role since June 2016.

  • Mike Martin

    Mike Martin is founder and executive director of RAWtools, an organization that confronts gun violence by leading community dialogues and transforming guns into garden tools. He is also the co-author, along with Christian activist Shane Claiborne, of Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence.

  • Lucy McBath

    Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Georgia, serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. She entered politics after her son, Jordan, was shot and killed in 2012. Before her election to Congress, McBath led faith outreach for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action.

    Contact: 202-225-4501.
  • Jonathan Perlman

    Rabbi Jonathan Perlman leads New Light Congregation in Pittsburgh, one of the faith communities attacked during the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting.

  • Michael Pfleger

    The Rev. Michael Pfleger is senior pastor for the Faith Community of St. Sabina in Chicago. He helps lead an annual march against gun violence.

  • Karen Swallow Prior

    Karen Swallow Prior is an author and English professor at Liberty University. She has written about carrying a gun while running, arguing that gun ownership can support the Christian call to protect innocent life.

  • Katy Rigler

    Katy Rigler is lead pastor of St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church in Richardson, Texas. Her congregation plans to lead a Bible study on gun violence this fall. Contact her using this form.

    Contact: 972-235-2000.
  • Sharon Risher

    The Rev. Sharon Risher is a spokesperson for Everytown Survivor Network and Moms Demand Gun Sense in America. Her mother, Ethel Lee Lance, died in the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston in June 2015. Use the contact form on Risher’s website to arrange an interview.

  • Samuel Rodriguez

    The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has criticized conservative evangelicals who have spoken against or have remained silent on immigration and argued that the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, was driven, in part, by anti-immigrant rhetoric. Arrange an interview through the Kairos Co.

  • Rob Schenck

    The Rev. Rob Schenck is an ordained evangelical Christian minister and president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute in Washington, D.C. In response to rising gun violence, he is working to challenge evangelical support for gun ownership.

  • Eugene Sutton

    The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He is one of three conveners of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, an ad hoc group of around 60 Episcopal leaders.

  • David Yamane

    David Yamane is a professor of sociology at Wake Forest University and expert on American Catholicism. He is the author of The Catholic Church in State Politics: Negotiating Prophetic Demands and Political Realities. Over the last few years, Yamane has shifted his attention to gun culture and studies the rise of armed citizens.

International sources

  • Mustafa Farooq

    Mustafa Farooq serves as executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

    Although mass shootings in Canada are rare, a gunman attacked a Quebec City mosque on Feb. 21, 2017, and killed six worshippers.

  • Mustafa Farouk

    Mustafa Farouk is president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand. He was a key spokesman for the country’s Muslim community after the Christchurch mosque shootings in March 2019.

  • Rachel Monaghan

    Rachel Monaghan is a senior lecturer in criminology at Ulster University in Ireland. She studies political violence with a particular interest in paramilitary conflict in Northern Ireland.

  • Robert Muggah

    Robert Muggah is the co-founder of and research director for the Igarape Institute in Brazil, which is focused on security issues in South America. He specializes in safety and migration and serves as an associate faculty member at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

Related research

Additional resources