Policy Position Paper

The Assault Weapons Ban



The ELCA supports the renewal and strengthening of the federal ban on military-style assault weapons. 

Reasons for Position: 

• The current 10-year ban, passed by Congress in 1994, contains a sunset provision providing for its automatic repeal on September 13, 2004.  Without Congressional action before that date, all assault weapons will once again be legal. 

• The special features of assault weapons, high ammunition capacity and features that enhance control during rapid firing, offer no benefit for legitimate purposes beyond military applications. 

• One in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty from 1998 to 2001 was killed with an assault weapon. 

• Assault weapons have been used in many high profile mass shootings such as the one at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and the Washington DC-area sniper shootings.

ELCA Policy Base: 

(All policy positions taken by the ELCA are based on the Social Statements previously passed by the voting members of the Churchwide Assembly or other governing documents of the ELCA.)

 The ELCA message “Community Violence” (adopted by ELCA Church Council on April 18, 1994) states: 

• “As we move toward a more comprehensive address of community violence, we join with other religious communities in anti-violence initiatives that…stem the proliferation of guns in our streets, schools, and homes;”

 • “The Holy Spirit works among us to wrench us from violence, hate, greed and fear, and transforms us into people who are called to trust God and live in community with one another.”

 • “As citizens in a democracy, we have the responsibility to join with others to hold government accountable for protecting society and ensuring justice for all, and to seek changes in policies and practices toward these ends.” 

The “For Peace in God’s World” social statement (adopted by more than two-thirds majority vote—803-30 in 1995) states:

 • “Our everyday communities form the arena where faith acts in love for peace.  God calls us to be peacemakers in and through the many overlapping circles of communities through which God gives us life: our homes and friendships, neighborhoods and work places, congregations and volunteer associations, towns and cities, nations and international communities.”

 The 1989 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, in Assembly Action CA89.2.10, “Ban of Military-Style Semi-Automatic Weapons,” acted:

 • “To encourage elected governmental officials to explore options for better management of these weapons through an outright ban or regulation of lawful sales;”

 The 1993 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, in Assembly Action CA93.6.10, “Community Violence—Gun Control,” acted:

 • “To call upon all of our congregations, synods, and appropriate agencies to work for the passage and strict enforcement of local, state, and national legislation as appropriate, that rigidly controls the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, purchase, transfer, receipt, possession or transportation of handguns, assault weapons, and assault-like weapons and their parts, excluding rifles and shotguns used for hunting and sporting purposes, for use other than law enforcement and military purposes;”

For further information, contact Kay Bengston  (kay_bengston@elca.org), or call (202) 783-7507.


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