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Wisdom is better than weapons of war…
(Ecclesiastes 9:18, NRSVue)

January 13, 2023

Washington, DC – The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va. on Friday, January 6, 2023, when a six-year-old student brought a gun to school and shot his teacher. Our hearts are with the students and parents, faculty and staff, first responders, and the entire community as we all grapple with this unconscionable reality of gun violence once again shattering the safety of our schools and jeopardizing the well-being of our children.

We are grateful that the teacher is on her way to recovery and applaud her heroic efforts to make sure all the children in her classroom were out of harm’s way before seeking medical attention for herself. We are thankful this incident was not much worse and that no lives were lost.

While we are relieved that this was not yet another mass shooting, we remain in prayer and profoundly concerned for the six-year-old child who not only had access to a dangerous firearm but felt it necessary to use the weapon to inflict harm on his teacher, terrify classmates and cause fear and panic throughout the school and community. We pray that steps are being taken to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

The crisis of gun violence in classrooms and communities is a symptom of the culture of violence that permeates American society. It is our collective responsibility, especially as people of faith, to resist, dismantle and counter this culture of violence and advocate for peace.

As we approach the day when we commemorate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must renew our commitment to building the Beloved Community where peace supplants war and love supersedes hate.

Certainly, Dr. King’s words resonate for us today: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” We must confront this crisis with transformative policy and radical love in action to build a society of peace and non-violence. We urge our member denominations and local congregations to increase their efforts to promote nonviolence in their communities, and advocate for sensible gun reform legislation at the local, state and national levels.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which passed in 2022, enhances background checks for 18-21 years old, and provides funding for school safety and youth mental health programs among other provisions. However, it does not go far enough to keep our schools and communities safe, and more comprehensive, sensible gun reform legislation is needed.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Interim President of the NCC, said, “This incident is devastating and brings home the fact that more has to be done in our churches, communities and legislatively to make sure our children are protected. We also must hold the gun industry accountable for perpetuating a culture of violence that chooses profits over people.”  

Ending Gun Violence: A Resolution and Call to Action by the National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A. 2010 Reaffirmed 2018

Policy Statement on Firearms Control Adopted by the General Board 1967