President Barack Obama’s executive actions to take on America’s gun violence problem are getting high marks from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness. In a statement released after the president’s address, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the OPW, said the president demonstrated that abundant living is grounded in a feeling of being safe and secure and that people must have the courage to implement its requirements. 

“I am deeply impressed with his courage to stand up for the requirements of abundant living, even at the risk of being misunderstood or maligned,” said Nelson. “I pray that we will witness the same courage in state and local communities. May this bring new energy to constituents who are willing to speak truth in love to power and continue to press for laws to reduce gun violence in the United States.”

The executive action includes:

  • Requiring anyone in the business of selling firearms to have a license and run background checks on all purchasers of weapons (including online purchases)
  • Making background checks more efficient and up to date
  • Getting more ATF personnel hired, trained and equipped to investigate and assist with reducing gun violence
  • Offering additional assistance for people with mental illness so they can get the help they need
  • Boosting new technology (smart technology) to improve gun safety

Nelson pointed out that the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a policy statement calling for a reduction in gun violence. The statement was entitled “Gun Violence and Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Will.” The OPW has aggressively advocated Congress to act, but has seen no action until now.

“Consistently in congressional office after congressional office we have been met with statements about the American people’s opposition to any type of gun legislation,” Nelson said. “Ironically, when I visit many of these same congressional districts, constituents are consistently asking what our office is doing about gun violence. I concluded long ago that inaction on this issue is representative of a lack of courage.”

President Obama said in his address that people may not agree on the gun issue but do agree that something needs to be done to prevent another mass shooting.

“All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important—Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well,” said President Obama. “And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely—that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek. They had rights, too.”

“Our right to peaceful assembly—that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette,” he continued. “Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness will continue its support of measures to reduce gun violence in the United States,” added Nelson. “More importantly, we will continue to lift up the prophetic vision of witnessing peace abound—a day when men, women, boys and girls will engage in abundant living and not kill one another anymore.”

Editor's note (Jan. 7, 2016, 10:42 a.m.): The article title and one reference in the body of the article have been updated to read "executive action" rather than "executive order."