Good morning Madame Chair, members of the committee – my name is Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan. I am the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, as well as a board member of Kansas Interfaith Action, a statewide organization that brings faith voices together in support of vital issues of social, economic and environmental justice. I am also the convener of a new local organization called Heeding God's Call, which serves as the Kansas chapter of national organization that calls itself “the faith-based movement to prevent gun violence.”
I am here today speaking on behalf of a large number of faith leaders who are concerned about the loosening of gun regulation in our state and the proliferation of guns that has resulted. On this subject, as with so many others, we take as our starting point the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said
By our silence, by our willingness to compromise principle… by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.
Gun violence is taking an ever-greater toll on our society and on innocent lives within it. It would take too long for me to recount all the incidents of mass shooting that have taken place in this country since Newtown in 2011. In Kansas we’re used to tornadoes, which can strike anywhere at any time, with devastating results. Well, we’re becoming as used to gun violence as we are to tornadoes. We talk about incidents like the one in Hesston, where four were killed and 14 wounded, as if they were acts of God, but they’re not, they’re the acts of humans, and they’re the results of policies, like this one, that have made such incidents too easy and too frequent.
Too many pastors have seen the damage that gun violence can do: the dead and injured, the grieving families left behind, the depressed person who committed suicide because of the ready availability of a gun, the incidents of domestic violence that went that extra, tragic step. It is because of this personal knowledge that people of faith, particularly pastors such as myself, have such a strong feeling about this issue.
Many of denominations represented in KIFA, and many others, recently joined a new national coalition called FAITHS UNITED TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE. There are over 50 denominations on the list, including Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church — General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Women, the synagogue arms of both Conservative and Reform Judaism, the Islamic Society of North America, the Catholic Health Association of the United States and Catholics United, the Presbyterian Church USA, and many others—51 in total, as I said.
Contrary to what seems to be the sense of this legislature, more guns does not equal less gun violence, but more—much more. The ongoing myth of the “good guy with a gun” is stymieing sensible legislation that could address the scourge of gun violence in our communities. Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence calls for three main policies to address this ever-growing national scourge:
- Every person who buys a gun should pass a criminal background check;
- High-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines should not be available to civilians; and
- Gun trafficking should be a federal crime.
Madame Chair, members of the committee: SB 65 doesn't do anything like that. SB 65 simply fixes a loop-hole in a previous part of this legislature's ongoing project to remove every limitation on gun proliferation from the statute books. We oppose SB 65 because it is part of that project, which we believe is misguided and that will have — already is having — tragic consequences.
The interfaith community opposes SB 65, and we urge you to begin to stop the madness right here, right now, and vote against this bill.
Thank you very much, and I'll be happy to stand for questions at the appropriate time