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Religious Leaders Call for End to Gun Violence

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credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Religious leaders from a broad range of faiths gathered Friday at Washington National Cathedral to call for their congregations to lobby Congress to enact gun control and mental health reforms to address pervasive gun violence after the Connecticut school massacre.

Leaders representing Roman Catholics, Jews, Episcopalians, Muslims, Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Evangelicals, Sikhs and other faiths said they would mobilize their congregations to join a national call-in day to Congress on Feb. 5. They pledged to press for an assault weapons ban and reforms to close the gun show loophole to ensure background checks for all gun sales. Others will visit lawmakers in person.

In a garden beside the National Cathedral, they paused to listen as a funeral bell tolled for each person who died a week earlier in Connecticut. The victims included 20 young children.

“There is hope because this tragedy will move us to action,” said the Rev. Michael Livingston, past president of the National Council of Churches.

Others said silence wasn’t an option for people of faith after so many mass shootings have shown the nation’s gun culture needs to change.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, said Catholic bishops had called for confronting the nation’s culture of violence almost 20 years ago. He said stricter gun laws are essential, along with mental health services.

“I think we get to a moment where we can’t take it anymore,” McCarrick said. “We’ve got to rededicate ourselves to who we are.”

Evangelicals especially need to be converted on the issue of guns, said the Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a progressive Evangelical group.

“American Evangelicals need to be born again on this issue,” he said, calling to close down access to “weapons of war” that defy “everything we say we stand for.”

The National Latino Evangelical Coalition, representing 3,000 congregations, also joined. The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, the group’s president, said the nation needs an immediate and healthy response from its lawmakers.

The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, said Christians have an obligation to not just pray but to take action to end gun violence. The Washington National Cathedral is coordinating the faith groups with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

After the cathedral’s funeral bell was rung for each victim, Budde said a prayer.

“We will never forget them, oh God, and we pledge to honor their memories by doing what we all know to be right,” she said.

In a video released Friday, President Barack Obama says he is encouraged that many gun owners have said there are steps the nation can take to prevent more deadly shootings, “steps that both protect our rights and protect our kids.”

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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