Gun control group starts faith-driven push ahead of election

In this April 26, 2017, photo, John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, poses for a photo in Washington. The leading gun control advocacy group has enlisted more than a dozen religious leaders to boost voter turnout this fall in support of candidates who support measures to prevent gun violence. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
In this April 26, 2017, photo, John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, poses for a photo in Washington. The leading gun control advocacy group has enlisted more than a dozen religious leaders to boost voter turnout this fall in support of candidates who support measures to prevent gun violence. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – A leading gun control advocacy group has enlisted more than a dozen religious leaders to boost voter turnout this fall in support of candidates who support measures to prevent gun violence.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which expects to spend $60 million on this year's elections, is forging its interfaith effort amid ongoing concerns about shootings at houses of worship. The group’s partners include representatives from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh backgrounds, several of them well-known progressive activists.

Among those joining Everytown’s initiative, details of which were shared with The Associated Press ahead of its official announcement, are evangelical Shane Claiborne, president of the group Red Letter Christians, and Rev. Traci Blackmon, a United Church of Christ executive minister and a central member of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Another is Rev. Rob Schenck, a former evangelical anti-abortion activist who has since shifted to support the Roe v. Wade decision and sought to redefine a “pro-life” agenda as one that supports gun control.

Schenck described gun violence as a “life or death issue, which makes it a supreme moral consideration.”

“Churches, especially white evangelical churches, have largely ignored this question -- I think, much to their own detriment and to the detriment of the people they’re called to serve,” said Schenck, president of the Washington-based nonprofit Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute.

In addition to reaching out to clergy on gun policy issues, Schenck said, the Everytown interfaith project would aim to educate rank-and-file faith voters about candidates’ stances on gun matters.

“You never want to pray for something you’re unwilling to be the answer to,” he added. “So if we pray for a reduction in gun violence, we have to be ready to act on that prayer.”