Jackie Congedo — In Conversation
Letter to Ohio Lawmakers Calls for Action to Address Gun Violence
At a vigil following the mass shooting in Dayton, the crowd chanted “do something” as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine spoke. The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) has actually been doing something for the last year and a half—since horrific tragedies, including those at synagogues in Pittsburgh, San Diego, and at the school in Parkland, Florida, have touched our community.
Gun safety is a highly politicized and divisive issue. Yet our JCRC board has worked hard to forge broad consensus among members of our community. We have prioritized advocating for reasonable—and bipartisan—gun safety measures, both respecting the rights of law-abiding Americans to own handguns and rifles while also working to ensure our schools, houses of worship, and other public places are safe spaces to gather.
Last year, our JCRC board voted to support former Governor John Kasich’s six-point legislation. And as you may know, in the wake of the shooting in Dayton, Gov. DeWine came out with his version of a comprehensive gun safety package that the legislature will be taking up when they return. We are putting together strategies to engage with that as well.
We have signed the following letter to our Ohio lawmakers, along with many interfaith and Jewish partners, urging state leaders to take immediate action and develop a comprehensive approach that would prevent future tragedies. –Jackie
August 12, 2019
Honorable Governor, State of Ohio
Honorable Members, United States Senate, Ohio
Honorable Members, United States House of Representatives, Southwest Ohio
Honorable Members, Ohio State Legislature, Southwest Ohio
We, the undersigned faith organizations, communities and individuals from across the Cincinnati region are strongly united in calling for immediate action to address gun violence in America. Collectively, we represent 30 faith traditions including 13 world religions, but across our differences, we share a belief in God and in the sanctity of life. And as people of faith, we feel a moral imperative to speak up in the wake of the most recent horrific shootings in El Paso and in our neighboring community of Dayton—where one individual, armed with a military style assault weapon, killed nine people and injured twenty-seven others in just 30 seconds.
We are heartbroken, but we are no longer shocked. The shootings this past weekend are not anomalies or isolated tragedies. We have watched in horror as gun violence has invaded our churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. Just this year, 131 people have died in 23 mass killings. By comparison, 140 people died in mass killings in all of 2018, including seventeen innocent children who were murdered in their school in Parkland, Florida. In too recent memory, mass killings have occurred in Colorado (2012), Orlando (2016) and Las Vegas (2017) and just last year here in Cincinnati, and in each of these years, there are tens of thousands more gun-related deaths on a smaller scale, too often involving communities of color, that do not make national headlines.
We recognize and respect the right of law-abiding Americans to own handguns and rifles for legitimate purposes, but we refuse to accept a dystopian future where schools, houses of worship, community centers, shopping malls, theaters, and other venues require armed security, and where children and adults are fearful of going out in public. Along with enhanced security measures and investment in mental health treatment, common-sense gun safety reform is an imperative. We urge you to do everything within your power to prioritize this issue and to enact policy changes that would keep guns out of the hands of those who are most likely to use them for criminal activity, such as red flag laws, universal background checks, restrictions on gun ownership for domestic violence offenders, regulation of “strawman” purchases, and a ban on high capacity magazines. Polls show that a vast majority of Americans support these actions.
Our faith communities have a deep and abiding concern for public safety. Driven by our belief in the sanctity of life and the commandment against murder, we are committed to a comprehensive approach to confronting gun violence. No single solution will prevent all future tragedies, which is why we advocate for a balanced, multipronged approach. Reasonable gun safety measures must be a piece of that approach.
Our shared value of “compassion through action” instructs that prayer without action is just the recitation of words. The time for lawmakers to act is now.
As the residents of Dayton, Ohio said at their recent vigil, “DO SOMETHING!”
Inayat K. Malik, M.D., Board Chair, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Robert C. “Chip” Harrod, Cincinnati Festival of Faiths
Jackie Congedo, Director, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
Michael W. Hawkins, Esq., Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Sandra P. Kaltman, Esq., Co-Chair, Cincinnati Festival of Faiths
Evans Nwankwo, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Andrew Musgrave, Archdiocese of Cincinnati
James P. Buchanan, Ph.D., Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, Xavier University
Rt. Rev. Marvin F. Thomas Sr., Bishop, Second Episcopal District CME Church
Charleston C.K. Wang, Esq., Asian American Hour WAIF 88.3 FM
Becca Diamond, rabbinical student, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Margaret and Marty Ackerman, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Bakhtavar (Becca) Desai, President, Zoroastrian Assn. of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana
Fred Desai, Priest, Zoroastrian Assn. of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana
Rabbi George Barnard
Deborah and Steve Vance, Members of the Baha’i Community of Cincinnati
Lisa Miner Rosner, Esq.
Steven A. Rosner
Rev. John Ivey, Beulah Missionary Baptist Church
Umama Alam, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Allison Reynolds-Berry, Executive Director, Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center
Jan and Bruce Seidel, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Jan Armstrong Cobb, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Barry Cobb, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
The Rev. Melanie W. J. Slane
Majid and Suzanne Samarghandi
Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church
Rabbi Gary P. Zola, Executive Director, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
Jessica Baron, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Maria Munir, Festival of Faiths Co-Chair
Dr. Mitchel D. Livingston, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Pastor Henry Zorn, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection
Rick and Zeinab Schwen
Cathy Heldman, Regional Director, AJC Cincinnati
Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal, Bishop, Diocese of Southern Ohio (Episcopal)
Danya Karram, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Rabbi Meredith Kahan
Rev. Sam Wyatt, Philippus United Church of Christ
Daniel J. Hoffheimer, Esq.
Laith Alfaqih, Ph.D., PE
Nemat Moussavian, M.D., Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Samina Sohail, M.D., Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati Board Member
Rev. Dr. Nancy Turner Jones, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church
Rev. Jim Newby, Cincinnati Friends Meeting
Rabbi Noah S. Ferro, Northern Hills Synagogue – Congregation B’nai Avraham
Rev. Paul Booth, Jr., Legacy Pointe Church
Jan and Bruce Seidel, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Adam Hayden, Chapter Coordinator, Kids4Peace Cincinnati
Jocelyn, high school freshman
Zoe, high school sophomore
Pastor Rami Pouncey, Greater St. John AME Zion Church
Jeana M. Lawson, Esq.
Floy Ann Marsh
Rev. David W. Meredith, Pastor, Clifton United Methodist Church
Paul M. Booth Sr.
Teresa Davis, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Jaipal Singh and Aasees Kaur, Sikh Community of Greater Cincinnati
Donna Park, Bellarmine Chapel
Alycia Mcclurg, Bridges of Faith Trialogue
Rev. Lynn Felts, Brown Chapel AME
Margaret A. Fox, Executive Director, Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati (MARCC)
Kenneth R. Overberg, S.J.
The Rev. P. Marshall Wiseman, Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati
The Rev. Heather Buchanan Wiseman, Associate Rector, St. Thomas Terrace Park
Dr. Kevin Litzenberg
Rev. Dr. Todd Anderson, Ohio River Valley District of the United Methodist Church