|HUD No. 00-196|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Tuesday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||August 1, 2000|
CUOMO AND KEY RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN NEW YORK CHALLENGE GUN INDUSTRY ATTACK ADS
NEW YORK Ė Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo joined leaders of the nationís major religious organizations today to respond to gun industry attack ads that began airing this week in conjunction with the Republican National Convention.
At todayís news conference Cuomo joined Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches; Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C., President, Covenant House; and Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church, as they viewed a television ad aimed at elected officials who support lawsuits against gun manufacturers. The ad accuses the Clinton Administration and big city mayors of stripping Americans of their right to bear arms. The gun manufacturers are spending a reported $10 million on the ad campaign, funded by the Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Foundation.
"It is time for the gun manufacturers to accept responsibility for the violence that kills far too many people in this country," Secretary Cuomo said. "Rather than spending money on distorted attack ads, they should be investing in the future of our children and the safety of our communities. The religious community has led movements to feed the hungry and house the homeless. It is now time to join their moral call to denounce the inaction of gun manufacturers who refuse to accept responsibility for lives lost to gun violence."
Rabbi Yoffie said, "Controlling guns is not only a political matter, it is a solemn religious obligation. Our gun-flooded society has turned weapons into idols, and the worship of idols must be recognized for what it is -- blasphemy. And the only appropriate religious response to blasphemy is sustained moral outrage."
The religious leaders issued a letter urging nationwide mobilization to combat gun violence. This letter is to be distributed to millions of church and synagogue members across the nation. It manifests support for the Clinton Administrationís initiatives designed to address the national dilemma of gun violence.
The letter, signed by Rabbi Yoffie, Reverend Edgar and Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, who also serves as leader of the nationís Roman Catholic Bishops, is a three- fold call for responsibility. It urges the gun industry to implement common-sense safety measures, calls upon elected officials to pass gun safety legislation, and urges the American people to help reduce the toll of senseless violence in their own communities.
"Gun violence must stop," Reverend Edgar said. "The National Council of Churches has made the issue of stopping gun violence one of our top priorities and we will focus significant educational and advocacy resources on this matter." Edgar is a former member of Congress from suburban Philadelphia.
At the press conference, religious leaders highlighted the efforts of faith-based communities in states that have enacted progressive gun legislation aimed at reducing gun violence. Massachusetts, they noted, recently passed legislation to regulate firearms as a consumer product, a move not yet followed by the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission. Maryland has become the first state to require integrated locks on handguns and to mandate ballistics testing of firearms. California and Hawaii now limit the number of weapons that may be purchased in a month. They also now require a 72-hour waiting period and background checks for handgun sales. New Jersey and Connecticut also enacted similar provisions.
Todayís news conference was a follow-up to one on March 15 in Washington, D.C., that generated 130 signatures from religious community leaders supporting Administration initiatives to protect Americans from gun violence.
Cuomo also noted that HUD is getting guns off streets through its "BuyBack America" initiative. With nearly $3 million in seed money from HUD, about 70 police departments have bought back -- with no questions asked -- an estimated 17,000 guns at a suggested $50 apiece. Most of the guns have been destroyed. HUD continues to accept applications from communities around the country. President Clinton on Sunday issued a statement supporting HUDís authority to conduct the program, despite Congressional opposition to it.
"BuyBack America" is one of several initiatives the Clinton Administration is pursuing to reduce deaths and injuries caused by guns. Others include:
- The agreement by Smith & Wesson with HUD and the U.S. Department of Treasury, which implements a company "code of conduct" to increase gun safety and keep guns away from children and criminals.
- A $30-million Community Gun Safety and Violence Reduction Initiative proposed for Fiscal Year 2001. The initiative, to be administered by HUD, funds computerized mapping of gun violence patterns to help law enforcement agencies better protect the public, develop education and outreach programs to promote responsible safety measures by gun owners, and create innovative community activities to reduce both gun crimes and accidents. If Congress approves funding, local authorities and community groups and organizations will be eligible to compete for HUD grants to support gun violence reduction activities in HUD housing.
- A $280 million national firearms enforcement initiative. This initiative will hire 500 new Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm agents and inspectors to target gun criminals; hire 1,000 or more prosecutors nationwide; fund new gun tracing and ballistics testing systems to catch more criminals who use guns; fund local media campaigns to discourage gun violence; and expand the development of "smart gun" technologies.
- Finally, a Presidential call-to-action for Congress to enact the gun safety legislation passed by the Senate last year. This legislation, if enacted, will close the gun show loopholes; mandate child safety locks with every handgun sold; ban the import of high-capacity ammunition clips; and bar violent juvenile offenders from possessing firearms as adults.