HARI SREENIVASAN, guest host: Religious groups were among those applauding President Obama’s announcement this week of new measures to curb gun violence. Many faith leaders attended the White House meeting where an emotional president said his administration would enforce laws that require all gun sellers to register as dealers and complete background checks on all buyers. He said Second Amendment rights must be balanced with other rights:
President Barack Obama: “Our right to worship freely and safely. That right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. And that right was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.”
Joining me now with more about the religious community’s involvement in this debate is the program’s managing editor, Kim Lawton. Kim, that was an interesting piece of sound that you had from the president there. He went out of his way to choose different religions and how they’ve been affected by gun violence.
KIM LAWTON, managing editor: And I think he saw this as a way of really touching with the religious community, and many have been very involved in this. Many prominent religious groups welcomed this measure, these actions, as well as they’ve been pushing for more legislation for gun control. Many of them call it a moral issue. You have everybody from the Catholic bishops, Reform Jews, as well as many other faith-based groups really active on this issue to varying degrees. So many have made it a priority.
SREENIVASAN: You spoke to some of the people who were at the White House. What did they have to say about it?
LAWTON: They were very touched by what had happened. Obviously, it was a very emotional event, and many of them felt that, and they felt gratified that having been in the trenches on this issue that it was getting some traction.
SREENIVASAN: Obviously, faith has a wide range of opinions. Not everybody was at the White House. Not everybody was supportive of the president. What are some of the other religious leaders thinking about this?
LAWTON: Well, there is a divide. And at the institutional level there is broad support from many religious groups. When you get to the grassroots and in the pews, there is more disagreement. There are some who believe that it’s not the best way to deal with gun violence, and some have talked about even using theological basis saying that the scripture says you should fight evil, and you need to have every weapon possible to do that. So there are people who disagree with this. But again, it’s not the organized groups as much as it is people in the pews.
SREENIVASAN: And has the White House made efforts over time to try to rally the religious community to their side for this debate?
LAWTON: Well, I think they welcome the support from the faith community. As in many issues, they see the faith community as a good partner to help push this, especially at the grassroots level. We know—surveys show that Americans are divided on this issue, and so they hope that the faith community by using moral arguments can help them in their cause.
SREENIVASAN: Thanks so much for joining us.
LAWTON: Thank you.