We were saddened, but not shocked, by the senseless killings of 17 students and educators and the wounding of at least 15 others at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on Wednesday.  Our prayers and condolences go out to this community as well as the many communities that live with and fear gun violence on a daily basis.  Let us use this moment when the nation’s attention is focused on this important issue to take strategic collective action to address all forms of gun violence.

Nearly five years ago, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, leaders in our congregations and community organizations in several states began having conversations filled with anguish and anger.  Leaders shared their shock about the Sandy Hook shooting, but also their own experiences of and fears about the gun violence that plagues so many of our communities.  We decided that something needed to change and that we could not wait any longer for Congress to act.

So we devised a campaign and strategy that targets the gun industry directly by leveraging the significant buying power of public sector gun buyers – local, state, and federal law enforcement and the military.  Together, these public sector gun buyers, using our tax dollars, represent 40% of the market for gun manufacturers.

We have pressed gun makers to do two things that they could do tomorrow without any change in the law – 1) to tighten their distribution systems to prevent illegal gun sales and theft that allow guns to flow freely on the streets of our cities and 2) to invest in developing new safe / smart gun technology that might save lives.  To date, 123 cities and other jurisdictions have joined us in this effort.

We are proud of this effort we call the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign.  Leviticus 19 commands us to “not stand idly by while the blood of our neighbor is shed.”  But we know we need far more cities and more states to join with us to force the gun industry to change.

We hope the strong and angry voices of some of the Florida high school students now ringing out will galvanize new action.  But we will continue to work to force the gun industry – which helps finance the NRA and others – to move to reduce the death toll.

If you’re frustrated with the inaction and fed up with gun violence in your community or in our nation, help us by getting your mayor and police chief to join with us in demanding that the gun industry do its part to bring about change.

Frederick Douglass said, “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong, which will be imposed upon them.”  The American people have quietly submitted long enough.  The time to speak up and push back is now.