Churches across the state on Sunday took aim at an issue that has South Carolina, again, on a list that no state wants to be part of: gun violence.
During Stand Up Sunday, houses of worship addressed gun violence and how to curb gun-related deaths while commemorating gun violence victims.
South Carolina is currently ranked No. 6 in gun violence, according to the Center for American Progress. The state ranks fifth in gun-related murders between 2005-14 and crime gun exports, or guns sold in South Carolina that are later used in crimes in other states.
At Reid Chapel AME Church, congregants found these statistics and other information on South Carolina gun violence in their bulletins.
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The Rev. Carey Grady told the congregation gun violence falls under the umbrella of justice, adding when people become active in local government and civic organizations, they see how certain issues overlap.
“There is no fairness, there is no justice, when the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world,” he said. “There is no justice when women still make less than men and are just as or more qualified. There is no justice when HIV and AIDS are assumed to be a plague on society and not given fair medical treatment.
“There is no justice when a black person and a white person commit the same crime, and the black person is given a longer sentence.”
Too often, Grady said, Christians focus on charitable acts instead of justice. “But finding out why someone is in the soup kitchen or why someone is homeless – that is what justice is all about,” he said.
The Rev. Kylon Middleton is pastor at Mount Zion AME Church in Charleston and chairs Arm in Arm, the nonprofit that started Stand Up Sunday last year. The organization and pastors involved support Second Amendment gun ownership, he said,as well as universal background checks.
“This does not restrict responsible gun ownership,” he said. “There should be common ground and/or consensus among those who are gun owners and those who are advocates for regulations.”
Middleton said prayer can only do so much before people need to take action.
“If there was a disease that killed people in the proportion that are gunned down daily in our society, it would be an epidemic,” he said.
On the pulpit Sunday, Grady also questioned the need to own high-powered weapons.
“There is nothing wrong with owning a gun,” he said, “but we don’t need an AK-47 assault rifle to go deer hunting. Let the church say amen.”