WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church & Society, an agency of The United Methodist Church, has issued a statement decrying the Saturday shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona in which six people, including a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge, were killed. GBCS "joins the nation in grieving," he said, adding, "We pray for comfort for [the] families … We also pray for full healing and recovery for the  injured victims, including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords."
Giffords was critically wounded when she was shot in the head at close range, but her doctors have expressed guarded optimism, saying she is responsive to commands and that the swelling in her brain has not increased.
"The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned with gun violence," Winkler said in his statement. "The gunman used a weapon bought legally, but if the ban on assault weapons that unfortunately lapsed in 2004 had remained in place, then the 30-round clip he used would have been illegal. Yes, the gunman still could have inflicted a tremendous amount of harm, but it would have been dramatically reduced."
Winkler called for making gun ownership "a more responsible process." He noted that the UMC's 2008 General Conference, the denomination's highest policy-making entity, passed a resolution on gun violence which states unequivocally: "No appeals to individual autonomy are sufficient to justify our church's ignorance of this threat. The need to prevent the incidence of firearm-related injury and death is an issue of increasing concern and a priority public health issue. The United Methodist Church is among those religious communities calling for social policies and personal lifestyles that bring an end to senseless gun violence.
"While it seems many factors led to this tragedy, we join with Republicans and Democrats who are calling for lessening the vitriolic rhetoric that has made the political climate in the United States so toxic in recent years," Winkler added.
The accused shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, posted a series of rambling video essays on YouTube in which he called himself "a terrorist" and expressed sentiments such as, "I'm able to control every belief and religion by being the mind controller!" in rants against the U.S. government.
The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board's primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations.