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Get guns out of homes, Presbyterians urged

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In a strong statement about personal responsibility and guns, the top policymaking body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has passed a resolution calling on the denomination's 2.6 million members to move toward removing handguns and assault weapons from their homes.

The resolution, passed by a 4-1 margin at the church's annual General Assembly last week, follows on a three-decade stream of declarations by several major Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish organizations favoring restrictions on handguns and assault weapons.But Presbyterian officials and other church leaders said the assembly's resolution takes a different tack in asking for individual action by church members.

The resolution, which comes after a recent series of schoolyard shootings around the country, says the General Assembly should "call upon all Presbyterians to intentionally work toward removing handguns and assault weapons from our homes and communities," adding that church members should "develop community strategies and create sanctuaries of safety for our children."

The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said, "It's taking this very serious issue and bringing it home, and saying church people have guns in their homes."

Noting that some of the boys accused in the recent shootings had been involved in local churches, Campbell said, "Maybe we're not doing all we could as church people to teach people a lifestyle of living nonviolently."

The Presbyterians' resolution is strictly advisory rather than binding.

Asked for her response to the resolution, Tanya Metaksa, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said that organization was sorry that the Presbyterian assembly "would suggest to their parishioners that self-defense is no longer an option."