April 11th, 2013
04:02 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – The bipartisan gun control agreement reached by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey on Wednesday does not go far enough in the eyes of multiple clergy members from Newtown, Connecticut.
In interviews with CNN, religious leaders from Newtown, the site of last year’s school shooting where 20 children and six adults were killed, said that a recent gun control agreement does not do enough to fight gun violence, leading one rabbi to doubt whether Congress was actually working for the American people.
“Who are they compromising with?” said Rabbi Shaul Praver of the Congregation Adath Israel in Newtown. “Ninety percent of the country, 92% really, want the universal background checks. That is it, straight up, no exceptions. That is what the people want.”
Praver continued: “If there are so many people saying, ‘We want you to do this’ and it is not being done, then we are not being represented. I think we have a really big problem. It is called corruption and it is really a problem. You have elected officials who come here to do, you know, serve the NRA and not their constituents that elected them. I think they are out of touch.”
On Wednesday, Manchin, who represents West Virginia, and Toomey, from Pennsylvania, announced an agreement that broadens background checks to include private purchases at gun shows and on the Internet. The agreement does not, however, include a ban on semiautomatic firearms modeled after military assault weapons or a limit on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, two provisions many gun control activists had wanted.
The compromise passed an initial hurdle in the Senate on Thursday and is expected to get a vote in the next two weeks.
The Rev. Matthew Crebbin of the Newtown Congregational Church echoed Praver and seemed unsettled that any compromise was needed on gun control.
“It is hard for me to believe that we need a piece of legislation on compromise when 92% of the American public supports universal background checks,” Crebbin said. “I do think that many of our representatives are late adapters to the issues and don’t recognize the changes that are happening under their feet.”
A CNN/ORC International Poll released Wednesday found that 86% of people support “tougher new background checks for gun purchases.” The number is consistent with other polling on the issue that finds around 90% of people support more stringent background check laws.
One other member of the Newtown clergy joined Crebbin and Praver in Washington, the Rev. Kathleen Adams-Shepherd of Trinity Episcopal Church.
All three were members of an interfaith group that organized a vigil after the shootings at Sandy Hook. President Barack Obama attended the event and spoke about possible legislative recourse for protecting “our children.”
“No single law - no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society,” he said. “But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this.”
The three Newtown clergy also took part in an event, organized by PICO National Network and Sojourners, two religious groups lobbying Congress to approve stricter background checks.
Surrounded by more than 3,300 grave markers that symbolized the number of people killed by gun violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, 27 religious leaders stood together to ask Congress to pass gun control legislation.
“It’s past time for our political leaders to find the moral courage to act,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners. “The majority of our country supports change, and 92% of Americans support universal background checks, but unfortunately powerful lobbyists for gun manufacturers have some politicians scared to do what they know is right.”
Sporting large yellow stickers that read “Background Checks Save Lives,” a number of religious leaders spoke about the need for stricter gun laws.
“We all know too intimately the ripples of grief,” Crebbin said, his hands trembling during his remarks. "Now is the time to change.”
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.