Observer: 'Now is the Time to Act'

Moved by gun violence, faith leaders call for action

Dana Lynn Barbar, Portland Observer | 4/3/2018

Protecting children and teenagers from gun violence is the driving force of a new grass roots effort to regulate semiautomatic weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines in Oregon.

A diverse group of faith leaders in Portland are working together to gather signatures for a proposed ballot measure that if approved by voters would require that existing semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines be registered by their owners, as well prohibit the future sale and transfer of these weapons and magazines statewide.

Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson, senior pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in northeast Portland, is chairing the ballot initiative campaign, along with chief petitioners Rev. Alcena Boozer, director emerita at St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church in northeast Portland and a former principal at Jefferson High School, and Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel. Imam Muhammad A. Najieb, director of the Muslim Community Center of Portland, is campaign treasurer.

At this time, the initiative is called “Lift Every Voice, Oregon Measure 43.” If the required number of signatures are gathered and approved, it will be on the ballot in November.

Talks of a campaign to prevent mass shootings with tougher gun control laws have been in the works before. However, after an overwhelming response from youth across the country demanding gun reforms following last month’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Rev. Knutson and the others decided it was time to do something in Oregon.

“The youth are our biggest commodity – what will we leave them?” said Iman Najieb. “Life and protection of our youth today is paramount. We want to amplify their voices.”

Added Boozer, “We need to let the young people know that we have their backs.”

Tamrah Knutson, who is leading the youth committee for the ballot measure campaign, hopes that youth involvement in the effort will inspire and empower young people to create positive change moving forward.

“I hope this can serve as a vehicle for them to enter the political system hands-on, as they are at the front and center of this effort,” she said.

All involved hope that the campaign will serve as an example of what can be accomplished when people from different walks of life find common ground and work together to better the greater community.

“There is power in this being a faith-led movement. We take glory in our differences but we also honor the commonalities, one of which is a commitment to preserve life,” said Rabbi Cahana, noting that there are three different religions represented in the leadership of this campaign.

“Faith leaders have a higher calling that demands our attention, and now is the time to act,” he added.

As of last week, 3,443 signatures were delivered to the Secretary of State’s office to get the initiative’s title approved. Once it clears regulatory hurdles, the campaign can start collecting the required 88,184 signatures needed to make it to the ballot. All petitioners are volunteers.

Although gun control is a controversial issue, the advocates are confident that they will be met with support.

“This is a modest proposal that takes one step in trying to make our state safer,” said Liz McKanna, chair of the campaign’s legal advice committee. Added Tamrah Knutson, “We are for the Second Amendment. We are against weapons of war. We invite good faith gun owners to join us.”