Faith congregations across South Carolina stand up to gun violence

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Faith congregations across South Carolina are standing up to gun violence. 

South Carolina has the fifth highest rate of gun deaths. On Stand Up Sunday faith leaders are remembering gun violence victims and pushing for gun reform.

Mount Zion AME Church honored and celebrated the lives of gun violence victims in our area by writing their names on hundreds of white crosses displayed at the church.

Dr. Kylon Middleton is the pastor of the Church. It's the daughter church of Mother Emanuel AME.

"So this enables us to at least help shoulder the cross that these families are bearing, they carry this with them every single day," Middleton said.

Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting survivor Polly Sheppard attends Mount Zion. She along with other are pushing for gun legislation reform along with about a thousand other churches across South Carolina on Stand Up Sunday. 

"We have to turn their stories their tragic stories into an opportunity for us to move at least our society forward on this issue," Middleton said.

Middleton was best friends with the pastor of Senator Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney was the pastor of the Mother Emanuel, and he killed in the church shooting along with eight others in the church. 

During Sunday services, faith leaders gathered support through signed letters asking our state representatives and senators for completed background checks on all gun sales including online and at gun shows. 

Pastor of Circular Congregational Church Jeremy Rutledge says it's not about taking away guns, but making sure purchases are gr anted responsibly.He said his church had several pages of signatures with people in support of closing gun sale loopholes and making the community safer.

"It became very clear after our friends were killed just down the street, everyone knew someone at Mother Emanuel or knew someone who knew someone," Rutledge said.

After the shooting Meghan Alexander formed Arm In Arm, formerly known as Gun Sense SC,  a grassroots organization behind not only Stand-Up-Sunday but a group working towards finding solutions to gun violence. This is year marks the second annual Stand Up Sunday.

"So many of us felt like our community was so wounded and we had to do something," Alexander said.

Arm In Arm reports that 84 percent of South Carolinians want background checks on all gun sales according to a 2015 Winthrop Poll. 

"We are joining with hundreds and hundreds of others, black and white, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, Republicans,Democrats, Independents, it's so important to find these things that do bring us together," Rutledge said.

Polly Sheppard is hopeful South Carolina's new governor will help bring about changes.

"We can tell him thank you in advance that we know he's going to do something for us," Sheppard said.

Arm in Arms supports the right to own a gun. The group is made up of of faith leaders, gun owners, teachers, heath care professionals and volunteers who are working to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Rev. Middleton is the new chair of the organization. 

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