On the same day that the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3009, the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, there was yet another mass shooting in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. As I write this, we know that two people have been killed and nine wounded in this terrifying event. But in spite of such continuing horror that seems to have become the new normal, I can already anticipate the response Congress will make to this latest tragedy of gun violence – silence. 

It took the House just over three weeks to respond to the tragic shooting of Kathryn Steinle by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco, California. Their response was to pass legislation that will cut federal funds for community safety programs in states and cities where police are not forced to serve as immigration enforcement agents. In just three weeks, the House determined that the best way to stop shootings and keep the public safe is to force local police to begin to violate the hard-won trust they have built with immigrant communities. In doing so, this House-enacted legislation will cause more crimes to go unreported, making not just immigrants unsafe, but all who live in communities with or near them. 


In contrast to the quick action of the House in response to the tragic shooting of Ms. Steinle, it has been two years and seven months since the gun massacre of 26 people, 20 of them children, in Newtown, Connecticut. It has been almost exactly three years since the shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado where 12 were killed and 70 people injured. And it will be three years on August 5 since the killing of 6 people and wounding of 4 in a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Despite these horrific, tragic events, Congress has done absolutely nothing to prevent gun shootings from happening again and again. 

There are life-saving measures the House could have passed on Thursday. These include universal background checks on all gun purchases and a ban on extended round ammunition clips. Such measures would greatly enhance public safety; yet, the House instead opted to pass a law that erodes trust in local law enforcement and could increase the number of unreported crimes. 

It is time for us to be honest. The House of Representatives is simply not interested in public safety. If Congress is truly interested in public safety, why have they sat idly when dozens of people are massacred by guns each month, only to act rashly and without wisdom within three weeks when tragically, a woman was shot by an undocumented immigrant? Could it be that a higher priority for the House than keeping the public safe is demonizing immigrants and scoring cheap political points? Sadly, I believe their actions show this to be true. 

Many in Congress mime the oft-mentioned talking point that guns do not kill people. If guns do not in fact kill people, then exactly how do sanctuary cities? When all individuals can report potential danger and seek protection from violence without the fear of being deported and separated from their families, police can best protect the communities they serve. Sanctuary cities foster peace and security for all residents and in no way provide a safe haven for those who seek to inflict harm and violence. The truth is that local governments across the country – more than 320 jurisdictions – have adopted policies that end or limit their collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in an effort to see that all individuals feel safe to report crime. 

Although I have hope that the Senate will wisely choose to not even debate H.R. 3009 and instead discuss ways in which to truly establish public safety by keeping guns out of the hands of people that seek to perpetrate violence, I am afraid today is yet another sad day for the United States. It is sad when those who boast to be protectors of the public safety and the general welfare care for neither, and instead use their positions to penalize local communities and demonize entire groups of people. 

In working with United Methodists and other people of faith, I often hear my sisters and brothers pray for God to act when these mass shootings repeatedly occur. I hear them pray for protection of the vulnerable and for genuine peace and safety for all people. I join in that prayer because I believe God is able to do those things. I also pray because Congress has shown itself completely unwilling to do either. 

Mefford is the director of Civil and Human Rights for the General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church.