A group called “Arkansan Pastors for Gun Sense” is partnering with law enforcement agencies around the state to reach out to families of victims of gun violence by delivering toys and Christmas hams Saturday. In addition to supporting victims, the group has been pushing for legislation to strengthen background checks and other gun trafficking laws.
Pastor Jarvis Smith of Second Baptist Church in Helena is a part of the group. He says gun violence often occurs disproportionately in African-American communities. And Smith says, the violence can significantly weaken an area’s economic prospects as businesses and wealthier residents decide to move away.
“When all of the businesses and the tax base of a place dwindle, then the people who are left there—they’re in survival mode,” says Smith. “So, even though the crime rate was what it was before the businesses left and the tax base dwindled, now you have second and third and fourth generation criminals because they’re saying ‘that’s my only option.”
Smith says Arkansan Pastors for Gun Sense regularly contacts congressional leaders to urge passage of legislation, including Arkansas Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman.
Smith, who says gun violence has a tremendous economic and social effect on communities, emphasizes that the measures his group supports are about protecting people but not taking rights away from law-abiding gun owners.
“We want people to know we’re not talking about changing or adjusting the Second Amendment. We believe firmly in the Second Amendment. We’re talking about accountability for gun ownership and who’s qualified to own a gun and who’s qualified to use a gun,” says Smith.
The group has 96 members and plans collaborate with many local law enforcement agencies in presenting around 100 hams and toys to families of gun victims around the state.