Pastor calls for ‘serious’ gun control

Wendell Griffen says states should use the regulatory system already in place for motor vehicles as a model for gun control.

By Bob Allen

A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship pastor and activist judge is asking the state of Arkansas to limit gun ownership in the same way it regulates motor vehicles, including licensure and required insurance.

Wendell Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock and a judge in the Arkansas 6th Circuit Court, recently outlined his proposal in an article titled “Serious Gun Control” circulated to fellow Arkansans and on the Internet.

griffenGriffen, a former judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals and founding pastor of the three-year-old congregation dually aligned with the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and the Atlanta-based CBF, said the tragic Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was not an aberration. Except for the number and ages of the victims, he said, such gun-related violence is “sadly commonplace in the United States.”

Griffen called on lawmakers to introduce and support legislation during the upcoming session of the Arkansas General Assembly that constitutes “real gun control modeled on the current regulatory system in place for motor vehicles.”

That would include requiring that all firearms be registered with state authorities who must share registration data with the federal government. “We already have such a registration requirement for motor vehicles,” he said. “We need to impose a similar requirement on firearms.”

Griffen said the state should also require licensing and thorough evaluation before people can own firearms, strengthen penalties for violating the law as a gun owner, ban private ownership of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, impose higher insurance rates on gun owners and require liability insurance for every gun.

Griffen said such measures won't eliminate gun violence any more than traffic laws can eliminate highway fatalities and injuries caused by reckless, inattentive, negligent or incompetent driving. “However, these measures can go a long way toward reducing gun violence and protecting society from the proliferation of barely regulated firearms,” he said.

Griffen said it is time for religious leaders to speak out on the problem of death and injury associated with firearms. “We've been timid far too long,” he said. “It's time to stand up to the forces of intolerance, fear, hate, greed and the idolatry of violence.”

The first African-American partner in a major Arkansas law firm before becoming a judge, Griffen has long been known for advocacy of social-justice issues such as prison reform. He was a featured speaker at the New Baptist Covenant II simulcast from Atlanta in 2011 and at last year’s [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant co-sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Mercer University.

He is a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas Coordinating Council and was appointed last year to a nine-member search committee to find a replacement for CBF national Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal, who retired last summer.