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NC Church Billboard: Second Commandment vs. Second Amendment?

The billboard placed on I-85/I-40 near Mebane will be up for a month, and its sponsors say it has already been the subject of intense attention. (NC Council of Churches)
The billboard placed on I-85/I-40 near Mebane will be up for a month, and its sponsors say it has already been the subject of intense attention. (NC Council of Churches)
April 13, 2018

MEBANE, N.C. – Days before it was even up on I-85 and I-40, a billboard sponsored by the North Carolina Council of Churches began receiving national attention. The coalition of 18 denominations commissioned the billboard displaying the Second Commandment – "You shall not make for yourself an idol" – with an image of guns and bullets.

The intention, says executive director Jennifer Copeland, is to remind people that for some, guns have become a symbol of safety – or what some in the religious community might see as idolatry. She says the reaction is intense.

"We know that we have struck a chord out there and, at the end of the day, that's what you want, right? To generate some discussion about a difficult issue. The thing that has surprised us is some of the raw hatred that has come through," says Copeland.

The billboard will be up for a month and Copeland says the intention is to start a discussion and remind people that, in her group's view, the debate over gun laws should be focused on gun safety. Opponents of stricter gun regulations argue they could impede their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves and their family.

Moms Demand Action and North Carolinians Against Gun Violence are among the civic groups pushing for background checks and proper gun storage inside homes and businesses.

Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, says she feels the country is at a crossroads, and the billboard highlights that.

"It's important when we're looking at this moment, that there is renewed attention around this issue, which is fantastic, because every single one of us should be concerned about gun violence – for the safety of ourselves, and our families, and our communities," says Ceartas.

Copeland notes it's important to remember gun-safety groups are not trying to violate Second Amendment rights.

"Nobody is trying to take away guns from law-abiding citizens. The objective is to have good gun laws that help keep people safe. If you believe you can defend yourself with a firearm, and you have the legal right to carry that firearm, more power to you," says Copeland.

Copeland adds that communities could also become safer by feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and visiting those who are in jail or prison. But she says, "That's a message for another billboard."

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC