Religious group's billboard takes aim at guns, says they aren't 'the solution to our safety'

NC religious group puts up billboard
Published: Apr. 9, 2018 at 3:18 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 9, 2018 at 7:08 PM EDT
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The billboard was put up Monday and will stay up for four weeks. (Courtesy: North Carolina...
The billboard was put up Monday and will stay up for four weeks. (Courtesy: North Carolina Council of Churches)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A North Carolina-based religious group is taking their message about guns to the streets with a billboard with their "crucial message" about guns and your safety.

The North Carolina Council of Churches has put up a billboard along interstates 85 and 40 in the Burlington area and taking aim at gun violence.

The billboard, which was put up Monday, reads "You shall not make for yourself an idol," quoting the 2nd Commandment from the Bible. The message sits beside a photo of different types of guns on a bed of bullets.

As the owner of Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, Larry Hyatt is very familiar and fond of firearms, but he says he doesn't idolize them.

"If you're going to walk down the valley of the shadow of death, I'm going to want my 9mm with me," says Larry Hyatt owner of Hyatt Guns.

But the council of churches group believes there's a great deal of gun owners who are idolizing the firearms which inspired the billboard and Christian message.

"For many of us, guns have become the symbol of safety, the idol we turn to because we 'believe in them' to keep us safe," officials with the North Carolina Council of Churches told WBTV. "God commands the people not to have any idols. Idols can assume a lot of guises in our world that we don't immediately understand as idolatry."

For Hyatt there's more to gun violence than just guns, he says crime plays a major role when it comes to gun purchases.

"It's more complex than what we can put on a billboard," Hyatt says. "Protection sales will drop if people feel safe."

The council says the billboard is expected to stay up for the next four weeks and is the first in a series of messages planned over the coming months. They plan to erect a new billboard in a different part of the state throughout the summer "reminding people there is a different way of framing the conversation," officials told WBTV.

"Nearly 70% of the people who carry a gun claim they do so for safety, while the statistics clearly show guns make us less safe. This makes guns a false idol," council officials said. "To this end, the Council is trying to reframe some of the contentious issues in the public discourse by reminding people of faith of the guiding principles found in our scriptures and our creeds."

"As people of faith, we should always guard against those things that become more important to us than the God who calls us to abundant life. How much more so, should we call out the idols that hold out false promises," they continued.

Officials say no one in the gun violence prevention collaborative wants to repeal the 2nd Amendment and many gun rights advocates support laws that include reasonable restrictions.

Hyatt who is a man of faith himself says he has an open mind to where the churches stand on the issue, but doesn't feel like getting rid of guns as a form of protection is a reasonable solution.

"David used a sling on Goliath, he didn't use his bare hands and Sampson used the jawbone of an ass so I don't think its against the bible to defend yourself," Hyatt added.

"The argument that criminals can always get a gun may be true, but we should make it very hard and very expensive for them to do so. Good gun laws will never prevent good gun owners from having their weapons," officials said. "In short, we must confess guns are not the solution to our safety. Our communities could become safer by feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned. That could be a message for our next billboard."

WBTV has reached out to the NRA for a comment on the billboard.

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