The spiritual leader of the world's 80 million-strong Anglican Communion threw his support behind stricter gun laws in the U.S. on Saturday, saying the easy availability of powerful weapons drew vulnerable people toward violence.
Rowan Williams, who is stepping down from his role as the archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year, referred to the recent massacre of 26 children and staff at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Williams said it was hard to get into the spirit of Christmas given the "lives cut so brutally short and of the unimaginable loss and trauma suffered by parents." He made the comments on BBC radio program "Thought for the Day," a slot devoted to religious perspectives on life and current affairs.
Williams acknowledged that gun control was a sensitive issue in the U.S., but said the firepower that weapons manufacturers were putting at Americans' disposal made such massacres more likely.
"People use guns but, in a sense, guns use people too," he said. "When we have the technology for violence easily to hand, our choices are skewed and we are more vulnerable to being manipulated into violent action."
Britain has far stricter controls on firearms and far lower levels of gun crime than the U.S. - so much so that few British police officers carry guns and one of the country's biggest crime-prevention priorities involves keeping teenagers from carrying knives. Authorities in England and Wales generally record between three and five dozen gun homicides a year; in the U.S., comparable figures range between 10,000 and 11,000.
The Episcopal Church, a member of the global Anglican Communion, has around 2 million baptized members in the U.S.