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Justice Perspective

The urgent call for Catholics to address gun violence – again!

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On Monday, May 23, I attended “Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled,” the interfaith prayer service remembering and grieving for the 10 Black sisters and brothers who were slain by a young racist using an assault-style weapon. Then just a few days ago 19 children and two teachers were gunned down by a young man using an assault-style weapon. The two attacks are not outliers. Mass shootings happen in the U.S. with depressing regularity.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher speaks at “Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled” interfaith prayer service, following the East Side mass shooting. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

The truth is that unless there are high-profile events like those two, gun violence and mass shootings have become so much a part of our culture that they almost don’t even make headlines anymore. In the U.S. this year there have been over 215 mass shootings, and this is only the 145th day of the year.

In the wake of this increase in gun violence, there are groups that are working to help victims and their families with counseling and support. Many organizations have gathered food to deliver to those who can no longer shop at Tops on the East Side. There is an outpouring of “thoughts and prayers” for the families who lost children in Uvalde, Texas. But there still does not seem to be enough effort at the root of the problem: the preponderance and easy availability of guns.

This level of gun violence does not appear in other developed countries – and the one factor that sets the U.S. apart is the number of guns and the lack of any regulation or registration. Current estimates are that there are over 400 million guns in the U.S. – more than two times as many per person as any other country. And only one-quarter of one percent of those guns are registered.

It is perplexing to see that there is no organized effort on the part of Catholics to oppose the continued deaths and assaults on human dignity that guns have perpetrated on our country and our diocese. There is no Catholic parish that has an organized effort to advocate for gun control, and it is rare to hear any priest or deacon preach about gun control or the scourge of guns in our society.

Our U.S. bishops have repeatedly – at least since 1975 – called for reasonable regulations and controls for guns, especially handguns, and for a ban on assault weapons. Just a few years ago, after another tragic shooting, the bishops sent testimony to Congress to push for better gun controls with a specific goal to build a culture of life and confront the culture of violence. Congress took no action for tighter controls.

After another mass shooting two years ago, the bishops said that these shootings “are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face.” We need action and advocacy from the parish level to push Congress for much tighter gun regulations, banning of assault weapons, and serious reduction in the number of guns in our society.

As I was driving past our parish school yesterday, I was reminded of Martin Luther King’s comment about the parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite, King wondered, “If I help that man in the road, what will happen to me?” The Good Samaritan, on the other hand, thought, “If I don’t help that man in the road, what will happen to him?” I watched those kids leaving school and I wondered, “If we don’t do something to control guns, what will happen to them?”

Deacon Don Weigel can be contacted at deacondon@gmail.com.

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