Three steps to curbing gun violence in America
While the church continues to buzz about Pope Benedict XVI stepping down, here in Washington, D.C. the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are continuing to host their annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. Today’s sessions focused on domestic issues, including some of the hot topics that have dominated the American political discourse of late: economic policies, poverty, health care, and perhaps the most talked about issue in recent months, gun violence.
The standing room only crowd at the workshop session on addressing gun violence in the United States was evidence of just how much this issue has captured people’s attention. USCCB policy advisor Anthony Granado helped to explain church teaching on the issue and spelled out the bishops’ position on reducing violence and promoting peace. Lucreda Cobbs of Catholic Charities USA was also on hand to discuss the work of Catholic Charities offices around the country in helping to end violence.
But perhaps the highlight was a presentation by Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence. DeMarco’s Faiths United initiative has gained the support of more than 40 faith leaders, including representatives of the U.S. bishops conference, several religious orders, and national organizations like Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association.
DeMarco laid out three basic policy objectives for reducing gun violence: universal background checks, a ban on certain types of assault weapons and high ammunition magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal offense. Clearly some of these will be more controversial than others, and none is a panacea that will guarantee there will be no more tragedies like the one in Newtown. But DeMarco argues that gun regulation laws work, and these steps would help to prevent some guns from getting into the hands of people who will use them to take the lives of innocent victims.
Another thing these laws won’t do is make it illegal for any American to buy or own guns. No current gun owner would be forced to turn over their weapons. No responsible, law-abiding citizen would be denied the opportunity to buy a gun if they pass the background check. No one will be unable to defend themselves if their house is broken into because they don’t have a semiautomatic weapon that shoots 30 rounds. But someone’s children may live long, healthy lives and not die a senseless death.
As one of the workshop attendees pointed out, it is crucial that we as a church begin to see gun violence as a pro-life issue. It isn’t a matter of taking away anyone’s rights or freedoms. It is about protecting rights—namely the right to life. It is good to see that the U.S. bishops and many other faith leaders understand that, and now it will be a matter of getting the rest of the church on board.
Flickr photo cc by Gregory Wild-Smith