Bishop says tighter gun laws will help build culture of life

Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2013 / 02:04 am (CNA).- Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., has urged legislators to support laws that build “a culture of life” by placing more stringent guidelines around gun ownership and use.

“Sadly, gun violence is too common a reality,” Bishop Blaire, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wrote to the U.S. senate on behalf of his group.

The “violence that occurs daily in our homes and communities,” the bishop added, “should lead us to answer the call of Pope Francis to 'change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.'”

In his letter, the bishop referenced measures included in Senate bill S. 649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, commending many of its requirements a “positive step in the right direction.”

Bishop Blaire hoped that the bill will provide Congress with “a foundation to continue to address the issue of gun violence in society.”

The bishop also said that these regulations could help support a culture of life “by promoting policies that reduce gun violence and save people’s lives in homes and communities throughout our nation.”

Among the provisions included in the bill are strictures against gun trafficking, including “effective and enforceable universal background checks for all gun purchases.”

He also asked Congress to limit “civilian access to high-capacity ammunition magazines” and to institute a ban on assault weapons.

In his letter, Bishop Blaire also referenced a 2000 pastoral statement by the U.S. Bishops on Crime and Criminal Justice.

“We support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children or anyone other than the owner), and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns,” Bishop Blaire wrote, quoting the document.

The bishop also asked the Senate to “resist amendments that would expand the use of minimum mandatory sentences as punishment for gun violations,” noting that increased incarceration rates can be partially attributed to “the pervasive use of minimum mandatory sentencing.”

“One-size-fits-all policies are counterproductive, inadequate and replace judges’ assessments with rigid formulations,” he added. “Punishment for its own sake is never justified.”

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