As momentum builds to implement new limits on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, the Catholic bishops of the United States remain focused on seeking “reasonable restrictions” on gun ownership without infringing upon Second Amendment rights.
“The bishops continue to support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and continue to call for sensible regulations on handguns,” Kathy Saile, the bishops’ director of domestic social development, told Catholic News Service.
“In addition to that, we need to make a serious commitment to address the pervasive role that addiction and mental illness have in crime,” she said in the wake of the horrendous events of Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children, six educators and the heavily armed gunman who attacked the school dead.
Police identified the shooter as Adam Lanza, 20, who killed himself as first responders arrived on the scene. Before he arrived at the school, he shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza.
If gun control measures are introduced in the new Congress, the bishops will discuss whether a public statement is appropriate and how active to become involved in the legislative process, Saile added.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a Catholic, welcomed the Catholic Church’s involvement in the conversation on gun violence and possible restrictions on certain firearms.
The senator, a strong supporter of gun rights, told CNS Dec. 19 that the church could play a significant role in upcoming discussions that he hopes will involve not just Congress and the White House, but also mental health professionals, law enforcement officers and child advocates in determining the best path to protect society.
“These are the conversations I’m now willing to have. It’s something we should do now,” Manchin said.
“It you’re blaming it all on guns, then you’re blaming me as someone who’s used guns. You’re pushing me into a silent mode,” Manchin said.
“If it’s all about guns, guns and guns, then you’re accusing everybody who’s a law-abiding citizen, who might belong to the NRA, who has used guns responsibly. You put them in the same box (as someone using guns illegally). It’s a brush on all of them.”
UPDATE: The USCCB this afternoon released a statement from three committees. A snip:
With regard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one’s loved ones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, “The International Arms Trade (2006),” emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that “limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.”
Secondly, our entertainers, especially film producers and video game creators, need to realize how their profit motives have allowed the proliferation of movies, television programs, video games and other entertainment that glorify violence and prey on the insecurities and immaturity of our young people. Such portrayals of violence have desensitized all of us. The massacre of twenty little children and seven adults causes each of us to reflect on our own understanding of the value of human life. We must improve our resources for parents, guardians and young people, so that they can evaluate entertainment products intelligently. We need to admit that the viewing and use of these products has negative emotional, psychological and spiritual effects on people.
We must also reflect on our own fears as we grapple with our prejudices toward those with mental health needs. Our society must provide health services and support to those who have mental illnesses and to their families and caregivers. As a community we need to support one another so no one feels unable to get help for a mentally ill family member or neighbor in need. Burdensome healthcare policies must be adjusted so people can get help for themselves or others in need. Just as we properly reach out to those with physical challenges we need to approach mental health concerns with equal sensitivity. There is no shame in seeking help for oneself or others; the only shame is in refusing to provide care and support.
The events in Newtown call us to turn to our Lord in prayer and to witness more profoundly Christ’s perfect love, mercy and compassion. We must confront violence with love.