Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bishops take to Twitter to back 'March for Our Lives'

Bishops take to Twitter to back ‘March for Our Lives’
In this March 14, 2018, file photo, Abbey Kadlec, left, and her classmates stand on the stairs and sidewalk of Lewis and Clark High School to protest gun violence, part of a nationwide movement, in Spokane, Wash. (Credit: Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review via AP.)
NEW YORK - As thousands marched on Washington and around the country in support of tighter gun control policies, a number of Catholic bishops took to social media to offer support for those participating in the events.

At a Mass for Peace, Justice, and Healing in Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley praised the young people of Parkland, Florida - the most recent school massacre, where 17 students and teachers were killed in February, and which set off a new wave of public activism in protest of gun violence. There was a school shooting in Maryland last week as well.

“The extraordinary role of the students from Parkland in focusing the country on this critical social problem should be a sign of hope for all of us. The manner by which the students have presented their case has already impacted the tone of the debate about guns and violence,” said O’Malley.

“They have helped us to realize that these tragedies victimize people from all walks of life, from every class and ethnicity. We owe these students and those who will join them today our support and our gratitude,” he said.

O’Malley acknowledged that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution affirms the right for citizens to bear arms, but added that all rights are subject to regulation.

Throughout the day on Saturday, he took to Twitter to offer commentary on gun violence and used the official hash tag for the event, #MarchforOurLives.

Meanwhile, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island - who is a new adaptor to Twitter, having only joined last month - posted the following message: “It seems to me that private citizens shouldn’t be permitted to own assault rifles any more than then they can own chemical weapons of mass destruction. How about a little common sense in this public debate?”

Tobin identifies on his Twitter bio as “ardently pro-life,” and in 2013 publicly announced he had switched his party affiliation from the Democratic party to join the Republicans over the issue of abortion.

In San Antonio, Texas, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller also weighed in on the March for Our Lives events, writing on Twitter: “What is a common factor in all those horrible killings in our country? Guns, bombs, arms. Let’s listen to the wisdom of our young people in Washington, Florida, throughout the US. Let’s listen to those affected directly by these crimes. We’ve not been able to solve it. Let’s listen!”

Garcia-Siller has frequently used Twitter to call for greater action on guns, especially following the shooting at a Texas church in Sutherland Springs in November 2017, which left 26 people dead and 20 others injured.

Cardinal Blase Cupich - who recently started his own initiative to end gun violence in Chicago - met with high school students from his archdiocese who were traveling to Washington on Friday to participate in the March on Saturday to offer a special blessing. He also posted on Twitter on Saturday that “I want to assure all our young people that “I am with you” and all those marching in Chicago and around the nation today to #EndGunViolence.”

RELATED: Students join March for Our Lives against gun violence, in racial solidarity

Meanwhile, Bishop Bill Wack of the diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, and one of the nation’s youngest Catholic bishops, applauded the young people marching against gun violence, drawing a comparison to the annual March for Life against abortion.

“It’s good to see so many young people raising their voices against gun violence, just as it is inspiring to see them at the March For Life every year. We must be pro-life in all of life’s beautiful forms and stages. God, give us the gift of peace,” he wrote on Twitter.

Earlier this month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called on Congress to work together to find “concrete proposals” in response to the “crisis of gun violence.”
“We must explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help,” they wrote.

The U.S. bishops have long advocated for a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence that addresses mental illness without stigmatization, which they reiterated in their most recent statement.
They concluded their appeal by noting that in light of the Parkland massacre, it was time for action, instead of mere talk.

“In the words of St. John, ‘let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,’” they wrote.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

A day after March for Our Lives, Pope urges youth to speak out

Pope Francis blesses attendees and palm leaves during at St Peter's square on March 25, 2018

"Dear young people, you have it in you to shout," the Pope said in his Palm Sunday address at St. Peter's Square in Rome.
Pope Francis at the the end of Palm Sunday Mass in Vatican City

Palm Sunday -- celebrated on the Sunday before Easter -- is commemorated by Christians as the day Jesus entered Jerusalem in the week of his crucifixion, when palm leaves were strewn in his path. Noting that this Palm Sunday coincides with World Youth Day, the pontiff used the opportunity to compare youth to Jesus's followers, who were scorned by his detractors.

"It is up to you not to keep quiet," Pope Francis said. "Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders -- so often corrupt -- keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?"

A day earlier, survivors of the shooting massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school led protests around the country and even abroad in favor of stricter gun control laws.
That followed the National School Walkout in mid-March, when thousands of students protesting gun violence left their classrooms for 17 minutes -- one for each of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day.
In a message prepared in advance of World Youth Day, the Pope told young people: "Do not be afraid to face your fears honestly, to recognize them for what they are and to come to terms with them."

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Keep spirit of march going, Catholic college students urged

Keep spirit of march going, Catholic college students urged
A person reads information about gun violence during a panel discussion about gun policy analysis and citizen activism at Trinity Washington University March 23. The March for Our Lives protest against gun violence is scheduled for March 24 in the nation's capital. (Credit: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn.)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a standing-room-only lecture hall at Trinity Washington University March 23, a presenter asked for a show of hands for how many planned to attend the March for Our Lives the next day in Washington.


Most hands in the room went up and they also went up again for the next question: “How many know someone who died from gun violence?”


The hands weren’t raised quite as much for questions about how many in the room had done lobbying work, had written letters to the editor or called members of Congress about gun legislation. The presenters urged them to do so, that afternoon even, saying they should step up during this moment of heightened citizen activism.


“The march is great, but it doesn’t stop tomorrow; you have to keep marching,” said Vernon Scott, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Trinity Washington and moderator of a panel discussion on preventing gun violence - one of six presentations at the school’s teach-in on gun violence the day before the March for Our Lives.


Scott and the other panelists urged students to think about other things they could do to affect change with everything from voting, to addressing members of Congress or taking a stand on issues beyond just gun control.


One young woman in the audience said it’s hard to believe change can happen when you’ve seen so much firsthand. Her brother was shot and killed in 2004 and her husband was severely injured when he was shot two years ago. Her family won a lawsuit for her brother’s death, which wasn’t what they really wanted, and when her husband was shot, police questioned his lifestyle as if he had been to blame.


“I want to see a change,” she said after another woman in the audience said she saw someone get shot right in front of her. “Just like you’re in pain, I’m in pain too,” she said. “The reason we’re here”- talking about doing something to stop gun violence - “is because of your story. The more we push, the closer we’re going to get” to see things happen.


The overall sense from this panel was that change in gun laws and even treatment of mental illness was inevitable from the momentum that began with the Parkland, Florida, high school students who said, “Enough.” And history has shown that societal change, such as the civil rights movement, occurred because people stood up and fought for it.


“We’re at a tipping point,” said Sister Mary Johnson, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, and a professor of sociology and religious studies at Trinity.


She also urged students to be as involved as they could in this current moment addressing gun violence and said that no matter one’s religious beliefs, there is a role religion can play to bring about change. This crisis demands moral language, she said, where people speak up and say: “To take the life of another person is evil and can’t be allowed anymore.”

The panel discussion did not offer easy answers nor did the presenters indicate that change would be around the corner.

“This is lifelong work,” said one of the speakers, a Trinity graduate who works with the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

At the end of the hourlong session, Pat McGuire, president of Trinity, gave a mini pep talk of sorts to the students telling them never to be afraid or intimidated to call members of Congress.

“Their power comes from us; they work for us,” she said, encouraging students to “speak the truth to that power.”

Thursday, March 22, 2018

US Catholic sisters plan participation in March For Our Lives



Students at St. Mary's Dominican High School in New Orleans gather March 14 for 17 minutes to pray and remember the 17 students and faculty members killed in a Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida. Students carried signs with the names of those who died, and the Hail Mary was recited after each name was read. The school is run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. (Courtesy of the Dominican Sisters of Peace)

Thousands of people are expected to take part in the March For Our Lives event March 24 in Washington, D.C., and the more than 800 "sibling marches" planned worldwide. Hundreds of sisters will be among them.


The march is to demand that children be safe from gun violence in their schools.


"We have worked for years and years to support all sorts of efforts at much more comprehensive gun control at local and national levels and even internationally," said Eileen Harrington, a co-member of the Loretto Community and its mission activities coordinator. "But the problem of gun violence just continues to escalate."

Loretto sisters will participate in local marches, and Loretto volunteers will join the national march, she said.

And the community has another tool at its disposal: prayer.

"Several years ago, we really found ourselves at a loss for what else we could do beyond what we had been doing," Harrington said. "So we decided we needed to turn to prayer. We are, after all, a faith community."

At 9 a.m. on the first Monday of every month, the community — at the motherhouse, staff offices, Loretto-sponsored schools and everywhere Loretto community members live — stops and prays for an end to gun violence.

"Our community's mission is to work for justice and act for peace. Ending gun violence is one of our priority concerns," Harrington said in an email. "We remain resolute and hopeful that, as is the case with big change, something will shift in ways we could not predict or foresee, and we as a people will make progress. This is why we pray."



Students at St. Mary's Dominican High School in New Orleans March 14 (Courtesy of the Dominican Sisters of Peace)
In addition, the community's Franciscan Spirituality Center will host its annual Good Friday Justice and Peace Stations of the Cross, which this year will include a stop at a middle school to pray for racial harmony and an end to gun violence.

The Dominican Sisters of Peace encouraged their schools to take part in the events, including the March 14 school walkouts. The community's social justice team created a guide to help the schools plan and publicize their events and shared the guide with other Dominican congregations across the county, spokesperson Dee Holleran said in an email.

The students and staff at the congregation's Our Lady of the Elms Middle School and Upper School in Akron, Ohio, prayed March 14 for the 17 students and staff who lost their lives Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and were joined by sisters and associates in the Akron area.

A similar event was held at the St. Mary's Dominican High School in New Orleans, Holleran wrote, where 17 students carried handmade signs with the names of the victims, and a Hail Mary was recited after each name was read.

Dominican Sr. Barbara Kane, justice promoter for the community, said lawmakers need to work on behalf of citizens.

"We recognized in 2013 the importance of sensible gun safety legislation and concretized that belief with our Corporate Stance. Since that time close to 7,000 students have been killed in schools," Kane said in an email. "It's hard to understand why our legislators cannot pass legislation that would protect children and that the majority of Americans want enacted."

The Dominican Sisters in Committed Collaboration — which includes the Dominican congregations of Amityville, New York; Blauvelt, New York; Caldwell, New Jersey; Ossining, New York; Maryknoll, New York; and Sparkill, New York — will have sisters taking part in several marches and have rolled out a national postcard campaign calling on elected officials to enact gun control measures, Sr. Didi Madden wrote in an email.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Seattle will take part in the march there, but those in New Jersey who have a regional assembly scheduled for that date are showing their support by making a $500 donation to the march in Newark, New Jersey.

The Franciscan Sisters of Clinton, Iowa, will take part in their local march, and the Felician Sisters plan to take part in the local marches where they are located, too.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious issued a statement Feb. 23, calling the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Florida that left 17 dead and another 17 wounded "a horrible tragedy that has become all too familiar to students, teachers, and parents across the country."

The statement called for mandatory background checks and waiting periods for all gun purchases, banning civilian ownership of high-capacity weapons and magazines, and for gun trafficking to be a federal crime.

"Where is the outrage? Have we become immune to the horror? Why are elected officials unwilling to confront the epidemic of gun violence that is sweeping the nation? When will the killing stop?" the statement reads. "Prayers and condolences are not enough. The killing must stop. It is well past time that we enacted sensible gun violence prevention legislation. This is not about protecting the second amendment. It is about protecting the most precious resource we have, the gift of life."
The organization, which represents about 80 percent of the sisters in the United States, urged members to participate in the March 24 events in solidarity with the students of Parkland, who have called for an end to gun violence.

"We will walk with you as together we seek to put an end to violence and follow the path of peace," the statement said. "In this Lenten season as we recall the life Jesus, the Christ, let us pray for the grace to embrace his way of nonviolence and let us never doubt that the deep darkness of these days will be overcome by the radiant light of our lives and actions lived in love."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

St. Louis archbishop, a longtime hunter, supports gun control

This article appears in the Gun Violence feature series. View the full series.



St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson at an Interfaith Prayer Service for Peace and Solidarity at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis in September 2017 (CNS photo/Teak Phillips, St. Louis Review)

For years, the U.S. bishops have pushed for gun control, most recently in a statement in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. They have promoted a ban on assault weapons, limitations on the purchase of handguns, and safety measures, such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using guns without permission.

At least one prominent Catholic hunter agrees with them.
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson is among the few bishops who know what it's like to shoot a gun, with hunting experience dating back to the time he served as bishop for the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, diocese from 1995 to 2004.

"I agree with raising the age for purchasing firearms," he told NCR during a phone interview, describing one measure promoted by students in Parkland, who convinced the Florida legislature and governor to do that after the Feb. 14 killing of 17 students and teachers. Carlson also said there is no reason for anyone to own an assault weapon like the kind used in the recent Florida school shooting.



St. Louis has a serious violent crime problem, and last year recorded 205 murders in the city with a population of slightly more than 300,000. By contrast, New York, with a population of more than eight million, recorded fewer than 300 murders that year. Carlson has spoken out against the rash of street violence with other St. Louis religious leaders.

But hunting is a different issue entirely, he said, noting that those who hunt responsibly are not part of the spike in gun violence.
Ordained in his native St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, archdiocese in 1970, Carlson first began hunting soon after being named bishop of Sioux Falls. He came to St. Louis in 2009, after serving as bishop of Saginaw, Michigan.

While hunting, he uses a 20-gauge shotgun, which fires shells to kill pheasants, not regular bullets. Each year while bishop of Sioux Falls, he participated in a charity fundraising hunting trip with diocesan priests in South Dakota. Since coming to the more urban St. Louis area, he has hunted only twice in 10 years. The pheasant are not so plentiful in Missouri, he said.

Serious hunters have a credo that, Carlson said, he tries to follow: "You never hunt for anything you are not willing to eat." Carlson will give away his excess meat to convents. He said the best part of hunting is to watch the work of the trained dogs.

Besides gun control measures, the scourge of violence needs to be combatted by preventing violence in families, and, reiterating a favorite phrase of bishops, Carlson said that the dignity of each human person needs to be respected. In response, he has spoken in favor of extending citizenship rights to Dreamer students, the children of immigrants born in this country, and recently urged his priests to speak against racism on the first Sunday of Lent this year.
"All has to be part of the national debate," he told NCR. "We have to listen to one another and not just be thinking about what we are going to say next."

[Peter Feuerherd is a correspondent for NCR's Field Hospital series on parish life and is a professor of journalism at St. John's University, New York.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

200 Catholic schools to participate in anti-gun protest

Chicago students planning to join national walkout on gun safety

Chicago

On. Feb. 14, 2018, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. | Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, file photo

Students all over Chicago and in many of its suburbs will walk out of class Wednesday, adding their voices to a national effort aimed at halting shootings in schools.


Kids and their teachers throughout Chicago Public Schools plan to step outside mid-morning for 17 minutes — one minute for each of the people gunned down inside a Parkland, Florida, high school last month. Student activism following that deadly shooting spree by a former student with a semi-automatic long rifle has sparked a national conversation about gun control.

The walkouts appear to have CPS’ tacit approval. Though CPS principals aren’t supposed to be involved, class schedules at some high schools are being moved around to accommodate the walkouts. District officials distributed a resource guide for teachers, and at the last Board of Education meeting, CEO Janice Jackson referred to this “crucial moment in our country,” saying, “I want to make sure our students have an opportunity to express themselves and engage thoughtfully in this national dialogue… Educators and students will decide what’s right for their school community, and as a district we are committed to supporting them.”

Some 200 Catholic schools in Cook and Lake counties also will participate in peace-building activities — with 80,000 students assembling in prayer, staging discussions and making signs promoting peace that they’ll hang around schools and parish properties, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“With the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida and the daily violence we experience in our city, we believe this is a time to come together and work as a community of Catholic schools to help achieve a lasting peace,” a spokeswoman said.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Bob Brehl: Hope arises in U.S. gun laws debate

Almost every day there are articles in these Catholic periodicals hitting their followers over the head with anti-gun propaganda. The enemy of freedom is the Catholic cult! Always has been. Over 20 years I've studied this issue. World-wide, from their inception, they HATE freedoms of the people. They HATE constitutional Republics. They will have it the Pope's way, only! "The ends justifies the means" they say... So you can believe that many, maybe ALL of these mass shootings are false flags to try and convince Americans that guns are bad! Everyone needs to study these things are expose them the best you can. Commenting on articles helps. Whatever you can do... Article:

"Bob Brehl: Hope arises in U.S. gun laws debate"

  • March 8, 2018-   Article  SOURCE
Nothing changed after 20 very young children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., five years ago.
When the senseless deaths of 17 six-year-olds and three seven-year-olds (and six educators trying to protect them) couldn’t bring sanity to the U.S. gun laws debate, it looked like absolutely nothing would.

That shooting occurred Dec. 14, 2012 and even during the Christmas season no laws were passed to increase the age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons to the same age as buying a beer. A person deemed a terrorist threat and placed on the “no fly” list can still go buy weapons of mass domestic destruction. Federal law still does not require background checks for “private transactions,” like sales at gun shows.

Lawmakers couldn’t agree on any positive changes. As they always do, politicians — especially those funded by the National Rifle Association (NRA) — simply call for prayer and say the Second Amendment must be upheld, even if some solutions have nothing at all to do with the right to bear arms.

But today, on the heels of the Valentine’s massacre of 17 Florida high school students, there are real, tangible signs of hope.

So, what makes the Parkland shooting different? After all, since Sandy Hook there have been more than 1,500 mass shootings in the U.S.

There now appears to be three main catalysts for change, with the age of the victims being the most important. The other two would be the power of the buck and the ego of the President.

Sensing a swing in public opinion, giant retailers like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have announced they will sell guns and ammunition only to those 21 years of age or older.

Wall Street is also applying pressure. BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, announced it will offer clients the ability to opt out of investing in gun manufacturers. Others in the financial sector like Blackstone, State Street and Bank of America have announced they’re re-examining their relationships with gunmakers, too.

More than two dozen companies, including Delta, United Airlines, MetLife and Hertz, have stopped offering special discounts to NRA members.

Then there’s President Donald Trump. He has already said he will issue an executive order to ban bump stocks, devices that turn semi-automatic rifles into machine guns.


He also held an hour-long session with members of Congress at the White House and invited TV cameras. And he embraced a series of gun-control measures that his Republican party has long rejected. Theatrics or not, his comments offer hope.

At one point, he chastised politicians for being “too afraid” of the NRA, which contributed several million dollars to his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump boasted that the NRA is on board with some gun control measures.

While the NRA might hold sway over some lawmakers, Trump said, it has less power over him.

Trump’s ego is enormous and a case can be made that if he can slay the mass shootings menace in the U.S., it could be his historical legacy, like civil rights for Lyndon Johnson and winning the Cold War for Ronald Reagan.

In the last 50 years, more Americans have died on home soil from domestic guns than all Americans have died in all the wars the country has fought. Regardless of his motivation, Trump appears to be moving to the right side of the debate.

And the final catalyst for change — the age of the victims, or more precisely the age of the survivors.
The ages of children at Sandy Hook was heart-wrenching and dumbfounding. But parents had to carry the fight and be the victims’ voices to prevent them dying in vain.

Surviving six- and seven-year-olds couldn’t do it. Think about it. The children who survived Sandy Hook are right now five years younger than those who survived in Florida.

Teenagers can organize marches, boycotts and social media campaigns. They can demand change, which they are doing now. They are telling politicians that their thoughts and prayers are not enough, that it’s time for action.


They’ve been attacked as “crisis actors” by the gun lobby, and I hope these young people continue to be underestimated by those folks.

During the early 1960s civil rights movement, children in Alabama defied parents, teachers and even police to march against segregation. They had fire hoses turned on them for goodness sake. And their crusade helped to change history.

And today’s teen crusade is picking up momentum. A national Quinnipiac University poll found that 97 per cent of Americans support universal background checks for firearms purchasers. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents favour banning assault weapons.

Some of these high school students will be voting this November in mid-term elections and all of them will be old enough to vote in 2020. So much can be done without impacting the Second Amendment and these teenagers are not going to give up without meaningful change.

That’s why common sense is returning to the gun debate and hope is the highest in years.

(Brehl is a writer and author of several books.)



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Bishops call for ‘common-sense gun measures’ after Florida school shooting

Demonstrators from Teens for Gun Reform, an organization of students in the Washington DC area created in the wake of February's school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Credit: Lorie Shaull/CNA
Demonstrators from Teens for Gun Reform, an organization of students in the Washington DC area created in the wake of February's school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Credit: Lorie Shaull/CNA

.- In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 people, two US bishops have issued a joint statement calling for “common-sense gun measures” and dialogue about specific proposals that will reduce gun violence and ensure school safety.

"Once again, we are confronted with grave evil, the murder of our dear children and those who teach them. Our prayers continue for those who have died, and those suffering with injuries and unimaginable grief. We also continue our decades-long advocacy for common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life,” the statement said.

The statement was issued by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice, and  Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education.

The bishops said the idea of arming teachers “seems to raise more concerns than it addresses.” Rather, the bishops said “concepts that appear to offer more promise” would include “an appropriate minimum age for gun ownership,” universal background checks, and the banning of certain gun accessories, such bump stocks.

Previously, the USCCB has voiced support for several gun control measures, among them a ban on assault weapons, limits to high-capacity magazines, additional penalties for gun trafficking, as well as restrictions on who can purchase handguns. The USCCB is also in favor of child safety locks that prevent children from using guns.

The bishops also noted that violent images “inundate our youth.”

“We must explore ways to curb” these images, they said.

The bishops also pointed out that while the vast majority of people with mental health conditions are not violent, mental illness has played a role in many mass shootings. “We must look to increase resources and seek earlier interventions,” they said.

The Parkland shooter’s lawyers say that he has mental illness and “brain development issues.”
Since the shooting in Parkland, some Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have become public advocates for increased gun control measures. The USCCB praised these students, saying that “the voices of these advocates should ring in our ears as they describe the peaceful future to which they aspire.”

US bishops back assault weapons ban, are leery of arming teachers

This article appears in the Gun Violence feature series. View the full series.

20180215T1522-14670-CNS-BISHOPS-GUN-VIOLENCE-EXPERIENCE

A salesman clears the chamber of an AR-15 in 2016 at a gun store in Provo, Utah (CNS/Reuters/George Frey)
A salesman clears the chamber of an AR-15 in 2016 at a gun store in Provo, Utah (CNS/Reuters/George Frey)
The U.S. bishops' conference entered its voice Monday into the nation's latest gun reform debate, renewing past support for gun control measures like an assault weapons ban and universal background checks while expressing concern with the idea of arming teachers as a deterrent of future shootings.
"Once again, we are confronted with grave evil, the murder of our dear children and those who teach them," said Bishop Frank Dewane and Bishop George Murry, chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and on Catholic Education, respectively, in a statement referencing the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The two committee chairmen offered prayers for those who died and "those suffering with injuries and unimaginable grief," while also reasserting the bishops' "decades-long advocacy for common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life."

"This moment calls for an honest and practical dialogue around a series of concrete proposals — not partisanship and overheated rhetoric," said Dewane, bishop of Venice, Florida, and Murry, bishop of Youngstown, Ohio.

In that vein, they reasserted the Catholic bishops long-held support for a federal ban on assault weapons, and limiting access to certain handguns and to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines.

The bishops also pushed against the idea of placing armed, trained teachers or other professionals into schools as a means to deter a shooter — a concept that President Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas massacre.

"The idea of arming teachers seems to raise more concerns than it addresses," the bishops said.
Instead, they said "concepts that appear to offer more promise" include requiring universal background checks, banning "bump stocks" and "setting a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership."

Legislation addressing bump stocks and background checks has been introduced in Congress, though no bill has gained much momentum. A bill introduced earlier Monday by a bipartisan group of eight senators, including both senators from Florida, would require federal agencies to report to state law enforcement within 24 hours individuals who try to buy a gun but fail a background check. A previous version of the bill was proposed in the House of Representatives in January 2016.
The bishops also called for increased safety measures for storing guns and more steps to criminalize gun trafficking. They stressed that while most people with a mental illness rarely commit violent acts, there is a need to increase mental health resources as well as implement earlier intervention strategies.

"We must explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help," the committee chairmen said.
The statement from the U.S. bishops' conference joins multiple other calls from Catholics in the 19 days since the Valentine's Day mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas, where a former student armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle killed 14 students and three school officials.
But it's been Stoneman Douglas students, as well as other teens, including from Catholic schools, who have taken on a central role in the national discussion on how to prevent future mass shootings and curb gun violence in America.

Over the weekend, students from St. Sabina Academy in Chicago — a city that has faced its own issues with gun-related homicides — met in Florida with Stoneman Douglas students to discuss ideas to address gun violence.

In an effort to keep the gun debate from dissipating, as it has following past mass shootings, the students have planned a "March for Our Lives" in Washington, D.C., and other cities nationwide on March 24. School walkouts have also been planned for March 14 and April 20, the latter the anniversary of the 1999 school shooting that killed 13 students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
"The advocacy by survivors of the Parkland shooting — and young people throughout our nation — is a stark reminder that guns pose an enormous danger to the innocent when they fall into the wrong hands," the bishops said in their statement. "The voices of these advocates should ring in our ears as they describe the peaceful future to which they aspire."

"We must always remember what is at stake as we take actions to safeguard our communities and honor human life," they said. "In the words of St. John, 'let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.'"

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is broewe@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]

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