The U.S. Catholic Bishops have maintained a consistent position on the need for policies that can reduced gun violence in the United States. The problem with bishops’ statements is that they rarely get reported outside a rarified Catholic media that most Catholics don’t even know exists. Here’s their most recent statement, found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website, from last November after the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs massacres:
For many years, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been urging our leaders to explore and adopt reasonable policies to help curb gun violence. The recent and shocking events in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs remind us of how much damage can be caused when weapons—particularly weapons designed to inflict extreme levels of bloodshed—too easily find their way into the hands of those who would wish to use them to harm others.
Violence in our society will not be solved by a single piece of legislation, and many factors contribute to what we see going on all around us. Even so, our leaders must engage in a real debate about needed measures to save lives and make our communities safer. The USCCB continues to urge a total ban on assault weapons, which we supported when the ban passed in 1994 and when Congress failed to renew it in 2004.
In addition, the bishops have supported:
Measures that control the sale and use of firearms, such as universal background checks for all gun purchases;
Limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines;
A federal law to criminalize gun trafficking;
Improved access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence;
Regulations and limitations on the purchasing of handguns; and
Measures that make guns safer, such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using the gun without permission and supervision.
While acknowledging the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and related jurisprudence, we live in a fallen world with daily advances in modern technology. Some weapons are increasingly capable of easily causing mass murder when used with an evil purpose. Society must recognize that the common good requires reasonable steps to limit access to such firearms by those who would intend to use them in that way.
Back in 2014, responding to the Newtown and San Bernardino massacres, the US Bishops issued a “Backgrounder on a Mercy and Peacebuilding Approach to Gun Violence” in which similar action steps were outlined:
The USCCB will remain engaged in the public debate on gun violence prevention. We call on Catholics and all people of good will to urge their Senators and Representative to support policy and legislative measures that:
a) promote mercy and peacebuilding in our communities by implementing reasonable regulations on firearms such as:
Require universal background checks for all gun purchases;
Limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines;
Make gun trafficking a federal crime, and;
Improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence,
b) promote restorative justice by passing legislation to support important reentry programs that help people avoid re-offending,
c) improve access to health care and treatment for those with addiction and mental health needs.
Almost 25 years ago, in 1994, the US Bishops published a comprehensive Pastoral Message on “Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action“, which addressed all the manifestations of our deepening culture of death and violence, beginning with violence to the most innocent and defenseless of all, the unborn, and showing the intrinsic connection between acts of violence and the proliferation of the means of violence. From this document: “Our faith challenges each of us to examine how we can contribute to an ethic which cherishes life, puts people before things, and values kindness and compassion over anger and vengeance. A growing sense of national fear and failure must be replaced by a new commitment to solidarity and the common good.”