(RNS) – In response to recent mass shootings, Pope Francis and US Catholic bishops have called for gun control measures that would save lives. This may surprise some people who think that abortion is the sole public policy concern of the Church hierarchy. Unfortunately, the media and the bishops themselves pay too little attention to the larger “life” agenda.
While praying for the children killed and their families in Uvalde, the Pope did not hesitate to say: “It is time to say enough about indiscriminate arms trafficking.
Francis has frequently spoken out against gun trafficking, including in his 2015 speech to a joint session of Congress. “Why are lethal weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? he asked US lawmakers. “Unfortunately, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is soaked in blood, often innocent blood.”
After the Uvalde shooting, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago didn’t mince words.
“Who are we as a nation,” he asked, “if we don’t act to protect our children? What do we love more: our instruments of death or our future?
“The Second Amendment, unlike the Second Commandment, did not come from Sinai,” Cupich told NPR. “There is an understanding that we all have in our hearts, engraved in our hearts, a natural law about the value of human life. And no amendment can override that.
Cupich wasn’t the only one speaking out. On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the chairs of four conference committees issued a statement urging all members of Congress to take action in response to the killings.
RELATED: After winning on abortion, it’s time for Catholic bishops to switch sides
They were not liberal bishops, but four of the most conservative prelates in the United States: Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington.
They called for dialogue and concrete actions that “address all aspects of the crisis, including mental health, the state of families, the valuing of life, the influence of the entertainment and gaming industries, the ‘bullying and the availability of firearms’. They called for “the adoption of reasonable measures to control guns”, echoing the pope’s pleas that “it is time to say ‘no more’ to indiscriminate arms trafficking”.
“My heart is broken by the Texas elementary school mass shooting. I pray for the children and adults who were killed, and for their families. It’s time to say enough about the gun trade blind.” – Pope Francis pic.twitter.com/1NAzZptURD
— Vatican News (@VaticanNews) May 25, 2022
In their Friday, June 3 letter to Congress, these bishops elaborated on what they consider to be “reasonable” gun control.
They encouraged Congress to improve “the gun background check process by voting in favor of the bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (HR 8) and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 ( HR 1446)”. They also supported extreme risk protection orders through the passage of the federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2021 (HR 2377).
They complained that, “In the ten years since the massacre of children at Sandy Hook, very little has been done by Congress to regulate these guns and prevent another catastrophe. We urgently call on members of Congress to work together in a bipartisan way to make these horrific attacks less likely to happen again. »
The bishops emphasize that they are not “Johnny-come-latelies” to the discussion of gun violence, noting that as early as 1994 they published a pastoral message “Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action.”
“For many years,” the bishops told Congress, “the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has supported a number of reasonable measures to address the problem of gun violence and continues to support the efforts of the United States Congress to advancing these policies into legislation”.
“It shouldn’t be the case,” they argue, “that in the United States a person needs character references to apply for a job, but not to buy military-style assault weapons.”
The bishops call for “a total ban on assault weapons and limitations on civilian access to high capacity weapons and ammunition stores,” including reserve stocks. They cite studies showing that high-capacity magazine limitations can reduce the number of people killed in mass shootings by up to 38% and those injured by up to 77%.
They also support universal background checks for all gun purchases and the criminalization of gun trafficking. The bishops added their support for recent proposals to set a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership.
The USCCB website has additional recommendations: “Regulations and Limitations on Purchasing Handguns; measures that make firearms safer, such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using the gun without permission and without supervision.
Another page on the website provides visitors with an easy way to write to their Senators and Representatives in support of these gun control measures.
RELATED: Catholic bishops oppose some Biden programs, support others
Sadly, hardly anyone in the country is aware of the strong and comprehensive stance on gun control taken by the US Catholic bishops. Bishops rarely talk about it. Catholics don’t hear about it from the pulpit of the church. The media don’t report it.
Perhaps the Catholic clergy fear antagonizing the faithful by talking about gun control, but according to a 2012 PRRI poll, 62% of Catholics support stricter gun control, far more than the 35% of support from evangelical Christians.
Catholic social teaching has been called the Church’s best-kept secret. The bishops’ response to gun violence should no longer be a secret. It should be preached from the rooftops.