The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns joined in the outcry and calls for action by Catholic organizations in response to the recent mass shootings in the United States. The following article was published in the July-August 2022 issue of NewsNotes.
On May 27, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns released a statement in response to the two recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.
“We join our grief and outrage to that of the communities in Uvalde and Buffalo, and millions around the country and the world who struggle to make sense of such violence and immeasurable loss,” the statement read. “We call on leaders to take concrete action to address the scourge of gun violence in the United States, and the white supremacist ideology cited by the Buffalo shooter.”
The MOGC statement highlighted the unique levels of gun violence in the United States: “Maryknoll missioners serve those most in need around the world, often in marginalized communities where crime and violence are rampant, but, in those countries where gun possession is strongly limited by law, gun violence…is subsequently far less common than in the United States. Missioners also witness communities, tribes, and nations working together through dialogue to overcome war, ethnic clashes, and other deeply entrenched divisions.”
The statement called for governments to turn away from “national security strategies rooted in armed deterrence” and toward “human security rooted in cooperation and the common good.” It specifically named the need to root out racial hatred, a clear driver of recent mass shootings.
A similar statement by the Catholic Health Association named specific goals. “The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) has long advocated for sensible firearms policies, including banning weapons that enable the slaughter of many people in a matter of seconds,” they wrote. “We also believe it is important to support research into the root causes of gun violence.”
“In recent weeks, CHA, our members, and nearly 300 national, state, and local medical, public health, and research organizations have urged Congress to provide $35 million for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $25 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct public health research into firearm morbidity and mortality prevention… we urge Congress to act quickly and authorize funding that bolsters research into this critical public health issue.”
On June 3, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to Congress calling for concrete action in response to the shootings. They lamented that little has been done to address the root causes of gun violence since the Sandy Hook mass shooting 10 years ago. “We urgently call on members of Congress to work together in a bipartisan fashion to make these horrific attacks less likely to happen again,” the bishops wrote.
Gesturing to the influence of the gun lobby on the stalemate over gun control in Congress, the bishops quoted from a speech by Pope Francis to the U.S. Congress in 2015, in which he said, “Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?
Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”
The bishops expressed support for broad gun control measures, saying “It should not be the case that in the United States, a person needs character references to apply for a job but not to purchase military-style assault weapons. We support a total ban on assault weapons and limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines.” They go on to state support for the criminalization of gun trafficking, a higher minimum age for gun ownership, and a ban on ‘bump stocks.’
The bishops said that while gun control laws are necessary, the roots of the violence are much deeper, and they include the national mental health crisis, widespread childhood trauma, and threats to family integrity.
“Bipartisanship is never more important than when it is required to protect life and end the culture of death,” the bishops concluded. “We invite you to support these measures and to be part of building up the culture of life that is so needed in our society, not just as elected officials but as mothers and fathers, grandparents, and aunts and uncles of little children or teachers whom you expect to return home safely today.”
The bishops created an online letter that citizens could send to their members of Congress asking them to support gun control reform.
On June 24, Congress passed a landmark gun control package. The bill incentivized states to pass red flag laws, narrows the “boyfriend loophole,” and more. Pres. Biden signed it into law the next day.