WASHINGTON (CNS) – In response to multiple mass shootings in recent weeks, the chairmen of four committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to “stop the killing of innocent lives”.
“We urge all members of Congress to reflect on the compassion you all no doubt feel in light of these tragic events and be moved to action because of it,” the Bishops wrote in a letter dated 3 June.
They said finding a way to stop ongoing acts of violence, as demonstrated in Ulvade, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, to name a few, requires a response. broad which examines “mental health, the state of families, life evaluation, the influence of the entertainment and gaming industries, bullying and the availability of firearms.
And while they see the need for broad reform, they focused on firearms in particular, stressing that “among the many steps towards combating this endemic violence is the adoption of reasonable measures gun control”.
The letter was signed by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the commission on laity, marriage, family life and youth; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the pro-life activities committee; and Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education.
These committee leaders noted that while work needs to be done to address the root causes of the violence, there were practical steps Congress could take now by supporting legislation to expand background checks for gun sales.
They also criticized Congress for its lack of action on gun control, noting that in the 10 years since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, “very few was done by Congress to regulate these weapons 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,” they wrote.
The Bishops said the USCCB has long supported anti-gun violence measures and continues to do so.
Regarding specific measures, they said they supported a total ban on assault weapons and limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines. They also cited their support for universal background checks for all gun purchases.
“We call on Congress to pass federal legislation to criminalize gun trafficking,” the bishops added, saying it was especially important because the United States “not only suffers from domestic gun violence, but is a major international arms exporter.
Church leaders have also said they support proposals for a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership and a ban on replacement stocks – additional gun parts that significantly increase the firearm rate of fire.
They pointed out that while “strengthened gun laws could reduce mass casualty events, even the most effective gun laws alone will not be enough to address the roots of these violent attacks. in our country” and underlined the need to improve mental health care. access and resources; and “building peace in our communities through restorative justice models”.
“Bipartisanship is never more important than when it is necessary to protect life and end the culture of death. We invite you to support these measures and to participate in building the culture of life so necessary in our society, not only as elected officials, but as mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles of little children or teachers do you expect to return home safely today,” they wrote.
The bishops’ letter was sent to Congress the day after President Joe Biden addressed the nation from the White House on June 2, imploring Congress to adopt what he described as “rational measures and common sense” to curb armed violence. He said it was time to end the “carnage” and the loss of American lives.
The president called for the reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and said the minimum age for the purchase of semi-automatic weapons should be raised from 18 to 21.
He also called for stronger background checks and red flag laws aimed at keeping guns away from people with mental illness. He also called for the repeal of the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability.
As Biden addressed the nation, the US House Judiciary Committee passed a gun control package after heated discussion. The legislation, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, includes eight bills related to gun control, which are expected to be introduced in the House the week of June 6.
The measure would raise the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, create new requirements for storing guns in a home with children, prevent gun trafficking, require firearms are traceable and would regulate bump stocks.
It was expected to pass the House, but not in the divided Senate, where it needs 60 votes.
Republicans in Congress have criticized Democrats for rushing to pass gun legislation and blamed recent mass shootings on mental health issues and a general lack of family values.
Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim