PORTLAND, Oregon – In the wake of another mass shooting in the United States earlier this week, multiple U.S. bishops’ conference committee chairmen are appealing to people from different walks of life to help advocate against the nation’s trend of increasing gun violence.
“We are grateful that Congress recently passed its first major gun legislation in nearly 30 years, but in the face of these repeated acts of violence, that cannot be all we do,” the chairmen said in a July 6 statement. “We call on Catholics, lawmakers, community leaders, health care and social service providers, law enforcement, and families to keep pushing for change and offer prayers, support and generous assistance to victims.”
The statement comes in response to a July 4th shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, that killed at least seven people and left dozens more injured. The July 4th shooting follows other mass shootings in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma that resulted in 36 deaths and reinvigorated a national conversation on U.S. gun laws and culture.
“It seems there are no days of the year when our nation is not grieving the latest mass shooting,” the committee chairmen said. “That the Highland Park shooting took place on a day when we celebrate all that is good about America and America’s freedoms is a devastating reminder that mass shootings do not happen with the same relentless and brutal frequency in other places in the world.”
The statement was signed by Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage and Family Life.
The statement follows two June letters multiple bishops’ conference chairmen sent to Congress regarding the need for gun violence and gun control measures. This latest appeal highlights their support for a total ban on assault weapons, and limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition to magazines.
The bipartisan gun legislation passed by Congress near the end of June includes enhanced background checks for potential buyers under the age of 21, provides millions of dollars for states to implement what are known as “red flag” laws that are designed to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed to be dangerous by the courts, and strengthens laws against straw purchasing and trafficking of guns.
However, the July 4th shooting called into question the effectiveness of Illinois’ strict firearm laws, particularly its “red flag” laws since the 21-year-old alleged killer Robert E. Crimo III had a troubled history and still obtained the firearms legally.
Earlier this week, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago also issued a statement calling for more “broadly popular” gun safety measures.
“The right to bear arms does not eclipse the right to life, or the right of all Americans to go about their lives free of the fear that they must be shredded by bullets at any moment,” Cupich said. “We must continue to pray that all our officials, elected and unelected alike, will redouble their commitment to keeping safe the people who they have sworn to serve.”
Authorities said on July 6, Crimo confessed to the shooting. He is being held without bail, and has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder.
In the bishops’ conference chairmen’s statement, they highlighted that “one of the many horrors” that emerged from the shooting was the orphaning of a two-year-old boy. The boy was found underneath his father, who shielded him from the gunfire.
“May we live to see an America that can celebrate its freedoms without orphaning its children,” the statement said. “May that pursuit of liberty one day be a faithful guardian to the pursuit of life. May the light of God’s compassion shine on us and guide our feet out of darkness and the shadow of death, and into the way of peace.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg