Women religious call on public to push lawmakers on gun control

People in Uvalde, Texas, attend Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church May 25, 2022, one day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. (CNS photo by Nuri Vallbona, Reuters)

Several bishops also call for protection of all life (article below)

By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service

[Washington – CNS] – Various orders of women religious said that lamenting the May 24 mass killing of 19 children and two of their teachers in Uvalde, Texas, also should accompany action so that it doesn’t happen again.

From the Sisters of Mercy to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a number of religious orders called on the public to push politicians on gun control laws after the mass shooting.

“God does not move mountains alone. God works through us. We are God’s tools. We are God’s clay,” Fran Eskin-Royer, executive director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, said in a May 25 statement.

“Surely there is a multitude of reasons for each act of violence — racism, mental illness, broken relationships. But one common element more often than not is the use of guns. We do indeed have a gun problem in America. There are too many guns and they are too easy to get,” Royer said.

“If we as a nation are ever to heal and if we are ever to reduce or eliminate these massacres,” she said, “we must enact gun control. We must use the laws already on the books and we must pass additional commonsense legislation such as strengthening background checks and banning assault weapons.”

“Even as we offer solidarity through lament and prayer, we refuse to accept a world in which thoughts and prayers are offered without meaningful policy change to address the crisis of gun violence in this country,” said the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in a May 25 statement.

“While we grieve alongside the families and community in Uvalde and those still grieving in Buffalo,” they added, “we renew our call on state legislatures and Congress to enact more comprehensive laws limiting access to deadly weapons.”

The statements came after a May 25 news conference from authorities in Texas, attended by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, which focused on mental health issues and shied away from gun control.

“Thoughts and prayers alone are no longer acceptable for people of faith and goodwill.  We must act to bring an end to such senseless violence,” said Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO at the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

The organization, along with others, has urged Congress to provide $35 million for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $25 million for the National Institutes of Health to conduct public health research into firearm morbidity and mortality prevention.

“In light of the senseless loss of lives in Uvalde and Buffalo, we urge Congress to act quickly and authorize funding that bolsters research into this critical public health issue,” Haddad said.

People visit a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, May 25, 2022, the site of a mass shooting. (CNS photo by Nuri Vallbona, Reuters)

But a day after the shooting, many Republicans, whose votes are needed to pass gun safety legislation, seemed resistant.

“None of these things we’re talking about seems to change the outcome, before these most recent cases. I doubt if any Republicans vote for that,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told The New York Times.

“I’m willing to say that I’m very sorry it happened. But guns are not the problem, OK? People are the problem,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. “That’s where it starts — and we’ve had guns forever. And we’re going to continue to have guns.”

The newspaper published how much each lawmaker opposed to gun control legislation has received from the National Rifle Association, as well as its rating for their support of the gun industry.

The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters of Michigan pointed out that “a majority of Americans support commonsense restrictions on gun ownership.”

“We call on members of Congress to take immediate action to do just that: Enact legislation that bans access to militarized assault weapons with high-capacity ammunition magazines, provides for background checks and restricts concealed weapons, among other steps,” the organization said.

National polling on the issue at the end of 2021 showed that majority of Americans, 52%, said they wanted stricter gun control, according to a Gallup poll.

A 2022 survey from Pew Research Center said that just 38 per cent of Americans agreed with Republicans on gun policy. But Republicans have largely relied on their home constituencies as their guide as to how to vote, not on national opinion.

“Most would probably throw me out of office,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told the Times on what would happen if he supported gun control legislation.

If that’s the case, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, who also joined the women religious in its calls, said voters should make an effort to have those politicians removed from office.

“Indeed, our courts and legislatures should be able to develop solutions that do not violate anyone’s constitutional rights, including the right to live granted by the 14th amendment. We call on our elected and appointed officials to do so.  If they cannot, we need to replace them,” said the organization in a statement.

May 26 brought more bad news to Uvalde as the husband of Irma Garcia, one of the two teachers killed in the shooting, suffered a heart attack and died. They had been married for 24 years.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, who has been tending to those in the Uvalde area, confirmed the news in a tweet May 26.

“Her husband Jose died today of a massive heart attack. Today, Mass at 6 pm Sacred Heart Church, Uvalde,” he tweeted. “We pray for his soul and for their beautiful children. Pain increases so love. Jose, Rest In Peace.”

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Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio comforts people in Uvalde, Texas, outside the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center, where students had been transported from Robb Elementary School after a shooting May 24, 2022. (CNS photo by Marco Bello, Reuters)

Several bishops push gun control; some call mass shootings ‘pressing life issue’

By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service

[Washington – CNS] – Several U.S. bishops spoke out against the easy accessibility to guns in the country following a May 24 rampage that left at least 19 children and two of their elementary school teachers dead in Uvalde, Texas.

“Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it,” Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, tweeted May 25. “The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin. We sacralize death’s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them.”

The comments came hours after Texas authorities said an 18-year-old with two assault weapons evaded police after crashing his truck near an elementary school close to the U.S-Mexico border and entered the school building at around noon armed with what seemed to be a rifle.

“There was several law enforcement that engaged the suspect but he was able to make entry into the school where he did go into several classrooms and, unfortunately, he did fire his firearm,” Sgt. Erick Estrada, of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told CNN late May 24.

A Border Patrol unit subsequently arrived and one of its officers shot and killed the shooter in the classroom full of fourth graders.

In addition to the dead, reports say 15 children were injured as well as the two law enforcement officers who initially attempted to stop him. Authorities named Salvador Ramos as the shooter and said that prior to arriving at the school, he shot his grandmother, who remains in the hospital.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller comforted families outside a local civic center in Uvalde as they waited for news. Along with priests from the Archdiocese of San Antonio, he spent much of the day tending to parishioners and others who needed comfort after the horrific day.

“When will these insane acts of violence end?” the archbishop later said in a statement. “It is too great a burden to bear. The word tragedy doesn’t begin to describe what occurred. These massacres cannot be considered ‘the new normal.'”

“The Catholic Church consistently calls for the protection of all life; and these mass shootings are a most pressing life issue on which all in society must act — elected leaders and citizens alike,” he said. “We pray that God comfort and offer compassion to the families of these little ones whose pain is unbearable.”

He confirmed to a CNN reporter that there’s an effort to connect with Ramos’ family and said he would show them gestures of “tenderness, compassion because they are suffering, too.” He said Ramos’ actions were evil but said he didn’t agree when he heard someone say “that man is evil.”

“No, they were evil actions. Everyone has dignity and the family is suffering, too,” he said. “It’s easy to make remarks that destroy people’s lives … there’s already enough destruction.”

Chieko Noguchi, director of public affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, said the organization joined Archbishop García-Siller in prayers for the community.

“There have been too many school shootings, too much killing of the innocent. Our Catholic faith calls us to pray for those who have died and to bind the wounds of others,” she said in a statement. “As we do so, each of us also needs to search our souls for ways that we can do more to understand this epidemic of evil and violence and implore our elected officials to help us take action.”

In a statement, the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, suggested that a course of action from the Catholic Church could come “in findings ways to more effectively identify people at risk of such behavior and to push for reasonable limits to the proliferation of firearms.”

From Rome, Pope Francis also weighed in, saying: “It’s time to say ‘Enough’ to the indiscriminate trade of weapons!” and encouraged all to be committed in the effort “so that tragedies like this cannot occur again.”

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in a May 24 tweet said the right to life trumps the right to have weapons and that “the Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai.”

“The right to bear arms will never be more important than human life,” he said. “Our children have rights too. And our elected officials have a moral duty to protect them.”

In an address to the nation, President Joe Biden recalled his time as vice president when he could not get enough members of Congress to agree on gun control legislation in 2013, a year after 26 people, including 20 elementary school children, were fatally shot by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?” the president said.

Cardinal Cupich, in his tweets, implored people, not just to lament, but to act.

“We must weep and soak in the grief that comes with the knowledge that these children of God were cut down by a man who was just a few years their senior. But then we must steel ourselves to act in the face of what seems like insurmountable despair,” he tweeted. “As I reflect on this latest American massacre, I keep returning to the questions: Who are we as a nation if we do not act to protect our children? What do we love more: our instruments of death or our future?”

The USCCB has consistently called for gun control.

In a presentation titled “Responses to the Plague of Gun Violence” he delivered Nov. 11, 2019, during the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, then chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, spelled out the bishops’ support for a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks, a federal gun trafficking bill, regulations on sales of handguns, improved mental health interventions, safety measures and “an honest assessment of violent images and experiences in our society.”

Like much of the American public voicing frustrations after the mass shooting in Texas, Bishop Mark E. Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, said the country “must now do more than offer prayers and support.”

He called on all, but particularly on lawmakers and gun owners “to work together and take action to ensure the safety of our children, our schools, our churches and our communities.”

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