Gun control: What does the Church say?

| Jason Adkins | January 17, 2013 | 8 Comments


The Sandy Hook school massacre of 20 innocent children and seven adults by a troubled gunman — who used a semi-automatic “assault” rifle to kill his victims — has ignited a national debate about gun control.

America has a problem with gun violence. A culture that celebrates violence, coupled with a society in which guns are too easily accessible, has contributed to one gun tragedy after another — whether in the form of workplace shootings, street violence, domestic strife,  school massacres, or innocent kids just playing around like their “heroes” and getting killed.

Clearly, a re-examination of our state’s and our nation’s gun laws is warranted, and common-sense reforms should be enacted to curb the violence.

Excuses for inaction

Some have claimed that eradicating gun violence is impossible as long as there is evil in the human heart.  This is, of course, true.

Still others claim that the bad guys who really want guns to commit crimes will probably find a way to get them.  This claim, in many cases, is most likely true as well — as it was in the Sandy Hook case where the killer, barred by law from owning the guns he used, simply used his mother’s weapons.

These statements seem in some instances, however, not to be mere descriptions of reality, but instead calculated primarily to depict gun regulations as futile or naïve.

It’s as though the desire to limit dangerous people’s access to the technology of mass murder is somehow a waste of time.

Catholic writer and Patheos blogger Mark Shea eviscerates this line of reasoning:

“Nobody says that the mystery of evil makes it futile to try to limit North Korea’s access to the technology of mass death. Nobody talks as though having cops arrest criminals is starry-eyed utopianism. Nobody says  ‘Stealers gonna steal’ and concludes that attempts to limit shoplifting with various technological fixes like cameras or mall cops is a refusal to address the fact that sin begins in the heart.”

We cannot be content to mouth pieties and refuse to explore ways in which public policy serves the common good, even if there is a possibility that reforms may fail to fully address the problem.

Bishops’ principles for reform

In a statement after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the bishops of the United States renewed their call for all Americans, particularly legislators, to do the following:

  • Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms;
  • Support measures that make guns safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner);
  • Support sensible regulation of handguns;
  • Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault weapons.

Applying these principles will vary from state to state.  In Minnesota, acquiring a gun is fairly easy, and many gun purchases are completely unregulated — meaning neither permits nor background checks are required.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference believes this policy should be re-examined.

At both the state and federal level, the Church supports a ban on the purchase and ownership of “semi-automatic military-style assault weapons” and high capacity magazines.

Complex problem

While stricter gun laws are necessary, the bishops emphasize that they are not sufficient to curb gun violence. These sorts of social problems are complex, and require more than simplistic solutions or scapegoats.

In addition to tighter gun regulations, the bishops have asked us to “make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime,” and have also called on society to “provide health services and support to those who have mental illnesses and to their families and caregivers.”

Further, the bishops’ Sandy Hook statement had sharp words for the entertainment industry:

“Our entertainers, especially film producers and video game creators, need to realize how their profit motives have allowed the proliferation of movies, television programs, video games and other entertainment that glorify violence and prey on the insecurities and immaturity of our young people. Such portrayals of violence have desensitized all of us.

. . . We need to admit that the viewing and use of these products has negative emotional, psychological and spiritual effects on people.”

It is important, though, not to cast stones at profiteers until we have first reflected on how we ourselves, through our consumer choices, have celebrated and invited into our homes this culture of violence.

Indeed, Hollywood shapes the culture. But it also feeds a pre-existing demand for graphic violence.

Be not afraid

Undoubtedly, powerful and well-financed voices will, for many reasons, skillfully manipulate rhetoric to preserve the status quo.

We must, however, not be afraid to first turn our hearts and minds toward the Lord so that the Prince of Peace may transform us into people of peace.

Let us bring that faith into the public arena where we can offer prudent and hopeful policies that foster peace and the common good.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Tags: , ,

Category: Faith in the Public Arena

  • Bobstephenson

    “While stricter gun laws are necessary.” Ummmm… False premise counselor, sorry, you lost me on this one.

  • maxminwegen

    A MATTER OF TRUTH…AND GUTS ! A Little Gun History

     After reading the following historical facts, read the part
    about Switzerland twice.

    In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control.. From 1929 to 1953,
    about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded
    up and exterminated.

    In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million
    Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and

    Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total
    of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were
    rounded up and exterminated.
    China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million
    political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and


    Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000
    Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and

    Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000
    Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and

    Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million
    educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and

    Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century
    because of gun control: 56 million.

    It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by
    new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by their
    own Government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500
    million dollars. The first year results are now in:

    List of 7 items:

    Australia-wide, homicides are up 3.2 percent.

    Australia-wide, assaults are up 8.6 percent.

    Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!
    In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up 300
    percent. Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the
    criminals did not, and criminals still possess their guns!

    While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in
    armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically upward in the
    past 12 months, since criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is

    There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the
    ELDERLY. Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public
    safety has decreased, after such monumental effort, and expense was
    expended in successfully ridding Australian society of guns. The
    Australian experience and the other historical facts above prove it.

    You won’t see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians
    disseminating this information.

    Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes,
    gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens

    Take note my fellow Americans, before it’s too late!

    The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them
    of this history lesson.

    With guns, we are ‘citizens.’
    Without them, we are ‘subjects’.

    During WWII the Japanese decided not to invade America because they knew
    most Americans were ARMED!

    If you value your freedom, please spread this anti-gun control message
    to all of your friends.

    The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in
    defense. The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more
    important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is


    I’m a firm believer of the 2nd Amendment!
    If you are too,
    please forward.

    Think how powerful our government is getting!
    Many think these other countries just didn’t do it right.
    Learn from history

    Gus Gyllenhoff
    Once A Marine, Always A Marine!
    Being a Marine isn’t everything…it’s the ONLY thing. Semper Fi!

    • Jakgarnett

      Let’s keep up that fear mongering…VERY USEFUL!!!

      • Bobstephenson

         Jack, the hypocrisy and double-standard from you and others on the left is quite astonishing. The fear-mongering on this issue started long ago with the left by trying to get people to fear that our guns are the problem to begin with.

    • Conrad Wesley Clough

      ****Germany established gun control in 1938**** Errrrrp Wrong answer… Hitler actually relaxed gun control laws in Germany when he came to power… the Weimar Republic’s gun control laws were much more restrictive than Nazi Germany’s.

  • Carmen

    While gun violence, especially aimed at children, is horrible, let everyone be clear, 99.9% of gun violence is committed by CRIMINALS—say it with me people—CRIMINALS!  The 2nd Amendment protects the use of guns by law abiding citizens for self-protection from said criminals and from the tyranny of the Federal/State government.  Remember, the Founding Fathers saw government as a necessary evil, one to be kept small and under the control of the electorate (not controlled by career politicians and  NG0s).

    Until the Bishops quite opining on issues beyond their keen, the Faithful will ignore them when they try to give Truth about Faith and Morals.  Morals here applies not to owning the gun, but the proper use of it: self-protection, hunting, keeping the Federal Government in check.  Immoral use of a gun would include using it to commit any and all crimes as either a force multiplier or actually pulling the trigger.  That is the end all and be all of the moral teaching folks, nothing more to see here.

  • Tim Bales

    hmm sounds a lot like the new world order has influenced the church pushing gun grab. try looking at facts Chicago has total gun ban and gun related deaths =539 n 2012. 

  • Tim Bales

    hmm sounds a lot like the new world order has influenced the church pushing gun grab. try looking at facts Chicago has total gun ban and gun related deaths =539 n 2012.