[Note: This is a slightly edited version of a column I wrote two years ago. Sadly, almost nothing has changed in those intervening years, and these comments still apply.]
Two months ago, on Ash Wednesday, (and Valentine's Day), we were witness to another mass shooting, this time in a high school in Parkland, Fla. The pain inflicted on the families, friends and the nation from this attack is unconscionable, and even now our hearts are still tender from the wound this atrocity inflicted.
It did not take long, however, for that grief to give way for some who almost immediately began to defend the "right to bear arms." Voices from many corners offered a wealth of explanations for why any further laws limiting gun sales, purchase or ownership are somehow ineffective, unnecessary or un-American.
The challenge for us, of course, is that we must think and act as Catholics first, and citizens second. So, we have to judge the range of arguments for or against gun control not primarily by their Constitutionality, or their effectiveness, but rather by their conformity to the Gospel. We are required to consider the issue through the lens of our faith.
First, our position on guns must necessarily derive from our belief in the sanctity of life. Each life has an infinite worth in the eyes of God. That is true for the unborn, the elderly, the poor, those with disabilities, and everyone on the margins of society.
Second, guns are deadly weapons, designed only to kill or maim their target. It appears that fewer guns means fewer deaths - by murder, suicide and accident. And, those that are semi-automatic or assault weapons are capable of causing massive deaths, like the most recent cases.
If we are honest about the nature of guns and we are serious about our commitment to life. How can we oppose more restrictive gun control?
Our U.S. bishops have repeatedly - at least since 1975 - called for reasonable regulations and controls for guns, especially handguns, and for a ban on assault weapons. Just a few years ago, after another tragic shooting, the bishops sent testimony to Congress to push for better gun controls with a specific goal to build a culture of life and confront the culture of violence. Congress took no action for tighter controls.
When Pope Francis addressed Congress, members of Congress stood to applaud his call for an end to the weapons industry that is motivated by "money that is drenched in blood." No action resulted from the pope's address either.
As Catholics, we are called to be the leaven that brings the Gospel message to society. It is time for us to take a courageous stand against the violence wrought by guns, to work vigorously for their restriction, to eventually eliminate handguns, and to ban assault weapons.
Deacon Weigel is the diocesan director for Catholic Relief Services and can be reached at email@example.com.