PROTECTING LIVES

Once again our hearts are carried beyond grief to an urgent need for concerted national action as 10 more innocent people die and 10 have been wounded in the Santa Fe High School shooting.

I would like to reflect briefly on the two most discussed aspects for response to these horrific moments: gun control and mental illness.

First of all, FAITH in God calls all of us to examine the place and regulation of fire arms in our society with the intent of creating a culture of moderation which provides for a safe environment and a properly restricted use of firearms. Gun owners and aficionados do not have to absolutize the 2nd Amendment by locking themselves into a position of irrationality, blinded to the unintended consequences of an exaggerated ideology of guns. Instead those who belong to gun associations can help provide an enlightened approach to the purchase, licensing and use of guns if they are willing to see the 2nd Amendment in relationship to the general welfare of the nation, what we call in Catholic Social Teaching as the ‘common good.’ While legal scholars debate the 2nd Amendment, there is no reason why we the people cannot call for legislation that properly regulates the sale and use of guns in a way that holds the safety of our youth and all people in the highest regard.

The second aspect compels us to take a new look at mental illness in our society and what may be in certain instances a causal or co-relational factor in violent behavior. There is an urgent need to care for those who suffer from mental illness. The rates of depression and anxiety continue to rise in our society which can lead to one taking one’s own life or possibly the lives of others. Mental illness is not itself a moral failure nor a character defect but is an illness that needs our care and compassion lest the one suffering harm oneself or others. We must improve our mental health care. (See the Pastoral Letter of the California Catholic Bishops on Mental Health – “Hope and Healing.”) However, this crucial and urgent call for new care for those suffering from mental illness cannot be allowed to become an alternative or substitute for better regulation of firearms.

I join with the young people and their parents calling for a reasonable and timely response by our legislators for protecting the lives of our children and of all people whether they be in a classroom, a prayer meeting, at an outdoor concert or in any other public or private venue.

What we are talking about here is how we love and care for one another.

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