Mourning is not Enough: LCWR Calls for Action to Prevent Gun Violence
On February 14 a very troubled 19-year-old took an AR-15 assault rifle to Marjory Stoneman High School and opened fire killing 14 students and three staff members. The shooting was a horrible tragedy that has become all too familiar to students, teachers, and parents across the country.
The heartbreak in Parkland, Florida is far too common. A recent study of World Health Organization data published in the American Journal of Medicine found that, among high-income nations, 91 percent of children younger than 15 who were killed by bullets lived in the United States. Guns are linked to roughly 33,000 deaths in the United States per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; about two-thirds of them are suicides.
Where is the outrage? Have we become immune to the horror? Why are elected officials unwilling to confront the epidemic of gun violence that is sweeping the nation? When will the killing stop?
Our hearts and prayers go out to those in Parkland even as we continue to mourn with those in Orlando, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Charleston, Newtown, Columbine, Sutherland Springs, and in countless other cities and towns across this nation who have lost loved ones to gun violence. We grieve with mothers and fathers whose children were victims of senseless killing made easy by the proliferation of guns and the pervasive culture of violence.
There is much to mourn, but mourning is not enough. Prayers and condolences are not enough. The killing must stop. It is well past time that we enacted sensible gun violence prevention legislation. This is not about protecting the second amendment. It is about protecting the most precious resource we have, the gift of life.
We call our elected officials to immediately take up legislation that:
" requires universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods for all gun purchases;
" bans civilian ownership of high-capacity weapons and magazines; and
" makes gun trafficking a federal crime.
We commend the young people of Parkland for taking up the important work of gun violence prevention. We will stand with you as you advocate for legislation that will save lives. We will join you in the March 24 "March for Our Lives." We will walk with you as together we seek to put an end to violence and follow the path of peace.
In this Lenten season as we recall the life Jesus, the Christ, let us pray for the grace to embrace his way of nonviolence and let us never doubt that the deep darkness of these days will be overcome by the radiant light of our lives and actions lived in love.
Prevention of Gun Violence
A Statement of the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses
March 21, 2013
As Benedictine monastic women we stand united in a 1500 - year tradition, rooted in Gospel values of peace and non-violence. Our Benedictine way of life requires us not only to be people of peace but also “to foster peace in the society around us." (1) That peace is based on right relationships and mutual respect. Any violation of the rights and integrity of people, of the land, and of the environment is an act of violence. A definite culture of violence is pervasive in our society in movies, television programming, video games, music and advertisements. The proliferation of guns, both legal and illegal, has contributed to a significant increase in violence in the United States and in the drug wars in Mexico.
In 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than 3 deaths each hour. (2) In Mexico, 15,273 died in drug war gun violence alone that same year. (3) Over 68% of the traced guns used in crimes in Mexico between 2007 and 2010 came from the United States. (4) The United States has the highest rate of gun-related injuries among developed countries, as well as the highest rate of gun ownership. Besides the deaths and tragedies for families, friends and associates, gun violence also affects society in other ways, including higher medical costs, reductions in quality of life because of fear of gun violence and stresses on the criminal justice system. (5)
To help create healthier environments in families, schools and communities and to reduce the impact of gun-related violence, the American Psychological Association recommends multiple approaches, among which are education, training, access to mental health treatment, program funding and research. (6) The Conference of Benedictine Prioresses endorses their recommendations.
In his holy rule, our founder St. Benedict states, “Your way of acting must be different from the world’s way." (7) We, the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses, are compelled to address the rampant culture of gun violence and disregard for human life. Therefore, in concert with statements issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (8) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (9) we call on lawmakers to:
- Close loopholes and require every person who buys a gun to pass a criminal background check.
- Ban the sale of assault style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines.
- Make gun trafficking a federal crime.
- Strengthen federal laws to stem the flow of American weapons that contribute to the drug trafficking violence in Mexico. (10)
- Fund robust care for those with mental illness, ensuring that health insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid offer mental health benefits at parity. (11)
- Provide for early identification and intervention for children and young adults in need of mental health treatment.
- Increase the number of well-trained mental health professionals available for school and community gun violence prevention, intervention, threat assessment, and crisis management.
- End the freeze on gun violence research. (12)
- Address the growing use of violence as a means of entertainment in films, television program, video games, music and advertisements.
(1) Conference of Benedictine Prioresses “Of All Good Gifts”, 1980
(2) Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Gun Violence Statistics November 18, 2012 http://smartgunlaws.org/category/gun-studies-statistics/gun-violence-statistics Retrieved March 5, 2013
(3) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/12/mexico-drug-war-deaths-2010_n_808277.html retrieved 3/17/13
(4) “Between 2007 and 2011, 68.5 percent of firearms recovered in Mexico and submitted to ATF for tracing came from the United States” http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/4/feinstein-new-atf-data-proves-overwhelming-majority-of-guns-recovered-in-mexico-come-from-u-s
(5) American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/topics/violence/gun-violence-prevention.aspx. Retrieved February 8, 2013
(6) American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/violence/gun-related.aspx Retrieved February 8, 2013
(7) The Rule of St. Benedict 4:20
(8) Testimony submitted before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary “Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence: Protecting Our Communities While Respecting the Second Amendment” February 12, 2013 http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/upload/USCCB-Senate-Testimony-Proposals-to-Reduce-Gun-Violence-2013.pdf Retrieved March 5, 2013
(9) LCWR: A Response to the Newtown Tragedy December 20, 2012 https://lcwr.org/media/news/lcwr-response-newtown-tragedy Retrieved March 5, 2013
(11) The APA states, "Mental health and substance use parity means that coverage for mental health and substance use benefits must be at least equal to coverage for physical health benefits… In other words, all of the financial requirements and treatment limitations applied to mental health and substance use benefits may be no more restrictive than those applied to physical health benefits". A parity law became effective in 2010. Further information can be found at http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/federal-parity-law.aspx Retrieved March 5, 2013
(12) For 17 years there has been a ban on government research into the public health effects of gun violence. Information about this can be found on the web: http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/16/16532333-obama-plan-eases-freeze-on-cdc-gun-violence-research?lite Retrieved March 5, 2013