The question of guns
BY BR. DOMINIC LOCOCO, OFM
I often wonder, a hundred, two hundred years from now, what ordinary folks will think of our modern use of guns, and their consequences. I fear they will question our sanity on the subject, especially here in the United States.
With all the shootings in recent memory, from Sandy Hook Elementary to Las Vegas, from Colorado to Florida, coast to coast we have seen one tragic happening after another. Yet we seem to do little or next to nothing in curbing the killings of innocent human beings.
The NRA (National Rifle Association), which has made a god out of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, contends that it’s not too many guns on the streets, but deranged human beings who are at fault. I ask, how do these sick people procure these guns, if not for the fact that they are easily available under our present laws?
How do other countries handle gun reform? I went to my computer and found an article on two countries with successful gun control: Japan and the United Kingdom, where strict gun laws were enacted after horrific killings. According to recent studies, the United States’s gun homicide is 25 times higher than other countries with high incomes.
After similar mass killings, other countries have taken dramatic steps to regulate gun ownership. The UK, much like Sandy Hook, had its Dunblane Primary School shooting. Sixteen 5-and-6-year olds, along with their teacher, were killed by a man with a legally purchased arsenal of hand guns. The whole country was in shock. This was not the United States, where by 1996 classroom shootings had occurred in many places, including Nashville, San Diego, and South Carolina. Public outrage in England, led by the “Snowdrop Campaign” founded by friends of the bereaved families, called for a total ban on private ownership and use of handguns in the UK. Signed by 750,000 people, it was symbolic of the weight of public opinion.
Another rampage had taken place in Hungerford: nine years earlier, 16 people were killed. The shooter had certificates for the automatic firearms he possessed. John Major, the Prime Minister, and Parliament passed the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997, after the Cullen Inquiry into the massacre. It banned all cartridge ammunition handguns, except 22 caliber single shot weapons. Penalties for anyone in possession of an illegal firearm were tough, from heavy finds to prison terms of 10 years.
Since Dunblane, there has been only one mass shooting in the UK, one in which 12 people were killed in Whitehaven in 2010. The United Kingdom has the second toughest firearms legislation in the world, next to Japan. That country has the closest to “Zero Tolerance”, a policy that experts say contributes to its enviously low rate of gun crimes. As of 2011, legal gun ownership stood at 271,000 in a country of 127,000,000 people. I encourage you to use your PC and Google “Gun Control in Various Countries”.
It would be time well spent.
How profitable would it be for us Catholics to have a National Day of Prayer each year to bring about change in our gun laws. As a nation we need to use common sense to overcome our fear of someone stealing our right to bear arms. Gun control without God’s help is doomed to fail. By ourselves we cannot beget change. But with God, “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE”.
(Br. Dominic is a member of the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee.)
Want to know more?
To learn more about common-sense gun reform, visit the website of The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an umbrella organization of 48 national groups that seek to free the nation from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy: https://www.csgv.org/
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