Put Out into the Deep

A Call for Gun Control

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The events surrounding the massacre of so many small children and their teachers in Newtown, Conn., scarred the conscience of our Nation. The horror that touched upon suburban America is one that we in the city live with all too frequently.

I am sympathetic to those who hold that the Catholic Church does not need to have a moral position or teaching with respect to every matter of public policy. Yet, we must look at the world and events around us with eyes of faith. Our Catholic faith, indeed, must speak to us about how we are to live our lives and structure our civil society.

In the past, you have read my columns on everything from abortion to the death penalty to immigration. For the first time, I would like to share with you my support, alongside the support of my brother bishops, for gun control.

In his address to the U.N. on Oct. 4, 1965, the late Pope Paul VI called upon the world to forever and all time forego war. The Holy Father even went so far as to remark that, “One cannot love with offensive weapons in his hands.”

Like some of you, my preference is for a strict constructionist reading of the Constitution. The expansion of rights to find a so-called “right to privacy” or the so-called “separation of Church and state” is odious to me. Some may find my call for gun control legislation an overreach by a bishop or a betrayal of the Second Amendment.

The truth is, for most people, guns are simply used for sport. Moreover, hunters do provide a valuable service to our rural communities.

However, we have seen too many lives lost from the very fact that guns are far too easily accessible: the Aurora, Colo., movie theater, Virginia Tech, the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Columbine High School, the Christmas Eve murder of two firefighters and the wounding of two others in Webster, N.Y., who were routinely responding to a fire set by a deranged killer.

Simply put, the lives ended on the streets of our neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens are no different than the lives ended anywhere else from guns being far too easily accessible.

There are many underlying issues to the increase in gun violence. For certain, we should look at the entertainment industry, which has desensitized our young people to the real impact of violence. The reality is that gun control, whether limitations on some types of weapons or background checks, is a reasonable measure that the court has already ruled is in keeping with our Second Amendment rights.

Nevertheless, gun control will not be a panacea for violence in our society. What is really needed is the affirmation of a culture of life. Changing the laws on gun control is not enough. My preference would be for us to come together and change the culture. I would hope that we could build a culture that respects the dignity and sanctity of the human person.

The tragedy in Newtown deeply impacted us all. Our hearts break for their families. In Brooklyn and Queens, my heart breaks for the children in areas such as Bushwick and Jamaica who face gun violence on a daily basis. They are equally victims and deserve the same level of attention.

My hope and prayer is that we as a Nation do not simply attempt to address the symptoms of what ails us as a people. Gun violence is a terrible evil, but it is reflective of a far more disturbing reality that we do not seem to want to address and, until we do, will not be secure.

We must put out into the deep of a culture of life which respects all human life and avoids violence to the human person from conception to natural death. We still have a long way to go.