By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
Following last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead and more than a dozen others injured, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a call for Congress to work together to find “concrete proposals” in response to the “crisis of gun violence.”
In a joint statement released on Monday, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, called for “honest and practical dialogue around a series of concrete proposals – not partisanship and overheated rhetoric.”
The bishops also said that President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers in the classroom “seems to raise more concerns than it addresses” and instead advocated for raising the age of gun ownership, banning bump stocks, and requiring universal background checks as solutions that offer “more promise.”
“We must explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help,” they wrote.
The U.S. bishops have long advocated for a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence that addresses mental illness without stigmatization.
They repeated that plea on Tuesday, noting that “Most people with mental illness will never commit a violent act, but mental illness has been a significant factor in some of these horrific attacks. We must look to increase resources and seek earlier interventions.”
The bishops also lauded the heightened political advocacy in recent weeks of many of the young victims of the Parkland massacre.
“The advocacy by survivors of the Parkland shooting – and young people throughout our nation – is a stark reminder that guns pose an enormous danger to the innocent when they fall into the wrong hands. The voices of these advocates should ring in our ears as they describe the peaceful future to which they aspire,” they wrote. “We must always remember what is at stake as we take actions to safeguard our communities and honor human life.”
Since 2010, there have been nearly 150 school shootings that have occurred in the United States.
The bishops concluded their statement with a plea for action instead of mere talk in response to recent violence.
“In the words of St. John, ‘let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,’” they wrote.