National News

Catholic Church Leaders Look to Ways to Stem Tide of Gun Violence

Police officers walk near the scene where the suspected gunman was located as they respond to a shooting at Michigan State University in East Lansing early Feb. 14, 2023. A gunman who opened fire at the university killed at least three people and wounded five, setting off an hourslong manhunt as frightened students hid in classrooms and cars. The shooter eventually killed himself, police announced early that morning. (Photo: OSV News)

WASHINGTON — In the midst of increasing gun violence across the country, Catholic leaders are looking for answers.

One effort to do this was in a Feb. 13 virtual town hall about curbing gun violence sponsored by the Maryland Catholic Conference. The event, livestreamed on Facebook, featured Maryland officials including state legislators, a hospital chief physician, the governor’s deputy legislative officer, and Baltimore Archbishop William Lori considering ways to work together to reduce this epidemic.

Less than a half hour after the panelists finished their discussion that focused on mental health and violence prevention measures, Anthony McRae, 43, shot and killed three students and wounded five others at Michigan State University before killing himself. One weapon he used has been found by police, but the police have not given information about it, nor have they revealed a motive.

The campus shooting happened the day before the fifth anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, and it was just over a year since a teenager fatally shot four students at Oxford High School just outside Detroit.

Last May, after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers, several states introduced legislation to change gun regulations, including Michigan.

The bills, at the time, were blocked by Republicans who controlled both chambers of the Michigan state legislature, which since the November 2022 elections is now led by the Democrats.
One measure currently before the legislature aims to protect children from gun violence.

“Common sense gun control policies that include locking away a firearm to protect children or other vulnerable persons from harm or even death are necessary in Michigan,” said Paul Long, Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO in late January.

New York State Catholic Conference officials expressed disappointment last June with a Supreme Court ruling that said there is a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense, and a month later they supported legislation signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul to strengthen gun laws in the state and add restrictions to concealed carry weapons.

Several other state Catholic conferences across the country have similarly supported gun control measures in recent years.

In January, the Illinois Catholic Conference praised state leaders for implementing a ban on assault weapons — becoming the ninth state to do so.

In a message on the conference’s website, the state’s bishops said Illinois had “witnessed the horror of mass shootings” too many times and they hoped the new legislation signed into law Jan. 10 would “help to provide some peace in our communities going forward.”

During the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Feb. 13 gun violence panel, Archbishop Lori emphasized that gun violence is “not simply an abstract policy issue.”

Not knowing another mass shooting was about to happen in the U.S. that night, he described gun violence as “something that is very personal” that goes against the idea of cherishing human life.