By Joe Bukuras
It seems safe to say that an overwhelming majority of people agree that it is a tragedy when people use guns to harm other innocent people. No reasonable person wants anybody to be wrongly injured or killed by a firearm. Unfortunately, these incidents are a prevalent reality in current events. All around the world, countries struggle with the evil of gun violence. The United States has felt its fair share of tragedies involving firearms. As Catholics, we are called to act when evil is present. So, the question presents itself. How do we act on this complicated issue?
We must refer back to our foundational values in order to achieve a positive and effective dialogue and solution within our community. What are these values? In Catholicism, we are called to a life of not only faith, but reason as well. One is incomplete with out the other. Both are necessary for us to come to a conclusion about gun control.
Recently, it has become popular for celebrities in the media to doubt the power of thoughts and prayers, in response to mass tragedies. These public figures use their platform to claim that thoughts and prayers are ineffective when combatting the evil of gun violence in America.
No matter how far along one may be, everyone struggles with faith. No one is perfect. When someone doubts the power of God in any way, it usually can be accredited to a misunderstanding of His nature. When someone doubts the power of prayer, it can similarly be accredited to a foundational misunderstanding of what prayer is. Mother Theresa’s insight into prayer life is one that has been praised around the world.
She proclaims, “I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.”
Prayer is not a relationship where we tell God what we want to happen and poof! It happens. Rather, prayer is necessary to combat evil. Action to reduce gun violence is necessary. Correct action can not be taken if God’s guidance is not involved. We can only be guided by God when we listen through prayer. Therefore, prayer is necessary for action.
The next step is to analyze the current situation with the reason. Just like in any big decision we make in our lives, we must take a look at the facts. Once evidence is presented to us and we put our trust in God, we then have the tools to add positive, intellectual and respectful input into a dialogue with our peers, in order to find a solution.
So, let’t look at the evidence.
- According to the FBI, there were 187 murders with automatic firearms of some sort in 2016. Source: https://ucr.fbi.gov/nibrs/2016/tables/pdfs/offenses_involving_weapon_use_off_cat__by_type_of_weapon_force_involved_2016.pdf
- These include: Automatic Handgun, Automatic Firearm, Automatic Rifle, Automatic Shotgun, Automatic Other Firearm
- There were 1,804 murders with a handgun.
- Assaults with an automatic weapon of some sort: 3,984
- Assaults with a handgun: 40,661
- FBI recorded over 150,000 illegal offenses using firearms.
- In order from most times offended to least, these offenses place as follows: Weapon Law Violations, Assault Offenses, Robbery, Homicide Offenses, Kidnapping/Abduction, Sex Offenses, Extortion/Black Mail and Human Trafficking Offenses.
- In 2016 there were 31 incidents of mass killings taking the lives of 188 Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/11/06/2017-deadliest-year-mass-killings-least-decade/836738001/
- Although In 2017 there were slightly three less incidents, 20 more lives were claimed in all.
- Mass shooting “Offenders used firearms that could be characterized as ‘assault weapons’ in 18 of 66 incidents (27.3%). Source: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44126.pdf
- In 38 incidents, the offender carried a single firearm
- In 28 out of 66 incidents (42.4%), offender or offenders carried multiple firearms.
- “In a study of 185 public mass shootings… from 1900 through 2017 criminologist Grant Duwe found that 59 percent were committed by people who had been diagnosed as mentally ill or showed signs of having a serious mental disorder before the attack.” Source: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/03/03/how-prevalent-is-mental-illness-in-mass-shootings.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 44,193 Suicides in 2015. Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm
- 22,018 suicides were executed with a firearm.
- More statistics can be pulled from government data bases and gun websites provided.
Key Take Aways
- Many people die from guns every year.
- Most deaths with firearms are actually suicides.
- Handguns are the most frequent used weapon for assaults and murders.
- Mental illness and mental disturbance account for a high number of mass shooters.
- Most offenses with firearms fall under Weapon Law Violations.
What Should I do?
As Americans, many of us are invested in our political system and its’ ability to create laws. No matter which way we lean on the political spectrum, it is a mistake to allow politicians and media outlets to convince us that the only way to combat gun violence is to vote one way or another. Make no mistake, our votes certainly can help change society. Without a true change of culture leading to the mass conversion of hearts, the laws we choose, relating to guns in our society, will ultimately fail to exterminate evil. The true power to combat this evil lies in our hands, heads and hearts.
The Catechism tells us that “Human life must be respected because it is sacred. From its beginning, human life involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. It is not lawful for anyone directly to destroy an innocent human being. This is gravely contrary to the dignity of the person and the holiness of the Creator. “Do not slay the innocent and the righteous” (Exodus 23:7). (CC 2258-2262, 2318-2320)
We need to support and sustain a culture of respecting life in the United States. Every life is uniquely crafted by the hands of God. It is our obligation as Catholics to treat the people in our lives accordingly. This society has been plagued with untrue standards of perfection that undermine many people’s feelings of self worth everyday. In school, at work, and other public places, we come across many people we recognize. Most of us can probably think to ourselves how many times we put our ear phones in and look at the ground as we pass another. When we do this, we are missing the opportunity to have an effect on someone’s feeling of self worth. When we walk past some one, look them in the eye, smile and say hello, we are performing a recognition of another person’s human dignity. There is immense, life changing power in this.
We sometimes are so self conscious of our own problems that we overlook an important truth. If we took that internal self consciousness and changed it to be external someone else consciousness, then we discover and fulfill our purpose in that moment. Our purpose is to serve others and win as many hearts for Christ as possible. If every Catholic did this for just one day, more people would feel like they matter and have a sense of belonging and it would save lives. We may not change every life we touch. It is a reality that we can’t tell the state of someones soul by looking at someone’s body. This is why it is so important to be consistent and genuine with each person we encounter. We never know when we might come upon that person, who is stuck inside, screaming for help. We must never forget that each encounter with a brother or sister in Christ is an opportunity to change the world.
Joseph Bukuras studies Politics and is a Columnist for Clarifying Catholicism