Yes, your thoughts and prayers are meaningful. But as Christians, you’re called to do more.

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Yes, your thoughts and prayers are meaningful. But as Christians, you’re called to do more.

People at the Los Angeles March For Our Lives stand in silence during a speech.

People at the Los Angeles March For Our Lives stand in silence during a speech.

People at the Los Angeles March For Our Lives stand in silence during a speech.

People at the Los Angeles March For Our Lives stand in silence during a speech.

Eamon Morris, Managing Editor

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“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.”  These are the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew Chapter 5, Verse 9. In his short life, Jesus was a peacemaker in every aspect of the term. He prayed often, but he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and campaign for change where he could. He worked tirelessly to improve lives. Just as Jesus worked to change the world, so too are modern Christians called to change the world as well. And right now, few issues require more attention and activism than the plague of mass shootings in the United States.

This is obviously a contentious issue for Americans, but it’s no longer a completely partisan issue. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 60% of Americans believe that gun laws should be made more strict. This attitude has become more prevalent in the past few decades, largely as a result of the heavy increase in mass shootings. The Washington Post recently published an analysis of this trend. The analysis examined 150 shootings since the 1966 University of Texas shooting. It categorized mass shootings as instances in which four or more people were killed by one or two shooters. It’s important to note that the analysis did not include shootings with multiple fatalities in private homes, as a result of gang warfare, or with less than four deaths- otherwise, the count would be much higher.

In the analysis, the Post counted 1,077 individuals among the dead at the hands of 153 separate shooters that used one or more of 296 guns counted as their weapons. Of the dead, 176 were children or teenagers. The casualties of these massacres, particularly the deaths of the children, have prompted a significant demand for gun law reform among gun owners and non-gun owners.

A 2017 survey conducted by Pew research (a non-partisan group) found that 89% of owners and 89% of non-owners both believed that the mentally ill should be prevented from purchasing firearms. 77% of owners and 87% of non-owners believed in mandated background checks for private gun sales and gun shows. 54% of owners and 80% of non-owners believed in a federal database for gun purchases. Defenders of minimal restrictions on the purchase of guns should note that of the 296 guns tallied by the Washington Post, 57% of them were obtained legally. Only 17% were obtained illegally, and 26% were obtained through unknown methods.

The statistics above clearly show that demand for more restrictive gun policy is expressed by a majority of American citizens for good reason. It’s frightening that 57% of the weapons used by shooters were obtained through completely legal methods, which refutes the argument that restrictive gun policy would do nothing to inhibit mass shootings. This highlights an important question. Why isn’t more being done? But this question is flawed. It puts the blame on politicians and leaders when America’s democratic system encompasses millions of ordinary citizens. A more important question would be this. Why aren’t we doing more?

“…Register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.” Emma González, a survivor of the February 14th Parkland shooting that claimed 17 lives, said these words and more to news crews just three days after the shooting. González and other survivors of the shooting have been particularly vocal in the weeks following the shooting. They’ve amassed millions of twitter followers and supporters from all demographics in their campaign for more restrictive gun legislation.

A million is a lot of people. But with the addition of the Christian community, a million becomes a lot more. Christians have a moral responsibility to join the movement for stricter gun laws. It’s a pro-life issue that becomes increasingly prevalent with every passing shooting and every death at the hands of a gun obtained legally or illegally.

Part Three, Section One, Chapter Two, Article Two of the Catholic Catechism reads “Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.” Roughly paraphrased, this says that if the lawmakers aren’t doing what is morally right, Christians have a calling to intervene.  

And there are few issues that lawmakers are more lackadaisical with than gun regulations. They’re afraid to take action, primarily for monetary reasons. According to Politico researchers, the gun lobby groups supported Republicans and Democrats with a total of $6,006,000. This data is based on information from the Center for Responsive Politics (another nonpartisan organization) that found that 232 of 435 members of the House of Representatives received money from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.

Politicians care about two things. They care about money and they care about being reelected. There isn’t much that people can do to encourage them to take action in terms of money. Contributions from the gun lobby fiercely outweigh contributions from other groups. But if people and the Christian community in particular take a stand, politicians with ties to the gun lobby will be persuaded to sever those ties in favor of being reelected.

Christians have been on the wrong side of history before. If the Christian community is to hold true to their beliefs on the preservation of life, it must take action to reduce the ease with which mass murderers can wreak havoc. They must take action to encourage universal background checks, to raise the age for buying weapons, to outlaw bump stocks (a legal attachment to semi-automatic rifles that makes them fire as quickly as automatic ones), and to protect the lives of children and adults from being cut short with a bullet.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston tweeted the following statement shortly after the shooting in Parkland. “We must prevent those who are mentally ill from access to deadly firearms. We can and must do better for each other by coming together as a society with the resolve to stop this senseless violence.”

While it’s certainly important in the Christian tradition to pray for the victims of mass shootings, it’s also very important (as the Cardinal said) to take action and come together as a society. There are some issues that prayer proves powerless against. There are some problems that a decade of the Rosary does nothing to stop.

For Christian youth who are unable to vote, there are plenty of ways to get involved. If you’re nearing voting age, you can call your representative and tell them your thoughts. The social media generation can easily participate in the political environment through apps such as Countable or Capital Call. You can march against gun violence in all of its forms. You can use social media to fundraise for gun reform groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety. An inability to vote is not synonymous with an inability to speak out.

David Hogg, another survivor of the Parkland shooting who has taken to speaking out, told Vox the following. “We’re going to hold these sick politicians who prefer the murder of children to [losing] their reelection. We’re going to hold them accountable. And that’s what we’re doing.”

So act now. Act as a citizen, but more importantly, act as a Christian. Take action to improve gun legislation. This isn’t a partisan issue anymore. It’s an issue of life or death. So hurry. The death toll is rising.


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