In a speech on “Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform” on Tuesday 5 January 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama said gun violence is an infringement of religious liberty. He announced that “all gun sellers will now be required to register as dealers and carry out background checks on all buyers”.
In response, His Excellency Monsignor Kevin Joseph Farrell, Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, said: “Thank God there is someone who finally has the courage to fill the gaps in our shameful laws on gun control in order to reduce the number of massacres, murders and suicides that have become a plague in our country”.
Monsignor Farrell also described Obama’s proposal as “moderate” and interpreted the vehement reaction of Congress as reflecting the fact that “weapons were shamelessly sold to the lobby”.
As early as 1994, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had already published a document titled “Confronting a Culture of Violence”, in the wake of an appeal a grandmother made at her grandson’s funeral: “We hope that someone, somewhere, somehow, does something about the reasons that are bringing our children to killing each other”.
His Excellency Monsignor Thomas G. Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, mentioned this document in a statement released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after President Obama’s words on the need for measures regulating the sale and dissemination of firearms.
An excerpt from the document states: “U.S. Bishops have asked for reasonable policies to help reduce violence with weapons for a long time. Violence in our society is a complex problem, with many aspects, and takes many forms. Even if no measure is able to eliminate all acts of violence involving firearms, we welcome the efforts made to save lives and make communities safer. We hope that Congress will take this issue more seriously, considering all the various aspects it involves”.
In the U.S. alone, more than 33,000 people were killed by firearms in 2013. According to a poll carried out that same year by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service, about 62% of U.S. Catholics support tightening gun control measures.