On this Easter Sunday, Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Christ, an event that marks, for us, the ultimate triumph of life over death. It is a time of great rejoicing among Christian communities and is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
Catholic voters should look for where they can make a difference. Unlike abortion, pro-life Catholics have ample opportunity to help change gun policy.
In modern, secular democracies, Christian voters often struggle to reconcile their faith with a range of local political challenges and national attitudes. Although these challenges tend to be similar in these democracies – for example, taxation and immigration issues – in only one of these countries, Christians and their neighbors25 times more likely to be killed by a gun: United States.
Who is to blame for the lax gun laws that allow this shameful national embarrassment to continue? Lawmakers and the gun lobby come to mind. But frankly, I was also part of the problem — because I’m a Catholic who for decades has tacitly supported laws and policies that increase gun deaths thanks to my pro-life vote.
Even if the complete eradication of gun deaths will never happen in a country where more weapons than citizens, the reason we have about 40,000 gun deaths every year is because we tolerate it. As a Catholic veteran, I spent time carrying both my gun and my rosary. In the military, we emphasized training, safety, and accountability whenever we dealt with weapons. This is why I am stunned by the irresponsibility of our civilian gun policies.
Although mass shootings, like the most recent in Atlanta; Boulder, Colorado; and Orange, California – receive significant media attention, our 40,000 annual firearm deaths mostly occur outside the spotlight. There are proven means to reduce the number of gun deaths and to help keep guns away from the wrong people. We should start with one of the simplest and most politically popular policies: adopting a universal federal background check requirement for all gun sales.
The United States House of Representatives recently passed a bill requiring background checks on gun sales, including private sales via the Internet and at gun shows. He passed the same bill in February 2019, and the The Republican Senate never even voted above. This new bill might get a vote in the Senate, but it will almost certainly fail due to the stubbornness of Republican senators.
All this despite 89% of voters – including 83% Republicans – in 2019 promote background checks on all gun sales, which is a level of bipartisan agreement that is hard to come by these days. But the Republican Party leadership listens to the National Rifle Association more than its constituents. the The NRA spent $1.6 million lobbying Congress during the 2019 fight to effectively facilitate the purchase of a gun by domestic abusers, fugitives and convicted felons.
Sadly, many of us pro-life Catholics have supported this dysfunction with our donations and votes, telling us that the abortion issue appeals more to our partisan loyalties. While polls show that Catholics are also equally divided between parties like the rest of the country regular Mass attenders like myself tend to roll their eyes at these polls because we know they are skewed by people who identify as Catholic but have not seen inside a church for some time.
Among practicing Catholics, partisan loyalties skew much more towards the republicans, and abortion is one of the main issues keeping them there. Yet abortions in the United States are on a steady decline trajectory, through Democratic and Republican presidencies, until historic lows – lower than it was when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 that abortion was illegal in most states. At the same time, the opinion of American voters on abortion is at a standstill, unchanged from 25 years ago.
Instead, Catholic voters should look for where they can make a difference. Unlike abortion, there is plenty of opportunity for pro-life Catholics to help change gun policy in a way that is more closely aligned with the Position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on guns. The conference promotes background checks of all gun sales, banning assault weapons, and other reasonable positions.
His position is consistent with the constitutional rights of Americans. For example, we already have a background check system that works for federally licensed gun dealers – the loopholes just need to be plugged. And when it comes to assault weapons, the United States has long restrictions on certain types of firearms which are uncontroversial as far as the Second Amendment is concerned.
Here’s why these loopholes need to be closed urgently: In a tragically familiar story, a Wisconsin man was arrested for raping his wife at gunpoint and released on bail with instructions not to see his wife or to possess firearms, USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported in 2018. Yet upon his release, he purchased a 9mm Glock handgun and used it to kill his wife and himself and their children nearby.
How did he get it? He easily avoided the federal background check process by going to ArmsList.com, which brokered a deal between him and a private seller that they closed in a Walmart parking lot, according to the report. In the United States, a gun buyer must pass a background check process when buying a gun from a licensed gun dealer, but people who know they don’t will not pass will arrange for a private sale and avoid the process. The bill passed by the House closes this loophole. In this case, the man shot and killed his wife the next day.
There is nothing in any of this that is consistent with the Gospels, and there is no excuse for our silence in the face of so many preventable deaths.
We live in a time of shifting alliances, when voters reevaluate their long-standing partisan affiliations and find new political homes. This offers Catholics a historic opportunity to impact gun policy that can be more aligned with Catholic social teaching.
As it stands, “the believer is literally homeless in the party structure in the United States”, Bishop of San Diego Robert McElroy noted on the “Voting Catholic” podcast Last year. “There is no partisan platform that even begins to come close to what Catholic teaching is.”
But if Catholic contributors to Republican candidates decided to sit on their checkbooks and Catholic voters decided to sit on the sidelines for an election cycle or two until the party decided to be less under the grip of the NRA, they could begin to push the GOP to make its gun policies more consistent with the gospel principles expressed in the position of the Catholic Bishops‘ Conference.
Many of us pro-life Catholics have supported this dysfunction with our donations and votes, telling us that the issue of abortion is a bigger call.
The average Catholic voter has a lot of power in the Republican Party that our immigrant ancestors never would have imagined. Catholics must go beyond “thoughts and prayers” for victims of gun violence and convert them to action.
We Catholics are a people of plenty. We reject false dualisms. We are a “both/and” Church, not an “either/or” Church. Jesus was both human and Divine. We believe in faith and reason, scripture and tradition. Being pro-life can’t be about abortion Where gun safety. It must be both, as well as other positions that protect and promote life.
Within our bifurcated political system, we can push for responsible gun policy in a way that is aligned with, rather than contrary to, our Catholic values. This Easter season is a time to celebrate life rather than death. To borrow an expression from Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, there is a more “great way”. Let’s take it.