The United States Catholic bishops toned down language calling for stricter gun control legislation in the midst of three major shooting incidents in the country.
In a July 30 statement on the Bishops (USCCB) website, Bishop Frank Dewane, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, stated, “Our legislators must make changes to our gun policy to prevent the loss of life,” following the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California.
In an updated August 3 statement after Saturday’s El Paso shooting, signed this time by both Bishop Dewane and President of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the bishops seemed to backpedal in a small but significant way from the earlier declaration.
“The plague that gun violence has become continues unchecked and spreads across our country,” the statement reads.
“Things must change. Once again, we call for effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities,” it says.
An impassioned debate continues to rage in the country regarding the causes of the mass violence that plagues the nation, and specifically, the role that gun control laws have in these incidents.
Critics of further restrictions on gun laws point to regular episodes of lethal gun violence in states with the strictest gun laws, while proponents of tighter restrictions insist that making guns less accessible will necessarily decrease gun violence.
Stricter gun laws in California, for instance, would have made little difference in last Sunday’s Gilroy shooting, since the weapon used in the attack was already illegal in the state, critics have observed.
In addressing the three recent fatal shootings, Pope Francis assured victims and their families Sunday that he was “spiritually close” to them and promised his prayers, while refraining from weighing in on the matter of gun legislation.