Let the Children Teach Us

An article about gun violence by Sister Bernadette Schaad

We live in a country that values freedom yet struggles to liberate and keep safe its own citizens. We can no longer deny that we live in a culture of immeasurable and unexplainable violence. As a nation we survived 30 mass shootings in the last 30 years and have regrettably achieved a homicide rate four times the number of any western European nation. On July 20, 2012 a lone gunman killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. On Aug. 5, 2012, six members of the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin were gunned down.

We saw these stories in the news. Even though we live in a country that boasts of the highest number of gun ownerships, we were still shocked. Yet, slowly our lives returned to normal. Life continued for most of us and autumn turned to winter. As the snow in New England was beginning to fall, little children joyfully shared their excitement in anticipation of Christmas. Then on Dec. 14, 2012, a single gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School killing 20 children and five adults. That day, none of us could escape the tragic news of yet another mass shooting. Early reports showed emergency personnel rushing to the scene to rescue survivors, but no one would survive.

Instead we would see pictures of first graders and hear that they were now dead. We would see the agony in the faces of moms and dads who had no chance to protect their children. That day, we learned that not even the most vulnerable and innocent among us could escape becoming victims of gun violence.

Something profound happened that day. Most of us would not move on from that moment unchanged. We saw a president wipe tears from his eyes as he told the story. After years of silence, the cry for common sense gun safety was heard throughout our nation. Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, 80 to 90 percent of Americans favored responsible gun control. Four months later, we continue to struggle to enact effective legislation. Currently 90 percent of us still favor background checks. However, support for banning the sale of assault weapons and banning high-capacity magazines had diminished to 68 percent.

Recently, the Senate Judiciary Committee postponed consideration of four bills to minimize gun violence. It was concluded that the bill to ban assault weapons which is similar to the one that expired in 2004, faces an uphill battle. Even though there seems to be stronger support for more extensive background checks, bipartisan agreement has not been achieved.

NETWORK and the LCWR had called on all of us to write to our congressional leaders to support life by passing legislation that mandates background checks. More importantly we also need to advocate for a ban on the sale, transfer and possession of assault weapons as well as the munitions that go with them. LCWR further encourages that we adequately fund the care for those with mental illness as a comprehensive approach to addressing the problem of violence in our society.

Currently, we see our Senate stalling in passing bills for extensive background checks and an assault weapon ban. While public opinion favoring this legislation remains high, major leaders simply state that there is not enough support in the Senate for these bills. Please urge your senators to act with conviction in protecting our most vulnerable.