November 3 is the feast day of our Dominican brother, St. Martin de Porres of Peru. Martin is the patron saint of social justice, which has long been a commitment of our Congregation. Recently, a group of our sisters and associates has been focusing on the issue of Gun Violence through prayer, study, and action.
On All Souls Day, November 2, we joined members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for a prayer vigil in memory of people killed by gun violence. While the victims’ names were read, ribbons bearing these names were placed throughout the church. It was a stark reminder of the devastating news reports—night after night—about yet another death by guns. Have we not grown weary of this constant deluge of deadly violence?
We share with you below some of the facts we have learned through our study.
- Every day, more than 100 Americans are killed by guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. That makes it one of the most serious public health challenges our country faces. The effects of gun violence shape the lives of millions of Americans who witness it, know someone who has been shot, or live in fear of the next shooting.
- The U.S. gun homicide rate is 26 times that of other high-income countries. Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens. Because most of us have been teachers, we have been deeply moved by the recent murders in schools, especially in Uvalde, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri, where many of us have lived and taught. The bishops of the US echo our sadness in their June 2022 letter to Congress. Although mental illness plays a part, would these killings have taken place if guns were not so easily available?
- Carrying concealed weapons is permitted in all 50 states. They may be openly carried in 44 states and 30 states have Stand Your Ground Laws, which allow citizens to shoot and kill another person if they feel threatened. “Threatened” is notoriously subjective and vague.
- The NRA states that we need guns in schools—even in the hands of teachers. Will this not only contribute to the exploding proliferation of guns?
- American women are also greatly affected by gun violence. In an average month in the U.S., 70 women are shot to death by an intimate partner. Black women are 2x as likely to be fatally shot by an intimate partner compared to white women.
- Nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides. The U.S. gun suicide rate is almost 12 times that of other high-income countries. Access to a gun increases the risk of death by suicide by three times. Gun suicides are concentrated in states with high rates of gun ownership. Most people who attempt suicide do not die – unless they use a gun. Of all suicide attempts not involving a firearm, less than five percent will result in death. But approximately 85 percent of gun suicide attempts end in death.
The gun culture goes much deeper than the NRA organization:
- The US has a long-standing history of armed conflict and war.
- The US defense industry is the largest in the world and one of the major engines of our economy.
- Entertainment media are filled with gun violence.
- Video games revel in gore and mayhem.
Americans intuitively reject the prospect of being less free. And yet, must this “freedom” to bear arms and the irreparable damage that guns do, be the price we pay for that which threatens the rest of our freedoms?
We have become an armed society. Can we begin to disarm?
Some actions we can take:
- VOTE for candidates who favor sensible gun legislation.
- Go to Everytown for Gun Safety at everytown.org for action suggestions or join Moms Demand Action
- Pray for peace and non-violence every day.
– Sister Mary Pius Fagan, OP
Sister Mary Pius is active in social justice efforts; she founded and ministered for 15 years in the Criminal Justice Ministry through the Society of St. Vincent DePaul in the St. Louis Archdiocese.
– Sister Mary Jo Heman, OP
Sister Mary Jo is deeply committed to advocacy efforts in the areas of racial justice and criminal justice reform.