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Promoting a culture of life in face of gun tragedies

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 6, 2013

When I first moved out of Mooers Forks and was stationed in Pensacola, I remember being shocked, and maybe just a little bit scared, when it seemed that every week there were murders taking place on the streets of my new home.  Convenience stores seemed to be the preferred places where robberies and shootings occurred with regularity.

I grew up where we didn’t lock the doors of our homes or our cars when we went to bed at night. When I left home, it didn’t take me long to learn that I “wasn’t in Kansas anymore.”

A few decades later, things have changed.  In a couple of unrelated incidents, a few years ago, my tiny hometown came to know, first hand, the terrible effects of deadly violence.  The lives of neighbors, family and friends with whom we grew up have been forever scarred by the violent death of loved ones. 

Today, no one, no place, however remote, is immune from the violence human beings are inflicting on one another. With deep horror and outrage we have seen the unspeakable massacres of little children and brave teachers in an elementary school in Connecticut and other tragic incidents that left innocent loved ones dead from a movie theater in Colorado, to a shopping mall parking lot in Tucson, to the college campus of Virginia Tech, to Columbine High School, to cite just a few.  

As a community, state and as a nation we have all shared in the utter disbelief and profound grief at such horrific violence.    Particularly those of us who have grown up in the North Country appreciate, value, and insist upon our constitutional right to bear arms.  (My oldest sister was more successful in the woods during hunting season than me.  I remember that the only thing I got last time I went hunting was lost!) 

Our nation has a proud history of responsible gun ownership.  However, while respecting our Constitutional rights, we need even greater vigilance to better protect our vulnerable children, indeed every person. Clearly, we can and must debate and address the underlying issues that lead to such horror: violent movies and video games, mental illness, the breakdown of the family and inadequate school safety.  However, we would be seriously negligent not to look at the easy access to high-caliber, high-capacity weaponry that seems to be appropriate for military assaults, not personal use.

While I do not pretend to be a Constitutional lawyer nor an expert on weaponry, my pastoral responsibilities dictate that I teach and promote a culture of life in the face of such tragedies.  There is no easy answer to the violence which has become common place in our culture of death. However, if we are truly a pro-life people, we must do what we can to stop these horrific killings, just as we do all we can to save the baby in the womb or the elderly person threatened by euthanasia. 

There are no sides to take in trying to find effective solutions to this urgent problem.  We applaud all those lawmakers who work together, regardless of party affiliation, in their efforts to assure that our liberties guaranteed by the Constitution are respected, while, at the same time, reaching an agreement that better ensures that those who suffer mental illness or who are at risk of criminal behavior do not have access to weapons of any kind.  We cannot become accustomed or resigned to the frequency of gun-related murders.   You and I must continue to pray for those victimized by such senseless slaughter. 

We pray that our legislators seek God’s wisdom and courage to find effective solutions to this complex and critical life issue.

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