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Catholic bishops favor gun control - but who knows it?

 |  NCR Today

The horrific shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Tucson, Ariz., has raised a plethora of moral and ethical issues. One of the most significant ones is gun control.

No matter what the motive or ideology of the gunman, he would not have been able to carry this off without a weapon that is classified as an “assault weapon.” His gun had a magazine with 30 bullets. He could shoot for quite a while without re-loading.

Assault weapons were banned under President Bill Clinton, and this ban was repealed under President George W. Bush.

Out of curiosity, I searched the Web site of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for their position on gun control. And sure enough, their Committee on Social Justice and World Peace issued this statement in 1978:

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“We support the development of a coherent national handgun control policy that includes: a several day cooling-off period between the sale and possession; a ban on "Saturday Night Specials"; the registration of handguns; the licensing of handgun owners; and more effective controls regulating the manufacture, sale and importation of handguns. We recognize, however, that these individual steps will not completely eliminate the abuse of handguns. We believe that only prohibition of the importation, manufacture, sale, possession and use of handguns (with reasonable exceptions made for the police, military, security guards and pistol clubs where guns would be kept on the premises under secure conditions) will provide a comprehensive response to handgun violence.”

This is certainly a strong, comprehensive (and now dated) policy. It is in fact, so strong that it should make the National Rifle Association go apoplectic. But who knew they even had a position?

This is the time for the bishops to respond to this crisis by resurrecting, and perhaps updating, this statement … and then pushing for real gun control on Capitol Hill. They can do this in coalition with other religious groups, many of whom share similar views.

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August 15-28, 2014

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