Parishes | Schools | Priests | Masses |
More in this section MAIN MENU

How can we prevent mass shootings?

English Spanish

Once again, in recent weeks we have witnessed multiple mass shootings in our nation. The tragic and senseless murder of shoppers in Buffalo, New York, and then school children in Uvalde, Texas, captured the most media attention. But mass shootings (involving three or more victims) have occurred across the country – in Saginaw, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Chicago, Illinois; Clarendon County, South Carolina, and elsewhere.

We all are understandably outraged, especially when innocent children are made victims of senseless violence. And as the appalling dimensions of these shootings continue to unfold — the missed signals that, were they heeded, might have prevented them — we recoil in anger and in exasperation. We seek answers on how to prevent future occurrences of such carnage. “Do something!” was the cry that greeted President Biden and his wife when they visited Uvalde. Similar demands have been made to Congress as lawmakers struggle to respond to our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

Whatever the possible remedies proposed will be of small comfort to those who lost sons and daughters, siblings, spouses, and friends, or to the survivors who have been traumatized. Likewise, in the face of the evil they experienced, there is no answer that can adequately explain why this horror was visited upon them.

“Red flag laws” that would keep arms away from the mentally disturbed can certainly be harmonized with the Second Amendment. However, while gun legislation can always be tweaked, it is not apparent that such measures alone would be sufficient to prevent the next outbreak of mass murder.

The Wall Street Journal editorialized after the sad events in Uvalde: “That a teenager could look at a nine-year-old, aim a gun, and pull the trigger signals some larger social and cultural breakdown... the rise of family dysfunction and the decline of mediating institutions such as churches and social clubs have consequences.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, while calling for action to limit the widespread availability of firearms, spoke in a similar vein.

“There is something deeply wrong,” the bishops’ statement reads, “with a culture where these acts of violence are increasingly common. There must be dialogue followed by concrete action to bring about a broader social renewal that addresses all aspects of the crisis, including mental health, the state of families, the valuation of life, the influence of entertainment and gaming industries, bullying, and the availability of firearms.”

There is “some larger social and cultural breakdown” occurring in our nation. Rising crime rates, along with contempt for other people’s rights and possessions, indicate that those cultural “guardrails” that allow for public comity have collapsed or, least, are seriously frayed. The breakdown of families and the crisis of fatherlessness, the deaths of despair arising from increasing rates of suicide and from opioids and drug abuse, social and political polarizations, and mass shootings all point to this social and cultural breakdown. Never have people been so “connected” yet so lonely and feeling “set adrift.”

At the risk of putting forth a cliché, what the world needs now is love. But not the ersatz love peddled by the popular culture today. It needs the Love that is the capacity to transcend oneself, to make a gift of oneself to another. We must make our families once again the schools where such love is taught and experienced and the gift of self is made possible, where children learn such love from parents — from mothers and fathers who are committed to each other in that stable and permanent relationship called marriage.

Only love, the tough love found in committed and enduring relationships, can address the social and spiritual deficits that beset our nation and make it possible that “a teenager could look at a nine-year-old, aim a gun, and pull the trigger...”