'Gun Control'

Increase in Arms Transfers

Posted on 19. Mar, 2017 by .


The volume of international transfers of major weapons has grown continuously since 2004 and increased by 8.4 per cent between 2007–11 and 2012–16, according to new data on arms transfers published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Notably, transfers of major weapons in 2012–16 reached their highest volume for any five-year period since the end of the cold war.

The flow of arms increased to Asia and Oceania and the Middle East between 2007–11 and 2012–16, while there was a decrease in the flow to Europe, the Americas and Africa. The five biggest exporters—the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany—together accounted for 74 per cent of the total volume of arms exports.

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Provincial Letter on Orlando and Gun Violence

Posted on 17. Jul, 2016 by .


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 June 17, 2016
May the Lord give you peace!
This is the traditional greeting of St. Francis of Assisi, one that has been adopted over the eight centuries of the Franciscan Order by its members. It signals one of the main themes in the life of our founder and his followers: the call to be instruments of peace.
This week, here in the United States, we once again find ourselves dealing with yet another instance of the seemingly endless stream of senseless violence in our land. This time with 49 innocent deaths, and an equal number of injuries, at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. There have been 182 mass shootings this year alone. These shootings have taken the lives of 288 people and injured another 673. Six of these shootings have taken place since Orlando. These tragic moments serve add to a culture of fear in our nation that makes us suspicious of anyone we define as “other.”
As Franciscan friars in the United States, we of course, join our voices to the chorus of those offering thoughts and prayers for the victims in Orlando. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our LGBT brothers and sisters as they grieve and try to make sense of this tragedy. To them we say clearly: we stand with you.
But, there is another chorus we would like to join our voices to today; that of the voices calling for sensible gun reform in America. Discussion of gun reform always seems to lead to loud voices on both sides, so loud that no one really listens. We often try and reduce the public discourse to a simplistic black-and-white version of the issues. This is not helpful or productive. But, surely, we can all agree that there are some acceptable, sensible measures that can be enacted right now.
More than 35,000 people die in the United States each year to gun violence. When it comes to mass shootings, the weapon of choice has become assault-style weapons which have one purpose alone – to kill large numbers of people. There is no place for this type of weaponry in the daily life of citizens. It is not a weapon of defense or of sport. It is only a weapon of mass killing. We encourage our President and our legislators, to once again ban these assault-style weapons in our country.
There are also sensible measures that can be taken on the issue of background checks. It should not be more difficult to vote, get a driver’s license, or purchase cold medicine at the drug store, than it is to buy a gun. Universal background checks for all gun purchases no matter where they happen is a reasonable expectation when buying a weapon.
These two common sense reforms enjoy the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans, and are a sensible first step in reducing the violence of a gun culture run amok in the U.S.
It is time that we stand up as a people and say enough is enough. We strive to live up to our call to be instruments of peace in our world. We support these sensible measures to help us become a more peaceful, less fearful, society.
It is time for the President and the Congress to act. We ask them to act now!
May the Lord give us peace!
Very Rev. David Gaa, OFM
St. Barbara Province Oakland, California
Very Rev. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM
Our Lady of Guadalupe Province Albuquerque, New Mexico
Very Rev. James Gannon, OFM
Assumption BVM Province Franklin, Wisconsin 
Very Rev. Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM
St. John the Baptist Province Cincinnati, Ohio
Very Rev. Kevin Mullen, OFM
Holy Name Province New York, New York 
Very Rev. William Spencer, OFM
Sacred Heart Province St. Louis, Missouri
Very Rev. Robert Campagna, OFM
Immaculate Conception Province New York, New York

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Response to Orlando

Posted on 14. Jun, 2016 by .



Action Alerts

Gun Control Now: Coming from politicians who not only refuse to act to reduce gun violence, but who also foster and promote anti-LGBT bigotry and hate through their words, their party platform and their legislative actions, their “thoughts and prayers” don’t mean much.

Click here to take action. 

Disarm Hate: On Sunday we saw the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at a gay nightclub in Orlando. It was an attack on the LGBT community, an act of hate carried out with a gun. Hatred comes in many different forms. But there’s no reason why those filled with hate should have a gun.

Click here to take action. 

Sign the Condolence Card

In the wake of this tragedy, we need to let the people of Orlando, Florida know that the country stands with them during this horrific time. Please use this form to add your name to a condolence message for the Orlando community, and pledge your support to fight for an America free from gun violence.

Click here to take action.


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Gun Violence Prevention Film

Posted on 15. May, 2016 by .


FAN and Brave New Films have forged a recent partnership surrounding a new film produced on gun violence prevention. The name of the film is Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA.

Brave New Films’ mission is to champion social justice issues by using a model of media, education, and grassroots volunteer involvement that inspires, empowers, motivates and teaches civic participation and makes a difference. Their feature films educate on a range of topics from income inequality and big money in politics to debtor’s prison and gun violence in America. Brave New Films has created a quick-strike capability that informs the public, challenges mainstream media with the truth, and motivates people to take action on social issues nationwide.

Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and The NRA tells the stories of how guns, and the billions made off of them, affect the lives of everyday Americans. It features personal stories from people across the country who have been affected by gun violence, including survivors and victims’ families. The film exposes how the powerful gun companies and the NRA are resisting responsible legislation for the sake of profit – and thereby putting people in danger.

When you sign up to host a screening, Brave New Films will send you the film for free. Additionally, they send you screening guides to help walk you through the process and generate meaningful discussion as well as action guides to help with creative follow up strategies. Sign up on the website to host a screening near you.

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Action on Gun Violence?

Posted on 29. Dec, 2015 by .


The following article is from the National Catholic Reporter

NCR Editor’s note: this story appeared in the Dec. 4-17 print edition of National Catholic Reporter. After NCRwent to press, the tragic mass shooting in San Bernardino took place, with 14 dead and 21 wounded. The incident brings yet another layer of complexity to the gun violence debate. Guns and mental illness; guns and gangs; guns and Islamic extremism. The assault rifles used in the San Bernardino shooting were variants of the AR-15, a semiautomatic civilian version of a military M-16. They were bought legally in California, but illegally modified, one becoming fully automatic, the other using a large-capacity magazine. 

Sixteen years have passed since the school shooting at Columbine, eight since Virginia Tech, and as of Dec. 14, three since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which took the lives of 20 first-graders and six adults.12042015p18phb
In between, before and after, dozens of other mass shootings have occurred. In the same period, hundreds of thousands have died in gun-related homicides, suicides and accidents. Yet even as large majorities say they would support sensible regulations like universal background checks and handgun purchaser licensing laws, which drastically reduce firearm deaths, the nation seems paralyzed with inaction.

“The fundamental problem is that many of the people who support gun violence prevention don’t really believe that anything can be done about it, and as a result they’re not as motivated as people on the other side,” said Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, which was set to host its annual National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend Dec. 10-14 in Washington, D.C.

The pro-gun-rights crowd is passionate, convinced of their argument and ready to go to the mat, DeMarco says. Everyone else, including many gun owners, may support anti-gun-violence measures, but don’t truly believe they will work.

DeMarco says that educating the public is “the best thing the Catholic church and all of us could do.”

Franciscan Sr. Marie Lucey, director of advocacy and member relations for Franciscan Action Network, agrees. The American Catholic church can “frame gun violence as a pro-life issue and a health care issue,” she wrote in an email.

“Bishops and pastors have the pulpit. They can bring the issue home, to their own state, city, town,” she wrote. “They can speak with law enforcement, hospital personnel and teachers, and arrange meetings with parishioners to talk about gun violence, using statistics about children killed, the fact that most gun deaths are by handguns, and the majority of these are suicides. An environment of listening has to be created. Respectful dialogue is needed. There are very good films that can be used. Some schools already have programs in place.”

Implementing change will necessarily mean taking on the National Rifle Association, corporations, and the money involved. It will also hinge on convincing the public of an overarching strategy while not letting misunderstanding and mistrust build up across an array of related pro-life issues.

Anthony Granado of the U.S. bishops’ Office of Domestic Social Development said that many gun rights activists’ approach is a “very simple perspective, which is: Do not touch guns, do not touch our right, it is absolute, there should be no infringement. And that’s something that is repeatable, it’s not nuanced, it’s not complex, it’s just a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment, and so they’re able to rally people around that.”

On the other end of the spectrum, people feel overwhelmed by the “complexity of the issue,” he said.

“Are we seeking to stop or at least limit mass shootings in schools? Are we trying to address the gun violence in our inner cities? Are we talking about domestic violence?” Granado asked. “The nuance creates areas where people can say, ‘Well, I agree with you here, but I don’t agree with you there.’ ”

Take the question of mental illness, which is often mentioned in the same breath as mass shootings. Many of the shootings involve mentally ill young men, but studies regularly show that people suffering from mental illness are not violent. Instead, they are more likely the victims of violence.

The mass shootings grab our attention, then lead us astray, said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

When we talk about the correlation between mental illness and gun death, we ought to be talking about “suicide deaths from people who have mental illness,” he said, as suicide gun deaths vastly outnumber deaths that occur annually as a result of mass shootings, and even outnumber the murders that occur in day-in, day-out settings.

“We live in a culture that’s dependent on drugs, because it’s depressed, it lacks hope,” Adkins said. “Are we giving people hope? Are we reaching out, are we treating mental illness effectively, with effective services? Are we embracing a culture of encounter, and reaching out to the people who are troubled most?”

Other gun-death-related issues are equally problematic, like inner-city shootings, where a cultural and political rift exists on the question: What causes a life of crime?

The “progressive” tendency views the issue through the lens of economic inequality and racial injustice, as many inner-city neighborhoods with high levels of firearm death are populated by poor African-Americans. The “conservative” mindset tends to focus on cultural and moral problems.

“Why does a person resort to a life of crime?” asked Adkins. “There are certainly socio-economic reasons, but there are also the moral reasons: the breakdown of the traditional family, a culture of fatherlessness, gang violence as a way of belonging.”

How does one thread the needle?

“Every day, when you pick up the paper, that’s what you see, another African-American has been killed,” said Thomas Buckley, general counsel for the St. Louis archdiocese.

In a recent study, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law reported that St. Louis had the highest murder rate in the country, as measured per capita.

“We are way ahead of murders this year compared to last year in St. Louis,” Buckley said. “Unfortunately, it does seem to impact certain socio-economic segments of our area, and it’s most impacted the poor African-American areas and regions of the greater St. Louis area.”

What Buckley finds most disturbing is the “increase in holdups [where] the person gives them their wallet and turns to go away, and the attacker shoots them in the back.” Not a “drug deal gone bad or some gang infighting or gangs fighting other gangs,” just random, senseless death.

“I think most people recognize that this is a problem of our culture, of the moral fabric of our society,” he said, mentioning both the realities of “lower life expectancies across zip codes” in the St. Louis area, and “the collapse of the family.”

“We have to acknowledge the legitimate points on both sides of the debate and root that in first principals,” said Adkins. “Catholic social teaching could play a role here.”

At the same time, “just because guns are not the first point of the problem, it doesn’t mean we can’t regulate reasonably,” he said. “And keep people away from guns who can’t exercise their rights responsibly.”

Granado agreed about reasonable regulation: “One of the things that Congress can do immediately is to address the issue of background checks, universal background checks for all people. This is a simple thing.”

Even in a state like Minnesota, where “there is a sensitivity because we are a hunting state, we are an agricultural state, guns are a part of everyday life,” focusing on background checks are the way to go, said Adkins.

“Clearly, when you look at polling, there is a broad consensus in the public about reasonable regulation of firearms. Background checks typically have strong support even in a gun-friendly state like Minnesota,” he said. “The real challenge is to try get the debate out of this false either/or, partisan dynamic.”

DeMarco said the most “constructive, positive” thing the church can do would be to focus on educating the public about the effectiveness of background checks and handgun licensing laws.

“There needs to be more networking,” he said, and he hopes the Dec. 10-14 anti-gun-violence Sabbath weekend event will help put various groups on the same page.

“People think about this differently in different areas,” he said, “but I think that everywhere people don’t know about the effective measures. And that’s what we need to get out.”

[Vinnie Rotondaro is NCR national correspondent. His email address is vrotondaro@ncronline.org.]

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