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PCM Statement on Gun Violence

Significantly more deaths from gun violence occur each year in the United States than any other developed nation in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2020 more Americans died of gun-related injuries than in any other year on record. On a per capita basis, there were 13.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, the highest rate since the mid-1990s, and up from 10.2 firearm-related deaths in 2016. The effective lack of restrictions on access to guns contributes to gun violence. BBC News reports that in 2018, civilian gun ownership in the U.S. stood at 120.5 per 100 people, more than double the next highest nation – Yemen, with 52.8 guns per 100 residents.


Numerous mass shootings have scarred the American landscape: Newtown, Columbine, Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Parkland, Uvalde, Texas, Highland Park, Illinois, Oxford, Michigan, and Michigan State University are among the communities where innocent lives have been lost. After each devastating incident, gun advocates and their primary spokesman, National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre, respond by calling for more guns and fewer gun safety laws, and by accusing those calling for greater gun safety of “politicizing” tragedy. Hopes for reasonable federal gun control legislation are stymied with Congress effectively “bought off” by the NRA. In May 2022, the Boston Globe reported that, since 2010, the NRA has spent $148 million on federal elections, with $91 million of that total devoted to defeating Democratic candidates. Over 98 percent of contributions supporting candidates went to Republicans. And, when a modest federal gun-safety measure, The Safer Communities Act, was passed by Congress in June 2022, almost simultaneously, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York State’s rigorous limits on concealed carry. The implications of the court’s decision include likely challenges to gun-control measures throughout the nation.


Special mention must be made of what Pax Christi USA, in its July 2016 Statement on Racial Violence in the U.S. calls “a crisis of racism and fear – political and media sources brand certain people as presumptive enemies. Our uncivil political rhetoric, amplified by the media, reinforces the fear of whole groups of people: young black men, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community. This only serves to fan racism, bigotry and the ‘blaming of victims’ of impoverishment and marginalization.” It is essential to involve such marginalized communities in the search for solutions to gun violence.


The Hebrew prophets repeatedly warned against idolatry; as a prime example, placing trust in weapons. “God will judge between nations and render decisions for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation will not lift up the sword against another, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4). In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism posed the question, “Is the need for sensible gun-control a religious issue?” Its Director, Rabbi David Saperstein answered, drawing on the same prophetic tradition of his faith: “You bet it is. The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity. Our gun-flooded, violence prone society has turned weapons into idols. And the appropriate religious response to idolatry is sustained moral outrage.”


In his January 1, 2014 World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis proclaimed, “I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”


Pax Christi Michigan agrees that “reasonable regulation of firearms” is urgently needed, and long overdue. Specifically, we advocate comprehensive federal legislation that would:

  1. Require universal background checks on all prospective firearms and ammunition purchasers, including at gun shows and on private in-person or online gun sales; *

  2. Require a waiting period of a specified number of days between a firearm purchase and when it is physically transferred to the purchaser;

  3. Require persons seeking to purchase or possess a firearm to: obtain a firearm safety certificate by successfully completing a safety training course; register their firearms and obtain a license; notify law enforcement when their weapons are lost or stolen; and, safely store their firearms and ammunition in the home to prevent access by children and other unauthorized users;

  4. Prevent persons who are subject to domestic protection orders from purchasing firearms; **

  5. Prevent persons under the age of 21 from purchasing firearms;

  6. Require gun dealers to obtain a local permit, conduct employee background checks, and obtain liability insurance;

  7. Ban all automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons, and modifications such as bump stocks that make semi-automatic weapons function like automatic weapons;

  8. Ban large capacity ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds;

  9. Ban licensed and unlicensed open carry of loaded and unloaded firearms;

  10. Ban both open and concealed carry of firearms in public places including: elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, child-care centers, places of worship, shopping centers and malls, hospitals, entertainment venues, stadiums, restaurants, bars, and outdoor or indoor festivals;

  11. Require the personalization of handguns, that is, equipping them with technology that prevents them from firing when operated by an unauthorized user; and, prohibit the manufacture, importation, purchase and transfer of non-personalized handguns;

  12. Prohibit the manufacture of kits used to build un-serialized, privately-assembled “ghost guns”; ***

  13. Legalize comprehensive ballistic identification through “microstampling” technology;

  14. Repeal the “Dickey Amendment” that prevents the Center for Disease Control from spending funds “to advocate or promote gun control,” and restore funding for research on gun violence;

  15. Offer a gun buyback opportunity to private gun owners, without fear of prosecution; and,

  16. Pass campaign finance reform and reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to reduce the role of money in the U.S. political system, and to diminish the role of lobbying.


As part of the Catholic peace and justice movement that seeks to model the Peace of Christ, Pax Christi Michigan considers the current situation, with gun violence ravaging our families and communities and terrorizing our children, to be unconscionable. With this Statement on Gun Violence, we declare unequivocally that we reject gun violence, and that we follow the One who said, “Peter, put away your sword.”


* The Safer Communities Act (SAC) expands background checks on people between the ages of 18 and 21 seeking to buy a gun.

** The SAC expands an existing law that prevents people convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun to include dating partners in addition to spouses and former spouses. It also includes incentives for states to pass so-called red flag laws that allow groups to petition courts to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

*** In April 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order that addressed this issue.


                                                                                                                                     Rev. February 2023

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National School Walkout: Thousands Protest Against Gun Violence Across the U.S.


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