It should be very troubling to every citizen of the United States—and Christians, especially—that there have been over 250 mass shootings in this country since January 1, 2022. Many of these, like the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, saw innocent school children killed.
As someone who knows about the use of firearms, and who has studied the writings of those who advocated for nonviolence, I can firmly state there is no justification for gun ownership by private citizens, in this country or any other.
Especially by Catholics.
When I joined the U.S. Navy in the 1980s, part of my boot camp training involved time on the gun range, primarily shooting pistols. Some years later, at a friend’s house, I fired a shotgun loaded with buckshot. Aiming at a tree, I accidentally killed a chicken that wandered into the line of fire.
On a couple of occasions, for Mother’s Day, my sons and I have visited a gun range, shooting pistols and AR-15 rifles at targets. Oddly, my scores were higher than theirs, despite their own military training with similar weapons. During six weeks of training for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, we practiced with pistols, AR-15s, and shotguns. Most recently, as a participant in the Citizens Police Academy in Twin Falls, Idaho—where I worked as a journalist—the police took us to their gun range and let us try their weapons.
On the flip side, I was robbed at gunpoint in 2009, outside my own home. A thief approached me as I was removing groceries from my car trunk and shoved a pistol against my spine, demanding cash. Fortunately, I was not injured, but the police never apprehended the guy.
My sons, being protective, have offered on multiple occasions to buy a gun for me for self-defense. I have refused.
That refusal stems from the belief based in Jesus’s own words from Luke 6:29: “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic from him either.”
There is also the tenet credited to Gandhi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
Just as no war is ever justified, despite those—including some “religious authorities”—who advocate for such violence, no violence against others, especially with guns, should be tolerated at any level.
Any Catholic who currently owns firearms should turn them in to law enforcement to be destroyed. Reselling them is not a suitable option. Just as many Catholic institutions have divested themselves from investing in businesses that manufacture weapons and ammunition, individual Catholics must relinquish their guns.
Not only Catholics, but all Christians who profess a belief in the all-consuming, unconditional love of Jesus. Every person, of whatever religion, who looks toward a loving deity for guidance and strength should trust in divine protection, not that provided by metal and gunpowder.
Some might ask, “What will that leave?” The answer: weapons in the hands of law enforcement and, sadly, the criminals who acquire them illegally. Yes, there may be martyrs when these miscreants decide to use their guns to assert their skewed racist or extremist viewpoints, settle disputes over gang territory, or break into a home to steal money for drugs. Police and other agencies are supposed to be trained to pursue and apprehend such individuals, while the justice system is equipped to prosecute and jail them.
Again, the outcry that “the system can’t be trusted” is no excuse for supposedly upstanding Christians of any denomination to buy guns. This cycle of insanity must stop somewhere.
Speaking of which, a lot of reporting by the media indicates many perpetrators of mass shootings are suspected of having undiagnosed mental illness. As with the Oxford, Michigan, shooting last November, parents of youngsters who threaten to take weapons into schools must step up and get their children proper medical and psychological treatment as soon as behavioral aberrations are noticed. Worrying about what the neighbors, friends, or family might think is no excuse. Worse still: being so preoccupied with one’s own shallow lifestyle that the child’s behavior is ignored should be grounds for that minor’s removal from the home.
Catholics are people of faith and prayer. We must show that faith publicly in action. That means not just calling upon elected officials to create strict gun control legislation, but setting the example by laying down our weapons and encouraging others to do the same. ♦
Julie A. Ferraro has been a journalist for over 30 years, covering diverse beats for secular newspapers as well as writing for many Catholic publications. A mother and grandmother, she currently lives in Atchison, Kansas. Her column, “God ‘n Life,” appears regularly in Today’s American Catholic.