Highlighting the president’s "call for sensible steps on gun control" in his State of the Union address—and similar actions by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg—N.Y. Cardinal Tim Dolan added his voice to those appealing for stricter gun regulation. He wrote in a blog post today: "I have a long list of things to pray for this Lent. Asking God’s help that our elected representatives in Washington and in state houses across the country have the courage and the wisdom to pass meaningful and effective gun control bills, will certainly have a prominent place in those prayers." Dolan, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adds, "For me, regulating and controlling guns is part of building a Culture of Life, of doing what we can to protect and defend human life. The easy access to guns, including assault weapons, that exists in our nation has contributed towards a Culture of Death, where human life and dignity are cheapened by the threat of violence."
Dolan explains that gun control "has been much on my mind since the Newtown killings, and, in particular, seeing the devastating effects that gun violence can bring when I celebrated the funeral Mass at Saint Mary of the Assumption parish in Katonah for Anne Marie Murphy, a brave teacher who died in that horrible tragedy, protecting her little student."
Cardinal Dolan notes that the U.S. Bishops and the Holy See have long advocated gun control, the Vatican in relation to the international small arms trade. "Here in the United States," he said, "the bishops have for decades supported measures to get handguns off the streets, and to ban assault weapons."
Cardinal Dolan said that he found himself "nodding in agreement" during the State of the Union address when the President said, “I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans—Americans who believe in the Second Amendment—have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.”
Dolan appears to understand that his position will make him a target of gun rights advocates. "Whenever I mention my support for gun control, the calls and emails come in," he said, "telling me that I’m naïve, reminding me of the Second Amendment to our Constitution, and arguing that the only thing gun control measures will accomplish is to keep guns out of the hands of honest, law-abiding people.
"I don’t pretend to be an expert on what should be in each specific bill, and I will never be an authority on the number of bullets that should be in an ammo clip, or the proper way to conduct background checks before selling someone a firearm. That’s the proper responsibility of our legislators, and, should constitutional questions arise, of our courts," Cardinal Dolan said. "However, there can be no denying that, in the wake of Newtown, Aurora, Blacksburg, Tucson, Columbine, and almost countless other horrific and senseless deaths by guns, that something must be done."
The cardinal acknowledged that "no law, no piece of legislation, will ever be able to protect us from every act of aggression, or from the harm that can come from an individual bent on killing." But, he wrote, "we must do what we can to minimize the opportunities for such acts, by limiting the easy access to guns—and, I would add, by increasing funding for programs to treat those who suffer from mental illness, especially those that might lead someone to commit mass murder."