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Bishops take sides in gun rights debate

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According to yesterday’s on-line Seattle column by Joel Connelly, Washington State’s four Catholic bishops have taken sides in the gun rights battle and it’s not to the benefit of legally-armed members of their congregations.

This revelation may reopen a different debate, not over firearms civil rights but over how far churches should be allowed to wade into political controversies before risking their tax status and crossing the separation of church-and-state line.

In writing about the Catholic church’s involvement, Connelly offers some questionable comments that might raise some eyebrows, as did the bishops in a statement quoted by the veteran liberal columnist.

Item #1: “The initiative was launched by Puget Sound-area faith leaders after the assassination, one year ago, of 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.” That’s odd. The initiative was, according to the Secretary of State’s office, filed by Cheryl Stumbo, and the mailing address for the sponsors is that of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

If “faith leaders” launched the initiative, perhaps someone has some explaining to do.

Item #2: According to Connelly, “…a rival initiative, sponsored by gun rights supporters…would forbid background checks.”

That’s not true. Initiative 591 doesn’t prohibit background checks. It merely forces such checks to comply with a uniform national standard, and that is an important distinction. Why should checks conducted here be any different than checks conducted, say, in neighboring Oregon or Idaho?

Equally important, it prevents government seizure of firearms without due process. Anyone who says that can't happen because it is already against the law must have missed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Item #3: According to the statement from the bishops, “The purpose of Initiative 594 is to require a background check on the sale or transfer of all firearms other than antique firearms, for both licensed and unlicensed purchasers.”

This indicates the bishops don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. One does not need a license in Washington State to purchase a firearm. Maybe that’s how these bishops might like it, and that’s a conversation that may have to occur sooner than later between them and legally-armed members of their congregations.

According to Connelly’s column, the four bishops and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have five priorities:

–Measures that place reasonable conditions on the sale and use of firearms;
–Measures that make guns safer;
–Sensible regulation of handguns;
–Efforts intended to curb easy access to deadly weapons, including assault rifles;
–A serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.”

Here is where anti-gunners, including members of the clergy, collide head-on with civil rights other than freedom of religion.

What defines “reasonable conditions?” What conditions would they think are reasonable?

The American firearms industry already makes guns as safe as is humanly possible, but as any seasoned firearms instructor will explain, the “real” safety is between the ears of the user. Finger off the trigger until ready to fire, always keep a firearm pointed in a safe direction, and so forth; things a firearm doesn’t do on its own, but things gun owners must consciously – and ultimately, reflexively – do whenever they handle a gun. You cannot legislate common sense or against stupidity.

These bishops can probably recite the Ten Commandments in their sleep, but can they repeat the “Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety?”

What defines “sensible regulation of handguns?” What is that, exactly?

What “efforts…to curb ‘easy’ access to deadly weapons” do they have in mind? It’s easy to speak platitudes, but the bishops need to get down to the nuts and bolts, which may provide an educational opportunity for both the bishops and their congregations.

What is a “serious commitment” to address addiction and mental illness? Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner, Ian Stawicki, Seung Hui Cho, Naveed Haq; every one of these people, according to some folks, should have been locked in an asylum. This is a discussion the clergy ought to have with mental health professionals.

MEANWHILE, exploitation of this coming Saturday’s anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy shifts into high gear with Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) and Moms Demand Action (MDA) pushing gun control with a string of emotional messages and videos.

There’s an anti-rights rally this Saturday at the First United Methodist Church of Seattle, yet another foray by the clergy into a highly politicized effort to erode firearms rights.

One is compelled to wonder what outcry might erupt if there was a concerted effort to place restrictions on the citizens’ right to worship as they please, or not worship at all.

Almost amusingly, in their first message of the week, the MAIG and MDA will host “No More Silence” events around the country to show that they will “never be silent about gun law reform again.”

There is a public perception that anti-gunners have not been silent for many years. They’ve been rather vocal, often hysteric, and consistently wrong.



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