June 26th, 2022

“and all you have to do is, move your little finger, move your little finger and

…you can change the world.”

This lyric is from a song from the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins, about the individuals who attempted

– and some succeeded – to assassinate US Presidents. The Gun Song is a very disturbing song about our fascination with, and the power of, firearms. As one of the assassins sings: What a wonder is a gun! What a versatile invention! First of all, when you’ve a gun(he points it at the audience) everybody pays at-ten-tion!

I think it is an understatement to say that on May 24 of this year, Salvador Ramos got everyone’s attention as he killed 21 individuals (19 students, 2 teachers) at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. It was the third deadliest school shooting after Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. Ramos’ gun was purchased legally, and he had no record and no documented history of mental illness. Most of his victims were aged 10 and 11. There is some debate as to the police response, but I believe it is way too soon to make any definitive judgments on that.

Needless to say, the massacre in Uvalde is another in a long line of ghastly and insane shootings in our country, and it has reignited the debate about gun control.

The anti-gun side looks to the lessons of Australia. In 1996, a man named Martin Bryant became the worst killer in Australia’s history. After walking into a cafe in Port Arthur, Tasmania, he killed 35 people and wounded 23 others with a Colt AR-15 SP1 Carbine. Australia enacted a gun buyback program, banned the sales of semiautomatic weapons and self-loading rifles and guns. Furthermore, individuals had to show that they had a “genuine reason” for owning a weapon, besides self-defense. The results of these reforms is that gun violence has decreased and there have been no mass shootings since the new laws. Nevertheless, the opposing side suggests that gun free zones create an environment where a mass shooting can take place. The argument is that in the time it would have taken for the shooter to reload, competent citizens, using their Constitutional right to bear arms, could have shot and stopped the assailant.

I did not grow up with guns. In fact, my family has a bit of an aversion to them. Back in the early 1970’s my cousin was accidentally shot in the face with a shotgun. He lost an eye, but survived. A former student of mine was killed when a pistol haphazardly was fired by mistake. I do not own any firearms personally. A couple of years ago, another student of mine took me out to a shooting range in Owensville to shoot several weapons. I have to admit, I liked it. I was not a fan of the handguns, but I was especially fond of the AR 15, the weapon used in many mass shootings. I could not hit the broad side of a barn with the handgun (I wasn’t shooting at barns, by the way), but I was fairly effective with the AR, hitting a small target 300 yards away 4 out of 10 times. (Not bad for the first time. It was extremely terrifying in retrospect.) That experience taught me not only to respect guns and but even to fear them. If I, the rankest of amateurs, could be relatively sharp with that weapon, how much more would someone be who actually knew what they were doing.

I understand both sides of the gun issue, but the horrors of the past few years has made me reconsider. The Bill of Rights is fairly clear: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” On the other hand, did the Founding Fathers have any notion about the types of weapons that would exist in the year of Our Lord, 2022? If they would have seen the carnage in Uvalde or Las Vegas or Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook or Orlando (a small sampling of the mass shootings that have taken place in the just the last 10 years) what might they have said and done? (I like my chances against a Charleville musket, 8 seconds at best to reload a single shot.)

How are we as Christians, as Catholics to deal with this issue? Certainly not all weapons should be available to everyone. Who would need a bazooka or a rocket launcher? Can we can agree on that? Certainly, some weapons will undoubtedly continue to be available to citizens of the United States. Individuals have a right to protect their families, homes and businesses. Can we can agree on that? But beyond that, there is much to debate. There is a great divide in our country, a divide that may never be bridged. But the senseless loss of innocent, vulnerable children make sensible laws a Pro-Life issue. (Of course, as always, I could be wrong.)

In the meantime, no matter where we stand on this issue, we would all do well to reflect prayerfully on the power of guns, the great and terrible responsibility that comes with them. We need to think about the amount of gun violence our children watch in film and on TV and how this may numb our consciences. We would also do well to think about what drives these pathetic shooters to randomly, mindlessly kill, what twisted thinking drives them for attention.

Simply follow through,

And look, your little finger…Can…

Slow them down To a crawl, Show them all, Big and small,

It took a little finger…No time…To change the world.

Just ask Fr. Kevin

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