SEATTLE (CNS) — The Catholic bishops of Washington state support a legislative measure to place some limits on gun sales, calling it “a prudent balance between concerns for personal liberty and public safety.”
Under state and federal laws, gun dealers must have licenses and gun buyers undergo background checks in most cases. The Washington measure, called Initiative 594, would require background checks on the sale or transfer of all firearms and adds background checks for online sales and sales at gun shows.
“Tragic mass shootings have become all too prevalent in our day and reflect a devaluing of human life in our nation,” the bishops said in a statement released Dec. 2 by the Washington State Catholic Conference.
“As people of faith, we, the Catholic bishops of Washington state, are deeply committed to the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of liberty and recognize legitimate recourse to self-defense. However, we cannot ignore the threat to public safety that arises when guns are too easily accessible,” they said.
Initiative 594 lays out “modest conditions” for the legal purchase of firearms, the bishops said.
In addition, they also urged public and elected officials to support “policy initiatives to improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence. Such steps would prove both effective and humane, and would receive broad public support as a means of reducing violent crime.”
The bishops said the Catholic Church has been “a consistent voice for reducing violence” and “a strong advocate for the reasonable regulation of firearms.”
“Catholic teaching emphasizes that it is the moral duty of all people to take steps to defend human life and, as pastoral leaders, we have a particular responsibility to participate in efforts that will reduce violence,” they continued.
Their statement quoted from the U.S. bishops’ 1994 document titled “Confronting a Culture of Violence”: “We see the loss of lives. We serve the victims. We feel the fear. We must confront this growing culture of violence with a commitment to life, a vision of hope and a call to action.”
Along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Washington state bishops said they were offering several priorities they support “to assist in public discourse and deliberations regarding gun safety”:
— Measures that place reasonable conditions on the sale and use of firearms and that make guns safer.
— 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.
“Our hope is that judicious steps to prevent gun violence will lead to greater respect for human life,” the bishops said. “We urge Catholics and all people of good will to seek consensus on initiatives that promote public safety while respecting our constitutional guarantees for personal liberty.”
The state Catholic conference represents: Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Spokane Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Yakima Bishop Joseph J. Tyson and Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo.