Stephen Kent

The U.S. Senate, in failing to enact a proposal that was only a feeble response to the homicidal epidemic in the country, delivered an insult to all who died, all who loved them, those who traveled to Washington to plead for legislation that would at least slow down firearms murders.

The Senate had agreed in mid-April to take up a compromise bill in response to the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre in December. The bill would have expanded federal background checks to gun shows and to sales of guns online. It did nothing about military-style assault rifles or high-capacity ammunition magazines, the weapons of choice in the massacres that “shock the nation.”

The proposal failed by six votes to reach the 60 votes needed for the amendment to be adopted.

“But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun,” President Barack Obama said April 17. “There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this,” he said.

He is right.

Unpopular legislation? Polls showed the public support for the legislation ranged from 80 percent to 90 percent. Is there undisclosed information that deranged people will no longer use mass murder to make a statement? The proposal was weak, but it was a first step to stem the gun violence in the country

Nothing will be effective until the ban on assault weapons is re-enacted and civilian access to high-capacity ammunition magazines is eliminated.

If the defeat of this modest measure is accepted, then it is time to admit that — like natural disasters — gun violence is uncontrollable. If that’s so, please spare the hypocrisy of vigils, candles, the flowers and plush toys and empty promises that “this must change.”

Most fatal shootings are not committed in support of criminal activity, such as armed robbery, but during so-called crimes of passion when a gun is used in a burst of anger or in domestic situations. Automatic weapons are used to kill multiple people by mentally ill assailants. They are readily available.

Much was made of the inconvenience to “law-abiding citizens” of a waiting period or of a government registry of gun owners. There is no great inconvenience, however, from a waiting period for a marriage license nor is there concern over registering a car or registering as a voter with the government.

There is also the paranoid idea that firearms are the only way to protect citizens from their government.

What in God’s name (and that is used intentionally) justifies the presence of fully automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines in civilian society?

If hunting is truly a sport, is it sportsmanlike to be able to fire 50 shots at a deer with an automatic weapon?

We have a fundamental belief in the sanctity of human life. At this time in history, there is strong evidence of the inability of this country to adequately control the misuse of firearms and the right to life is under constant threat.

The sanctity of life is an absolute, fundamental right. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, among other human laws, is not an unlimited right. Legislators must show greater moral leadership and political courage in acting against gun violence.

It’s better to have many courageous legislators lose their jobs for following their conscience than to have a classroom of 6-year-olds lose their lives.


Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. Contact him at: