America, shooting massacres and the gun control debate

Whenever there is a shooting massacre, like the one in the Colorado movie theater July 20, Americans inevitably revive a long-standing debate about the easy availability of guns in our country. This incident was a prime candidate: In the months before the attack, 24-year-old doctoral student James E. Holmes was able to purchase online 6,350 rounds of ammunition as easily as buying a book from Amazon.com, and, with a simple background check of his nearly spotless past, weapons from local sports stores that included a handgun, a shotgun and an assault rifle that he fitted with a 100-round magazine. 

One logic is simple: Easy access to weapons like that gives crackpots the means to kill a lot of people in a very short time. Ergo, we should further restrict access to such weapons. 

Of course, it is not quite as simple as that. Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper told CNN after the massacre: “If there were no assault weapons available, and no this or no that, this guy is going to find something, right?” 

Other defenders of gun rights make the case that if one of the patrons in that theater that night had been carrying a handgun, Holmes could have been stopped in his murderous spree much earlier. 

Frankly, that brings to my imagination scenes from the OK Corral and innocent people being shot in the crossfire. 

But a Jesuit priest with a prominent national media profile, Father James Martin, goes a step further in a post on the blog of America magazine. 

“I believe that gun control is a religious issue,” he said. “It is as much of a ‘life issue’ or a ‘pro-life issue,’ as some religious people say, as is abortion, euthanasia or the death penalty (all of which I am against), and programs that provide the poor with the same access to basic human needs as the wealthy (which I am for). There is a ‘consistent ethic of life’ that views all these issues as linked, because they are.” 

“The oft-cited argument, ‘Guns don’t kill people, people do,’ seems unconvincing,” Father Martin said. “Of course people kill people; as people also procure abortions, decide on euthanasia and administer the death penalty. Human beings are agents in all these matters. The question is not so much how lives are ended, but how to make it more difficult to end lives. 

“Pro-life religious people need to consider how it might be made more difficult for people to procure weapons that are not designed for sport or hunting or self-defense. Why would anyone be opposed to firmer gun control, or, to put it more plainly, laws that would make it more difficult for mass murders to occur? If one protests against abortion clinics because they facilitate the taking of human life, why not protest against largely unregulated suppliers of firearms because they facilitate the taking of human life as well?” 

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