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In an interview with The Pillar, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, elaborated on a tweet he made following the horrific mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and admonished gun-owning Catholics -- and all Americans -- that there is no "divine right" argument to be made about owning a weapon.
Following the shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two adults, Flores tweeted. "Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it. The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin. We sacralize death’s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them."
\u201cDon\u2019t tell me that guns aren\u2019t the problem, people are. I\u2019m sick of hearing it. The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin. We sacralize death\u2019s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them.\u201d— Amigo de Frodo (@Amigo de Frodo) 1653478645
In his interview, Flores -- chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on doctrine -- was asked about the church's view of guns.
"The larger framework, theologically, is the Church’s expectation that civil society must seek after the common good - and that means protecting the vulnerable and exercising reasonable prudence with regard to the order of things. And that's a responsibility not primarily of the Church, but for the human good that any society would have no matter what political system it happens to operate under," he explained before adding. "There is a moral dimension to how we organize ourselves, for the sake of, for example, the good of children, the good of the elderly, the good of the sick, and so on, there are certain laws that need to be constructed in a way that promote the best possible stewardship of human life, and of a peaceable community, so that everyone can live in peace in their local communities and in their countries."
Digging deeper into the issue of the mass proliferation of gun -- and the endless conversation about what to do about them -- Flores made the point that those who believe in unfettered access to weapons think they are dealing from the high ground -- which he disputes.
"I was referring to the fact that the discourse we’ve had now for decades, about any attempt to control weapons that can cause grave damage — some of which moves have been enacted into law and others which have been resisted — is countered with a description that [gun ownership] is basically an individual’s sacred right, that no matter what the cost, it must be preserved," he explained. "And when I say 'sacralized,' I mean that we make it seem almost as if it detracts from human dignity, or the human good, simply to say that we need to have some reasonable limit on these things. To say something is sacralized is to say it’s almost taken out of any possibility for conversation."
"I must say that in some sense, we have kind of sacralized the whole idea of the individual right, such that it trumps any communal concern. It becomes an untouchable aspect in the discourse, that the common concern for the good of the vulnerable is not in any way sufficient to limit the individual right to determine whether or not I want to own this kind of a gun, or that kind of gun, or, you know, a hand grenade for that matter," he added.
"So when you sacralize it, you kind of make it basically closed for discussion, because we practically treat it as if it were sacred," he continued.
As for what should be done, he claimed there should be a discussion over 'access to these weapons" that "... almost gets cut off when we've kind of elevated the individual right beyond proportion."
"When one is talking about the order of society, and access to guns and things like that, it is at a certain level a question of order — and in the noblest sense of the term, it’s a political question," he admitted before adding, "And the failure is that we haven’t been able to deal with it in a political way, and in the noblest sense of what politics is supposed to be, which is the gathering of a consensus within the community, to fulfill its responsibilities for the whole."
You can read his whole interview here.
Nearly 10 years have passed since the last school shooting that killed as many children as were murdered in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. That shooting, at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, took the lives of 20 children and six adults. It was supposed to be the mass shooting that changed everything, remember? The killings were so horrific, most of the victims so young and innocent, that surely the House and the Senate could come up with some sort of "common sense" gun control measures that everyone could agree on.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Ha! Ten years have passed, and what has happened? Exactly nothing. Why? At least in part because within days of the Sandy Hook shooting, the National Rifle Association, one of the largest contributors to the political campaigns of (mostly Republican) politicians in the country, swung into action to stop any momentum for new gun laws before they could even get going.
Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, called a press conference in Washington and with a single sentence, began a refrain about guns and gun violence and gun control that is still with us today: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said that day. What we might call the LaPierre Rule has become gospel for gun owners, gun manufacturers, and the political party that opposes any sort of gun control, the Republican Party. LaPierre's Rule devolved into sub-rules, such as this gem: The solution to gun violence isn't fewer guns, it's more guns in the hands of more people.
The NRA began a campaign after Sandy Hook to put an armed police officer in every school and to push for "open carry" laws across the country. These are state laws that allow you to openly carry a gun — of any kind, handgun or rifle — on your person or in your car without a permit. At this point, 31 states have open carry laws on their books. Fifteen states require a permit to carry a handgun, and only five, including the District of Columbia, have laws that ban the carrying of handguns in public.
Last year, the state of Texas passed its own law allowing the open carrying of handguns and other firearms without a permit. That law was passed less than two years after mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa killed 30 people. The solution to bad guys having guns is more guns, see? Texans don't want to make guns harder to buy, or to limit the times and places citizens can carry their guns. They want to make it easier. They want more guns on the street, not fewer guns.
Figures on gun ownership in Texas vary. One study I saw, by World Population Review, says that 45.7 percent of Texas citizens over the age of 18 own a gun. Another study, by the Rand Corporation, says that 37 percent of adults in Texas live in a household with a firearm. A recent report on NBC said that Texas has the highest percentage of gun ownership in the country. After the shooting on Tuesday, a tweet by Gov. Greg Abbott from 2015 surfaced in which he said, "I'm EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let's pick up the pace Texans." The tweet was posted following a report in the Houston Chronicle that gun purchases in Texas had topped one million for the year.
In Uvalde, the "good guys with guns" wearing police uniforms stood around for almost an hour before storming a classroom and killing the murderer of 19 children and two teachers.
No matter which figure you use, that's one hell of a lot of "good guys with a gun" in the state of Texas, don't you think? If all that's necessary to take down a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, the question after the Uvalde shooting is, where were they? Even the good guys with guns wearing police uniforms, it was revealed on Friday, waited almost an hour before they stormed the classroom where the shooter was, and 19 of them waited until they could be backed up by a SWAT team from the Border Patrol before they finally used their guns to kill the murderer of 19 children and two teachers.
The shooter, an 18-year-old resident of Uvalde, had purchased two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles and more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition and 50 — fifty — high-capacity magazines only days after his birthday on May 16. Texas laws require only that you be 18 years old to buy a rifle in the state, but at that age, you can buy any kind of rifle, including a semiautomatic AR-15 style weapon. The shooter was able to buy two of the AR-15s in the days after his birthday when he was apparently already making plans to kill children at an elementary school in Uvalde. Much has been made of the fact that he was not old enough to buy a beer, but he was old enough to buy a rifle capable of firing two to three bullets per second. He was also able to buy the seven 30-round magazines, containing at least 210 bullets.
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On Friday we heard reports that citizens of Uvalde, including at least one parent of a child who was killed, were outside the school yelling at armed police officers to go inside and take on the shooter. Cell phone video shot at the scene at 12:37 p.m., while the shooter was inside the school killing children, show one officer holding up his hands trying to prevent a person from filming him and shooing a crowd of people away from the doors of the school. One person can be heard calling to the others that they should enter the school and storm the shooter because the cops aren't doing anything. Another video shot at the same time showed numerous police officers in full tactical gear restraining parents who were trying to enter the school to retrieve their children. One father was pepper-sprayed in the face and a mother was handcuffed. In the background, a police officer in armored gear is hiding behind the bed of a pickup truck aiming his AR-style police rifle at the door of the school.
So some of the good guys with guns were doing exactly what so many cops are accused of every day: menacing civilians and pushing them around and threatening to arrest them for doing nothing that was even remotely illegal.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said Friday that the gunman was in the school for nearly an hour before a SWAT team from the Border Patrol arrived and was able to get into the classroom where he was and kill him. By that time, all the children in the classroom were dead.
Also absent from the scene in Uvalde were any of the 13 million people who own guns in the state of Texas, all those good guys with guns that Wayne LaPierre has told us are the only thing that can stop "a bad guy with a gun."
Watching the coverage of the aftermath of mass shootings in this country has become commonplace. The shooting at the Tops Supermarket in Buffalo happened two weeks ago, and here we are looking at images of yet another exterior of yet another building where someone carrying an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle walked in and killed people, this time children this time. The scene is always the same: Heavily armed police officers clad in camouflage uniforms, protected by bulletproof vests and wearing helmets, along with an entire panoply of military-style tactical gear, are milling around talking to each other. A few of them are dispatched to do what the army calls "set up a perimeter," which in the case of mass shootings amounts to stringing yellow crime-scene tape around the scene and then guarding it so civilians can't get near the scene and presumably contaminate evidence. In Uvalde, at least one armored personnel carrier could be seen near the school after all the shooting was over and all the kids were dead.
There are always a lot of heavily armed police officers at the scene of mass shootings after they have occurred. It is beyond me why they think it's necessary to show up looking like they're about to be dispatched to serve on the front lines in Ukraine or some other war zone. But there they are, wearing enough body armor and carrying enough firepower to assault an infantry battalion, and what are they doing? Standing around.
Every time there's another mass shooting, more money flows into police departments to buy military-spec rifles and military-spec shotguns and military-spec body armor. Why? To look cool as they stand around in the parking lot while people die.
It's all of a piece. Every time there is another mass shooting, more and more money floods into the budgets of police departments and they go out and buy military-spec M-4 rifles and military-spec shotguns and military-spec body armor and military-spec helmets and military-style camouflage uniforms. Why? Because they're cool, that's why. If they're going to go up against one of these mass shooters, every one of whom is outfitted in military-style tactical gear and carrying military-style AR-15 rifles, then by God, they're not going to be one-upped! Just like Greg Abbott and his exhortation to Texans to buy more guns so they could catch up with California (!), the cops are going to buy more guns and more body armor — more of everything — so they can be ready the next time they're called upon to stand around in a parking lot of a building after 10 or 20 people have been shot and their dead bodies are strewn around the floor somewhere inside.
There's a weird, ironic perfection to the fact that the NRA's convention began on Friday in Houston, offering Wayne LaPierre, who is still the CEO of that august organization of gun-lovers, the chance come up with yet another exhortation to his masses. One year they tried "my dead hands," as in, if you want my guns you'll have to pry them from my dead hands. Then came Wayne's good guys with guns.
Maybe this year Wayne will explain to us that the reason we've had all these school shootings and mass killings is because we don't have enough good guys with guns. More good guys! More guns! That'll show these mass murderers! Next time one of them shoots up a school, we'll have even more people standing around outside picking their camo-clad asses as the bodies of the dead lie there inside submitting to the ministrations of the crime scene investigators.
More guns, and more crime scene investigators! That'll show 'em that in Texas, we're second to nobody!
According to a report from Politico, Rep. Elise Stefanik's overwhelming desire to move up the leadership ranks in the Republican Party is receiving some major pushback from some conservatives including surrogates of Don Trump Jr.
Stefanik, the formerly moderate Republican representing New York in the House, has spent the last several years defending Donald Trump which has paid off with her becoming the third in line in the House leadership when she replaced Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) after she voted to impeach Donald Trump.
As Politico's Olivia Beavers and Meredith McGraw report, Stefanik's political ambition is now coming back to bite her after she ran afoul of Don Trump Jr. and a smattering of his allies.
According to the report, Stefanik's people have been running a behind-the-scenes war against some of her competitors including Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) and one of his aides who just happens to be Fox News personality Tucker Carlson's son.
Politico reported that the Stefanik team was "admonished" for the attacks.
'Trump Jr. allies were recently told that Stefanik’s camp was behind an effort to plant negative stories about Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), a potential Stefanik competitor in House GOP leadership. It was also relayed to them that part of the effort involved bringing up Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s son, Buckley, " Politico reports before adding, "Intermediaries for Trump Jr.’s camp conveyed to Stefanik backers that they believed she had crossed a line by bringing up Carlson’s child."
Adding, "One Republican familiar with the conversations said the behind-the-scenes furor began when people in Trump Jr.’s circle heard about Stefanik’s team making comments to the press that targeted Banks and Buckley Carlson, who’s worked for the Republican Study Committee chair since 2019. Trump Jr. allies made their displeasure with Stefanik clear through mutual friends, according to this Republican," the report notes, "Encouraging reporters to run negative stories about political rivals is hardly rare on Capitol Hill, particularly as jostling begins to intensify among House Republicans seeking to climb the leadership ladder under next year’s increasingly likely GOP majority ... But any efforts to raise Buckley Carlson could be the political equivalent of touching the third rail: The son of one of conservative media’s most influential voices has his own friends in powerful circles."
According to Republican strategist Doug Heye, Stefanik and her people are engaging in "cuthroat" politics that are not uncommon but can blow up in your face.
"These races get cutthroat, and they’re cutthroat because they’re about the race that is going to happen immediately after the elections, but also about setting yourself or allies up for future races,” he explained with the Politico report adding, "It’s clear that the 37-year old Stefanik plans to rise higher in the GOP, having minted friends in the party from her work electing Republican women through her PAC even before she took Cheney’s place as the highest-ranking woman in congressional party leadership. But where her upward trajectory takes her next is less certain."
You can read more here.