Don't like to read?
After the onslaught of tragic mass shootings in New York and Texas caught the attention of the entire country, and in the wake of a mass shooting that took place around the corner from his church, Fr. Larry Dowling of St. Agatha Catholic Church in North Lawndale, Chicago wrote and submitted an editorial on the issue of gun violence to the Chicago Sun-Times.
In his editorial “The Ascendancy of ‘In Guns We Trust’ as National Religion,” Dowling criticizes the firearms industry and national gun lobbyist group the NRA and their supporters for putting profit over public safety. Looking at the logic they’ve used to justify fighting against more restrictive legislation on firearms, Father Dowling writes that the gun lobby uses fear as “the motivating principle to assure more and more guns, legal and illegal, get into the hands of as many people as possible.”
The gun violence that plagues North Lawndale is fueled by the high number of illegally owned firearms in densely populated areas. In his editorial, Dowling pointed out that the gun industry benefits from the high demand for illegal firearms in certain regions since most illegally possessed firearms were purchased legally before entering the black market.
Father Dowling asks if the people who look at any firearm purchase, regardless of its intended use, feel any responsibility or motivation to help decrease gun violence in this country.
When high-profile mass shootings with high-powered weapons take over the national news cycle, the same repetitive debate happens, those for more restrictive gun legislation and those opposed. The battle lines remain drawn around the same issues as 10 years ago.
Congress and citizens continue to debate whether ordinary people should be allowed to own assault-style weapons such as the AR-15, a high-powered rifle with ammunition that causes devastating damage to human flesh.
Advocates of stricter gun legislation push to close the private sales loophole that some states use to allow private firearms sales without requiring or enforcing federal background checks.
The resourceful and powerful gun lobby has historically instructed the politicians they support financially to vote against restricting assault-style weapons and mandatory background checks for private sales.
The issue of gun violence in Chicago is complicated, and federal solutions are needed as the majority of guns used in crimes here were initially purchased in another state. Father Dowling questioned the effectiveness of certain local responses to gun violence and suggested improvements and alternatives to help stop them during an interview with the Chicago Leader.
“It’s a symbolic gesture,” Dowling said when asked about the frequent gun buyback events in the local news cycle. For years churches and other organizations in Chicago have partnered with the police department to offer financial rewards and immunity for those who turn in illegal firearms. Father Larry orchestrated a couple in the past. While a table full of firearms turned in looks good to news audiences, most of those turned in are outdated, not the new high-powered weapons used in gang warfare today.
“I had a guy ask me, ‘why would I turn in this pistol for a $25 gift card when I paid a thousand dollars for it?’” While acknowledging getting any weapon off the street is an overall benefit to the city’s public safety, Father Dowling maintained that buybacks do not effectively target the most dangerous and destructive weapons.
“It’s going to take an expansion of violence prevention programs, more resources for positive outlets for our youth and adults to stop passing weapons to children in order to make an impact [on the gun violence epidemic] here,” Dowling said. Many people in North Lawndale would love to see a decrease in gun violence. Still, the near future isn’t looking very optimistic as the neighborhood is seeing escalating violence after the violation of a secret peace treaty among some of the area’s most violent gangs.
Written by Justin Connor
Edited by Sheena Robertson
Father Larry Dowling: Editorial Letter
NBC Chicago: Majority of Guns Used in Chicago Crimes Come From Outside Illinois: Report
Images Courtesy of Justin Connor