As Benedictine monastic women we stand united in a 1500 - year tradition, rooted in Gospel values of peace and non-violence. Our Benedictine way of life requires us not only to be people of peace but also “to foster peace in the society around us.”(1) That peace is based on right relationships and mutual respect. Any violation of the rights and integrity of people, of the land, and of the environment is an act of violence. A definite culture of violence is pervasive in our society in movies, television programming, video games, music and advertisements. The proliferation of guns, both legal and illegal, has contributed to a significant increase in violence in the United States and in the drug wars in Mexico.
In 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than 3 deaths each hour.(2) In Mexico, 15,273 died in drug war gun violence alone that same year.(3) Over 68% of the traced guns used in crimes in Mexico between 2007 and 2010 came from the United States.(4) The United States has the highest rate of gun-related injuries among developed countries, as well as the highest rate of gun ownership. Besides the deaths and tragedies for families, friends and associates, gun violence also affects society in other ways, including higher medical costs, reductions in quality of life because of fear of gun violence and stresses on the criminal justice system.(5)
To help create healthier environments in families, schools and communities and to reduce the impact of gun-related violence, the American Psychological Association recommends multiple approaches, among which are education, training, access to mental health treatment, program funding and research.(6) The Conference of Benedictine Prioresses endorses their recommendations.
In his holy rule, our founder St. Benedict states, “Your way of acting must be different from the world’s way.”(7) We, the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses, are compelled to address the rampant culture of gun violence and disregard for human life. Therefore, in concert with statements issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (8) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (9) we call on lawmakers to:
- Close loopholes and require every person who buys a gun to pass a criminal background check.
- Ban the sale of assault style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines.
- Make gun trafficking a federal crime.
- Strengthen federal laws to stem the flow of American weapons that contribute to the drug trafficking violence in Mexico.(10)
- Fund robust care for those with mental illness, ensuring that health insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid offer mental health benefits at parity. (11)
- Provide for early identification and intervention for children and young adults in need of mental health treatment.
- Increase the number of well-trained mental health professionals available for school and community gun violence prevention, intervention, threat assessment, and crisis management.
- End the freeze on gun violence research. (12)
- Address the growing use of violence as a means of entertainment in films, television program, video games, music and advertisements.