January 6, 2016

Texas bishop rips ‘cowboy mentality’ against gun control

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Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell answers questions from media on Oct. 20, 2014, about what will happen to the diocese's building in South Dallas where Ebola victim Thomas Duncan's financee and her family were quarantined. Photo courtesy of The Texas Catholic, via Catholic New Service

Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell answers questions from media on Oct. 20, 2014, about what will happen to the diocese's building in South Dallas where Ebola victim Thomas Duncan's financee and her family were quarantined. Photo courtesy of The Texas Catholic, via Catholic New Service

(RNS) In a blistering critique of what he describes as congressional kowtowing to the gun lobby, the Roman Catholic bishop of Dallas is praising President Obama’s new actions on gun control and ripping the “cowboy mentality” that allows open-carry laws like one that just went into effect in Texas.

“Thank God that someone finally has the courage to close the loopholes in our pitiful gun control laws to reduce the number of mass shootings, suicides and killings that have become a plague in our country,” Bishop Kevin Farrell wrote in a column, posted on his website on Tuesday (Jan. 5).

President Barack Obama’s executive actions, though modest, are first steps in correcting gun laws so weak that they are ludicrous,” he wrote. “Congress has unabashedly sold itself to the gun lobby. If there was ever any doubt, its recent action to kill legislation to ban people on the terrorist no-fly list made it obvious.”

Farrell’s remarks are notable because they are so pointed — and his diocese is in the heart of a very pro-gun state — but also because the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. has come under increasing scrutiny for its reticence to speak out on gun control.

When Pope Francis addressed Congress during his first-ever visit last September, he delivered a vivid denunciation of gun violence, telling the representatives the reason weapons are so readily available is because of money — “money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”


RELATED STORY: Pope Francis to Congress: ‘Stop fighting, start working!’


In October, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich — whom Francis personally picked for the high-profile post — echoed the pontiff’s exhortation in a column in which he said the original intent of the Second Amendment protecting the right to bear arms had been “perverted” and the nation needed to pass tougher gun control laws like those that have sharply reduced gun violence in other countries.

Cupich and some other bishops were hoping the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would vote to make gun control a priority in its public policy agenda when the bishops met the following month, in November.

But the bishops were sharply divided over how much they should adapt their agenda — which has focused on fights over gay marriage, abortion and birth control — to Francis’ priorities, and in the end they largely maintained the status quo.


RELATED STORY: Catholic bishops revise voter guide after debate over ‘Pope Francis agenda’


Since then, gun massacres in places such as San Bernardino and Colorado Springs, along with the daily toll in Chicago and other cities, have prompted a few bishops to speak out and have prompted some Catholics to push them to do more.

“(W)hen it comes to the epidemic of gun violence afflicting American society, the Catholic Church has been, for some time now, largely quiet,” Michael Bayer wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday. “This needs to change.”

A few hours later, Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a cautious statement that endorsed “reasonable regulation” of guns.

He avoided directly praising Obama — a longtime nemesis for conservative bishops — and called on Congress to strengthen social services for people with mental illness.

“Violence in our society is a complex issue with many facets, taking many forms,” Wenski said. “While no measure can eliminate all acts of violence which involve firearms, we welcome reasonable efforts aimed at saving lives and making communities safer. … We hope Congress will take up this issue in a more robust way, considering all of the varied aspects involved.”

Farrell’s broadside this week was also informed by the new law that went into effect on Jan. 1 that allows Texans to openly carry weapons, including in houses of worship, unless expressly forbidden.

The state’s Catholic bishops, as well as many other religious leaders, objected to the law and have said worshippers cannot carry arms into church. Farrell said the statute is evidence of what he provocatively called a “cowboy mentality.”

“It is difficult to see how this new law allowing persons with concealed handgun licenses … to openly carry firearms can accomplish anything other than cause people to feel threatened and intimidated.”

 

(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)

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  • One thing weaker than the gun laws are the minds that still believe we need guns and bishops. http://thelastwhy.ca/poems/2007/9/2/beliefs.html

  • How stupid are people? Gun control won’t keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to be evil, it will keep people from being able to defend themselves. There is no wild west mentality, except from the criminals – not the decent people.

  • Edward Silha

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/guns/procon/guns.html
    http://www.realclearpolicy.com/blog/2015/11/16/when_crime_guns_cross_state_lines.html

    A large portion of the guns used during the commission of crime come from straw purchases and the purchase of guns in states with lax gun laws that are then resold in states with strict laws.
    What is stupid (dishonest and evil) is the assertion by the gun lobby that tightening gun laws will not reduce gun violence. The two links above provide clear evidence of this along with statistics that show gun deaths and injury are proportional to the number of guns available, and the fact that gun deaths in the US are many times higher than in any other developed country.

  • Does anyone ever read the whole 2nd Amendment? It clearly indicates that the purpose of allowing individuals to have guns is to have a militia. My interpretation is that you can have as many guns as you want to IF you meet the qualifications of serving in the National Guard and IF you join the Guard and are willing to let your leaders in the Guard tell you when and where to fire you weapons.

    No one seems to be emphasizing the after effects of killing someone whether in war or in self-defense. You will never be the same; the memory of the killing will haunt you, poison your relationships and even alter how you see yourself.

    For those who believe in having high powered guns in their homes and who also back capital punishment for those involved in a murder I have this question: Should parents whose children kill with their parents’ gun be executed by lethal injection or a firing squad. Should adults whose stray bullets kill others be encouraged to commit suicide or be executed?

  • Larry

    Great stuff!

    Here is another site has chock full of stuff on why “more guns” is such a monumentally silly response to firearms related mayhem
    http://www.armedwithreason.com/

    “Why Gun Control Works”
    http://www.armedwithreason.com/debunking-the-criminals-dont-follow-laws-myth-2-0-how-criminals-respond-to-gun-control/

    “Why Campus Carry is a Bad Idea: Or Why Alcohol, Hormones, and Guns Don’t Mix”
    http://www.armedwithreason.com/why-campus-carry-is-a-dangerous-idea-or-why-alcohol-hormones-and-guns-dont-mix/

    “Debunking “More Guns, Less Crime” 3.0”
    http://www.armedwithreason.com/debunking-more-guns-less-crime-3-0/

  • Phillip Cato

    Good for the Bishop. He is a leader with courage and integrity, and a much needed voice.
    Your reporter needs to learn the use of “reticence.” It could be “reticence on gun control,” or “reluctance to speak up on gun control,” but never what the reporter wrote. Good English grammar enhances reporting.

  • Jack

    Of course, the premise here is that the only people who are against the gun control fanatics have a cowboy mentality.

    Slapping negative labels on holders of certain views is at best a lazy alternative to countering them with facts and logic. At worst, it’s an admission that the facts and logic are on their side.

  • Jack

    But note, Ann, how the same people who are tough on guns have a nasty history of being soft on crime and criminals. What links the two views is a failure to believe that people are truly responsible for their own actions. “The gun made him do it” is merely an extension of “a bad upbringing made him do it.”

  • Jack

    Edward, there are far more guns today than, say 35 years ago, or even a generation ago, and yet societal violence is far lower today.

    In New York City, for example, the yearly murder rate peaked at over 2,000 a generation ago and is now a fraction of that number. This occurred even though (1) again, there are far more guns available now and (2) NYC gun laws, which were always among the nation’s toughest, haven’t changed since the peak was reached.

    While gun laws did not get tougher & in some instances weakened during this time frame, one thing changed: Law enforcement and criminal justice in states and localities began doing a better job in catching violent people and keeping them in prison so they couldn’t commit more violence.

    In other words, we have successfully brought down violence tremendously in our society by targeting the violent, not guns. The fact that the gun control crowd couldn’t care less is instructive.

  • Jack

    The problem, Ray, is that you’re lecturing the wrong people — the law-abiding majority who have absolutely no desire to kill another human being but who only want to procure the means with which to exercise their right to self-preservation, the most fundamental of human rights, upon which all the other rights necessarily depend.

    The other problem is that those who most believe in interpreting the Constitution and Bill of Rights based on original intent — ie what the drafters actually intended as evidenced by the content of their communications at the time or subsequently — are precisely those who reject your belief that the 2nd Amendment’s drafters meant to limit gun rights to people in the Guard.

  • larry, the atheist one

    That argument would hold weight if not for the fact that every other developed nation has similar decreases in crime due to demographics but nowhere close to the same proportion of gun related crimes and deaths.

    Plus irresponsible rhetoric concerning gun safety contributed to rising accidental gun deaths/injuries and gun thefts. Gun control laws work but require loopholes to be closed. The NRA stopped representing sane,law abiding gun owners decades ago. Now they cater to the irresponsible, paranoid and quixotic.

    BTW NYC gun laws may be strict but they are undermined by far looser ones in surrounding suburbs and upstate. Nothing stops the flow of straw buying both in and out of the state. They are a perfect example of why more comprehensive laws are necessary

  • larry

    Original intent is a sham argument to pretend the world has remained static for over 200 years. A way to pretend plain language of a law is less important than maintaining a phony political orthodoxy based on 18th century political thinking. If you have to rely on “original intent” you are just making stuff up.

    Also the majority of guns entering the criminal economy were bought legally by allegedly law abiding citizen.

    Irresponsible law abiding citizen more worried about playing out Charles Bronson fantasies than sanity are responsible for the thousands of accidental gun injuries and deaths.

  • larry

    Yet another useless strawman argument. Attack the speaker for alleged points they didn’t make.

  • larry

    Pretty much. The NRA hasn’t made rational points in the subject in well over a generation. They do not represent the majority of law abiding gun owners and rely on panic.

    Slapping negative labels is all that passes for discussion from you 99% of the time. You have no business criticizing others for it.

  • Jack

    Wrong, Larry. I’m simply making an accurate observation…..the most ardent supporters of gun control tend to be extreme liberals who have never been tough on criminals. Again, what logically links the two positions is the classic leftist downplaying of individual responsibility. From guns to upbringing, libs regularly assign blame anywhere and everywhere but to people themselves.

    This is hardly a new tendency. It was satirized long before we were born, in a song in the old show, West Side Story.

  • Jack

    What a ludicrous contention, Larry. While original intent is not everything, it is obviously a crucial starting point and more. The alternative is complete dishonesty in textual interpretation, where we make the text say anything we want it to say. Since you’re rather practiced at it, it’s water off a duck’s back for you. But for most honest people, interpreting other people’s communication independently of their intent when they wrote it is morally atrocious.

  • larry

    Slinging insults is no substitute for a cogent argument Jack. Original intent is garbage. The only people who apply such legal reasoning are the least intellectually honest of our Supreme Court (Scalia and Thomas…when it suits the outcome they are looking for). You are trying to pretend a recent invention was always there. People who try to pretend society has not changed one iota from the 18th Century. People who want to pretend centuries of jurisprudence on a given subject never existed.

    People resort to “original intent” nonsense when they are desperate to avoid the plain language meaning of a law. Trying to pretend it is more limited than stated or that it stands for something completely different. If you can’t find the meaning in the actual text, you make something up as to its alleged “original intent” and avoid all previous applications and interpretations throughout the court system.

    Most honest people don’t give the arguments you do. 🙂

  • No you are just pretending people stand for something they neither said nor meant.

    Of course to many a wingnut, “soft on crime” means stuff like raise criticism of the flaws in our criminal justice system, look out for the civil liberties of others, raise issues with abuses of the 4th Amendment and recognize the destructive futility of the “war on drugs”. Issues having nothing to do with gun control.

    But why argue with people on the basis of what the say when you can just make up a position for them and discuss that? 🙂

    Btw unlike yourself, I speak of regulation of guns from the perspective of someone who owns several of them. If we regulated firearms ownership with the same degree that we did cars, Not only would gun crimes drop dramatically, but the thousands of accidental deaths and injuries each year from firearms would drop as well. There is no reason why it should have been so easy for me to buy an assault rife as a gift for a family member. But it was. 🙂

  • Jack

    Larry, your argument is total lunacy. How, in interpreting any example of communication, can the intent of the communicator play no role in interpreting its meaning?

    Imagine if people bought into that in everyday communications. It would be the death of all communication. Why both to communicate if nobody interprets what you say based on what you intended to say when you said it?

  • Ryan Thurgood

    Flooding the USA with fearful people carrying guns doesn’t do much good for anyone.

  • Jack

    No, Larry, soft on crime means soft on crime. It’s why for decades, people convicted of major violent crimes like rape and attempted or actual murder were on the street in no time doing the same thing. Thanks to the crime wave of the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, society finally got sick of it and started doing the obvious.

    It’s why the 1990s saw a whole generation of results-oriented, reform-minded, competent mayoral candidates defeating leftist ideologues and machine hacks who lacked the will to deal with the basic governmental function of ensuring public safety.

    It’s why police departments finally began treating crime as a war, criminals as the enemy, and streets and blocks as being either in enemy hands or society’s hands. This new approach, plus new technology, enabled cities to “surge” police into areas that were experiencing crime spikes. Community policing also helped.

    Meanwhile, local & state laws got tougher on parole, also a factor.

  • Larry

    Insulting my arguments is not a refutation. Your statements are just arglebargle at this point. Original intent is wholly unnecessary to any discussion of laws before our court system.

    How is the text of a law served by nonsense thought experiments where one tries to pretend to be in the mindset of a drafter? It isn’t. In fact, the purpose is to subvert plain readings of the text.

    There is never legitimate factual discussion made in “original intent” arguments. Just proof-texting out of context quotes.

    Whenever someone invokes “original intent” they are trying to pretend a plain reading of the text has some opposite or hidden meaning. Its nonsense. All a ploy to avoid the existence of interpretations and discussions which made their way through the courts.

  • Larry

    “Soft on crime” is a euphemism used by ultra-conservatives to attack people who concern themselves with the civil liberties of those in the criminal justice system. A way to justify generally pointless and wasteful enforcement measures which invariably have a degree of institutional bigotry in application.

    As for your “historical take” on crime in the last few decades, its complete fiction. You are pretending right wing talking points are historical facts when they are just very uninformed interpretations and opinions.

    “It’s why police departments finally began treating crime as a war”

    Which leads to local populations distrusting law enforcement. Treating them as an occupying army rather than a force intended to provide peace and public order. It also encourages predatory situations such as what happened in Ferguson, MO. Where the town financed itself on onerous and frivolous public violations and due process violations.

    Btw none of this is relevant to the topic…

  • Larry

    Toddlers with guns killed more Americans than terrorists in 2013
    http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/guns/toddlers-killed-more-americans-terrorists-did-year

    When the Gun Lobby starts acknowledging “well regulated” is part of the text of the 2nd Amendment, then they can be taken seriously. Until then, they just enable dangerous 1diocy with firearms.