April 23, 2021

Editorial

Conversations about gun violence, mental health issues are necessary for peace

The headlines are becoming too eerily familiar.

A shooter fires a weapon in a place of business, at a residence, in a school, on the street—practically anywhere and everywhere—resulting in chaos, injuries and, sadly, multiples losses of life.

That heartbreaking reality occurred again on April 15 in Indianapolis when eight people were shot and killed and several others were injured at the FedEx Ground Plainfield Operations Center before the shooter took his own life.

That tragedy became another in an ever-growing list of mass shootings across the United States. Atlanta, Ga.; Boulder, Colo.; Kenosha, Wis.; and Austin, Texas, are a few of the cities recently rocked by similar acts of violence.

It also was the third mass shooting in Indianapolis since January.

On Jan. 24, six people, including an expectant mother and her unborn child, were killed on the northwest side of Indianapolis. And on March 13, four people, including a 7-year-old child, were killed on the east side.

“Once again, our nation is mourning the loss of lives in a mass shooting, and this time it is eight of our own neighbors who were killed at the Indianapolis FedEx ground center,” said Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson in a statement on April 16. “We pray for the victims and loved ones of those who were murdered as well as those who were injured. We pray that these senseless acts of violence will stop.”

Gun violence is a serious problem in Indianapolis. In 2020, a record 245 homicides were reported in the city. Of that number, shootings were responsible for about 89 percent of Indianapolis homicides, or 218 of 245.

Indianapolis is not alone in its dramatic increase in violent crime. Nationwide, more than 19,000 people were killed by gun violence and firearm-related incidents in 2020, Time magazine reported—the highest number in more than 20 years.

We continue to offer our heartfelt prayers for the shooting victims’ families, those employed at the FedEx facility, the shooter’s family and our entire community as we try to come to grips with yet another unspeakable tragedy.

As an Easter people, we must be instruments of light to help overcome the darkness that has enveloped so many through these heinous actions.

But what we do cannot end there. That point was stressed by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“Again and again, we react in horror to these violent acts, but many cannot agree on how to stop them,” he said in an April 16 statement. “The bishops continue to support a number of policy measures to try to reduce homicides and suicides. In this Easter season, when we are reminded that there is always hope, even when we seem to be at a dead end, I would ask our political leaders, and all people of good will, once more to examine this issue and propose prudential solutions.

“It is good that President [Joe] Biden and some leaders in Congress are drawing renewed attention to this. For a comprehensive and long-lasting path to peace, it will take bipartisan cooperation. In the spirit of Easter, let us pray for renewed reverence for the gift of life, and faith that by the grace of God, we can always begin again and work toward peace.”

If we are to work toward that peace, we must be able to have constructive conversations about gun violence, mental health issues and suicide. We must reach a consensus on how best to move forward in addressing these challenging issues.

As our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, our faith demands we not sit idly by.

“The U.S. Catholic bishops have long supported changes in the law to control the sale and use of firearms,” Archbishop Thompson said. “May we all recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God and continue to do what we can to end this senseless violence and to live together in peace.”

—Mike Krokos

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