Chaput on Mass Shootings: Why are We So Shocked?

In a hard-hitting column, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput recalled his experience burying some of the victims of the Columbine massacre twenty years ago and explains why only a fool can believe that “gun control” will solve the problem of mass violence.

“I buried some of the young Columbine victims 20 years ago,” the Archbishop wrote. “The experience taught me that assault rifles are not a birthright, and the Second Amendment is not a Golden Calf. I support thorough background checks and more restrictive access to guns for anyone seeking to purchase them. But it also taught me that only a fool can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve the problem of mass violence.”

The problem stems from the people who pull the trigger who he refers to as “moral agents with twisted hearts” – a twisting that is done by a culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty and perverted freedoms that we created for ourselves.

As he explained during his testimony before the U.S. Senate in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre 20 years ago, the real problem with Columbine-like violence in our culture comes from within.

Violence is part of our social fabric, he told lawmakers at the time. “We’ve created a culture that markets violence in dozens of different ways, seven days a week. It’s part of our social fabric. When we build our advertising campaigns on consumer selfishness and greed, and when money becomes the universal measure of value, how can we be surprised when our sense of community erodes? When we glorify and multiply guns, why are we shocked when kids use them?

“When we answer murder with more violence in the death penalty, we put the state’s seal of approval on revenge. When the most dangerous place in the country is a mother’s womb and the unborn child can have his or her head crushed in an abortion, even in the process of being born, the body language of that message is that life isn’t sacred and may not be worth much at all. In fact, certain kinds of killing no longer even count officially as ‘killing.’ Certain kinds of killing we enshrine as rights and protect by law. When we live this kind of contradiction, why are we surprised at the results?”

We live in the most violent century in history, he said, and the only immunity we will find from this violence is to acquire a relentless commitment to respect for the sanctity of each human life, from womb to natural death.

In the past two weeks, the country saw three people killed at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California; 22 people killed in an El Paso Walmart; and nine others gunned down in an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio.

“Now begins the usual aftermath: expressions of shock; hand-wringing about senseless (or racist, or religious, or political) violence; bitter arguments about gun control; heated editorials, earnest (but brief) self-searching of the national soul, and eventually – we’re on to the next crisis,” he wrote.

It’s all for naught.

To repeat what he said 20 years ago, “Treating the symptoms in a culture of violence doesn’t work. We need to look deeper. Until we’re willing to do that, nothing fundamental will change.”

May the souls of the faithful departed in all of these horrific incidents, rest in eternal peace.

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