State’s Catholic bishops call for background checks on all firearm sales

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SEATTLE — In a joint statement issued Monday, Washington state’s Catholic bishops said requiring background checks on all firearm sales represents “a prudent balance between concerns for personal liberty and public safety.”

gunsThe statement in support of state Initiative 594 said that as pastoral leaders, the bishops could not ignore what they called threats to public safety that arise when guns are too easily accessible.

State and federal laws require gun dealers to have licenses and, in most cases, conduct background checks on gun buyers. I-594 would require background checks on the sale or transfer of all firearms and adds background checks for online sales and sales at gun shows. The measure includes an exemption for antique firearms.

“In addition to this initiative measure, we also urge support by public and elected officials for policy initiatives to improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence,” the statement said.

The bishops said the prevalence of mass shootings “reflect a devaluing of human life in our nation” and that as pastoral leaders they have a particular responsibility to participate in efforts that reduce violence.

As part of those efforts, the bishops laid out principles for reducing gun violence, including measures that make guns safer, place curbs on easy access to deadly weapons such as assault rifles as well as “a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.”

Initiative 594 is an initiative to the Legislature, which may be approved by state lawmakers or sent to voters as a written ballot measure. Legislators could also modify the initiative and send it and the original text of the measure to the ballot.

The Catholic Bishops of Washington State are:  Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of the Archdiocese of Seattle; Bishop Blase J. Cupich of the Diocese of Spokane; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima; and Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

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  • John Fuller

    Are Catholic bishops starting to realize the possibility of the parents of sexually abused boys by Catholic priests taking the law into their own hands? I can see the headlines now! "Real men shooting pedophiles at an alarming rate".

  • The World is Ending

    And in the state of Washington , before entering an incorporated city for the purpose of committing illegal activity you must first phone ahead and inform the chief of police. ( this is still on the books in WA ) and in Seattle it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon that exceeds six feet in length.

  • adam

    Its not the legal firearms that are doing the majority of the killing its the illegal back alley firearms that are. By requiring background checks and making it more difficult for legal gun purchases your only affecting a honorable citizen from protecting themselves. Also remember to throw out your lollipop before entering Washington state as its illegal to eat them here.

  • Dan

    To whom it may concern,

    I am writing you after reading your "Statement Supporting Initiative 594 Background Checks on Gun Sales". I am a little disappointed that this statement was released and written the way it was. I would like to point out a few facts that hopefully will cause you to modify or retract your Support.

    1) Most of the tragic mass shootings in the past decade plus would not have been stopped or hindered if Initiative 594 was in place.

    Murderer's like Adam Lanza stole his mothers legally owned weapons. 594 wouldn't have stopped him. Chris Montfort was a legal law abiding citizen, and passed a background check when he chose to take a Seattle Officers life. James Holmes (Colorado Theater) legally purchased his weapons and passed background checks before his shooting in Aurora. Aaron Alexis, the Naval Yard shooter would have failed a background check when he bought his firearm from a licensed dealer if a paper mix up wouldn't have happened back in Seattle years prior. He also wouldn't have obtained his security clearance and been on the job that caused him so much stress.

    Based upon that, I hope that you would revise your opening statement of your letter. These shootings are tragic, but 594 wouldn't have done anything to prevent these.

    2) 594 is a State Constitutional nightmare. Per Washington State Law, law abiding citizens between the ages of 18-20 can legally purchase, sell, own and in some cases carry a handgun. This is codified in RCW 9.41 as well as re-inforced by the State's Constitution Article 1, Section 24. The RCW's are partly because Article 10, Section 1 calls upon 18 year olds to be able to serve in a militia, as well as other factors. Passage of 594 would force all law abiding Washington residents aged 18-20 to have to go to a Federal Licensed dealer to conduct business. The problem is, under Federal Law, FFL's are not allowed to transfer or deliver a pistol/handgun to any person under the age of 21. Think about this for a moment. Adults, living on their own, responsible law abiding people would be denied the right to defend themselves by a right afforded to people just a few years older. If 594 passes, it would not only conflict with numerous RCW's but also directly conflict with our State Constitution.

    Based upon that, I hope that you would revise your letter where it references that it wouldn't conflict with our Constitution.

    3) Last year, Washington State experienced 106 murders by firearms. While we all wish that # was zero, per capita, 106 isn't very high. There are well over 500,000 firearm owners in the State of Washington. Does impairing and infringing upon their rights make sense? Will it fix the issue?

    4) Universal Background Checks, like the ones proposed by 594 have been implemented in other States. California, has UBC's and their crime is almost twice as high as ours per capita. UBC's have proven to be ineffective. New York, more than twice as deadly as WA per capita. UBC's have been ineffective. Chicago, the nation's deadliest city also houses the nation's strictest gun laws. It just doesn't compute.

    Based upon all the above, I would hope that you would revise or rescind your statement as it was written based upon mis-information and 594 political propaganda. I would hope that we would hold official statements to a higher standard.

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