Catholic Conference of Ohio
Thursday, October 29, 2020

Issues - Catholic Conference of Ohio

Gun Violence

Church Teaching and Statements

The USCCB has been a consistent advocate for peace and the prevention of gun and other forms of violence that strike at the life and dignity of persons. In 1994, recalling the words of Pope Paul VI, “if you want peace, work for justice,” the U.S. bishops issued their pastoral message, Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action. In their message the bishops stated, “We have an obligation to respond. Violence -- in our homes, our schools and streets, our nation and world -- is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers.”

The USCCB was also a supporter of the Assault Weapons Ban initially passed in 1994 but which expired in 2004. In 2000, the U.S. bishops issued their pastoral statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice. In the statement the bishops called for all people to work for a culture of life and to do more to end violence in our homes and to help victims break out of patterns of abuse. In regard to gun violence prevention the bishops wrote, “We support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children or anyone other than the owner), and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns.” 

On November 7, 2017, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged national leaders to engage in a true debate about solutions to gun violence.

The USCCB encourages the enactment of sensible regulations addressing the culture of violence in our country. Such changes include:

  • Measures that control the sale and use of firearms, such as universal background checks for all gun purchases;
  • Limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines;
  • A federal law to criminalize gun trafficking;
  • Improved access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence;
  • Reasonable regulations and limitations on the purchasing of handguns;
  • Measures that make guns safer, such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using the gun without permission and supervision;
  • Improved access to treatment for those with substance abuse addiction.

In Ohio, the Catholic Bishops issued statements regarding proposed changes to  "stand your ground" provisions" and the carrying of concealed guns in our churches. Recently, the Catholic Conference of Ohio has testified on several gun-related proposals.  In 2018 testimony was given in support of Governor Kasich's common sense proposal to curb gun violence (HB 585).  In 2019 support was given for Governor DeWine's proposal (SB 221) addressing gun violence. In 2019 and 2020, the Conference raised concerns over legislation that would remove gun licensing requirements and dictate concealed carry policies within churches (HB 178), as well testifying on legislation weakening the current duty to retreat regarding the uses of deadly force (HB 381).

Bishop Chairmen Call for Better Police Formation and Accountability

Letter sent to all members of the U.S. Congress regarding police accountability and reform

 Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, have sent a letter to all members of the U.S. Congress to offer reflections and principles for police accountability and reform.

"...Law enforcement officers perform a great and needed service; they serve to promote justice and the common good in society. But it is clear that there have been too many failures in serving everyone, with tragic consequences. There must be better practices for formation and accountability for police, certainly in the use of lethal force, but also in patterns of discrimination and prejudice, so that real accountability can happen before more lives are lost..."

"...Several policy proposals currently before you appear to take steps in the right direction. These include collection of data on use-of-force, training towards de-escalation, work to end racial profiling, doing away with chokeholds, using body cameras, greater accountability and means of redress regarding those who exercise public authority, and a commission to study the issue further and make additional recommendations. It is clear that long term commitment is needed to prevent further tragedies, especially greater accountability in bad uses of force as well as greater emphasis on promoting the common good of all..."

Ohio Attorney General's Office Offering Ohio School Threat Assessment Training Materials

Materials aimed preventing targeted violence and getting help for troubled students.

 Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the development of new resources to address gaps in preventing targeted violence in schools. These training materials provide guidance on the use of threat assessment protocols. The goal of a threat assessment is to identify persons of concern, assess their risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities, and identify intervention strategies to manage that risk. This free training is provided in a series of 10 video installments and a printed reference guide.

Ohio Emergency Management Agency Offers Toolkit for Houses of Worship to Plan for Violent Attacks

"Tabletop Exercise" will help Churches be better prepared

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) recently released a tabletop exercise toolkit designed to help houses of worship prepare for "active aggressors" who may strike. 

This Houses of Worship: Targeted Disruption Tabletop Exercise (TTX) Toolkit provides all of the materials and information necessary to easily plan and host a tabletop exercise.

The exercise covers three main objectives: 

  • Operational Coordination – identify both the methods and means to improve coordination between staff, volunteers, and first responders during an active aggressor incident.
  • Operational Communication – evaluate communication plans and procedures between staff, volunteers, worshippers, and first responders during an active aggressor situation.
  • On-Scene Security and Protection – discuss and evaluate written plans and physical protective measures in place for the house of worship (specifically addressing active aggressor incidents)

Catholic Conference of Ohio Supports Governor DeWine's Proposal Addressing Gun Violence

SB 221 - the STRONG OHIO Bill - has hearings in the Senate

SB 221 will help rein in private gun sales to the wrong people. It strengthens the reporting requirements to the LEADS and NCIC databases. Importantly, SB 221 expands existing “pink slip” mental health interventions and treatments to persons suffering from alcohol or other drug abuse. 

The Catholic Conference of Ohio testified in support, stating a belief that such prudent actions will help save lives.

The bill is pending in the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.

U. S. Bishops Approve Additions to Teaching Document on Political Responsibility

A short introductory letter and five short video scripts approved to supplement "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship"

An introductory letter  addressing current issues of the day and references to the teachings of Pope Francis was approved by USCCB to supplement  the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' existing document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The letter affirms the "richness" that our faith brings to the public square, and addresses challenges that have become more pronounced:

"Pope Francis has continued to draw attention to important issues such as migration, xenophobia, racism, abortion, global conflict, and care for creation. In the United States and around the world, many challenges demand our attention.

The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty."

Introductory Letter

Introductory Letter References to Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Rejoice and Be Glad #25, #101

Governor Reworks Proposal on Gun Violence

Safety Protection Orders and Universal Background Checks Removed

Governor Mike DeWine backed off his previous call for safety protection orders and universal background checks in favor of a revised legislative proposal to be sponsored by Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls). DeWine said the draft bill would rein in private gun sales to the wrong people and expand existing “pink slip” mental health interventions to “chronic alcoholics” and drug dependent persons. It is called the STRONG Ohio bill. The Governor indicated that many features in his original 17-point plan would not have sufficient legislatative support to pass. 

The Catholic Conference of Ohio supported the intent of the Governor's original proposal. It continues to advocate for sensible regulations addressing the culture of violence in our state. The STRONG proposal provides a helpful starting-point for legislative debate. Considerations should be given to further strengthen this proposal.

Catholic Conference Page on Gun Violence

Governor DeWine Establishes the Ohio School Safety Center to Help Prevent School Violence

Executive Order creates a specialized division of Ohio Homeland Security devoted exclusively to the safety of Ohio’s students and schools

The Ohio School Safety Center will assist local schools and law enforcement in preventing, preparing for, and responding to threats and acts of violence, including self-harm, through a holistic, solutions-based approach to improving school safety.

Governor DeWine stated: “Given that schools are often targets of violence, school safety proposals are a prominent part of STRONG Ohio, my 17-point plan to reduce violence with dangerous weapons and increase mental health treatment.”  “Having one office where the staff solely focuses on keeping our students safe and our schools secure, will allow analysts to nimbly assess threats, proactively address potential issues, and expertly train and support school faculty in a more streamlined manner.”

 Click here for Resources on School Safety

Governor DeWine Offers Thoughtful Proposals in Response to Gun Violence

Proposes Seventeen Actions for the Ohio General Assembly to Consider

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced a series of legislative reforms to address gun violence and outlined further action to increase mental health prevention, identification, and treatment to better protect Ohioans.

“Gun violence doesn’t just take the form of mass shootings, people are victims every day in Ohio and across the country,” said Governor DeWine. “I believe that this is both a public safety issue and an individual wellness issue – we must address both sides to help solve the problem. It’s time to do something, and that is exactly what we are going to do.” 

The Catholic Conference of Ohio commends the Governor for his thoughtful apporach to the issue of gun violence and encourages the legislature to give expedited consideration.

Watch the Governor's Press Conference

Catholic Conference of Ohio Page on Gun Violence

Church Leaders Call for Prayers for the Victims of the Mass Shootings in Gilroy California, El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio

Vatican, USCCB & Archdiocese of Cincinnati Express Sorrow and Concern

Church leaders express condolences to the families and friends of those murdered in the recent mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio.

In the aftermath of the horrific deadly shooting in Dayton, Ohio, on Sunday August 4, 2019, Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr issued the following statement:

“It is with a heavy heart that we turn to the Lord in prayer on this Sunday. As tragic and violent shootings continue in our country – yesterday in El Paso, Texas, and overnight in our own community of Dayton, Ohio – I ask for everyone of faith to join in prayer for the victims and their loved ones. May we, the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, in unity petition our Blessed Mother to intercede for our families and neighbors to know the peace and healing of Jesus, her Son.”

A prayer in the face of gun violence ( James Martin S.J.)

Catholic Conference of Ohio page on gun violence

Ohio Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto on the Gun Bill; Fails to Override the Heartbeat Bill

While the Ohio House voted to override the Governor's veto of the Heartbeat bill by a vote of 61-28, the Senate vote failed 19-13 (20 votes were needed for an override).  The bill will be reintroduced in the next General Assembly.

The Governor did sign legislation that prohibits dismemberment abortions: SB 145

Both the House and Senate voted to override the Governor's veto of the Gun Bill, HB 228.

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