Calling it a threat to religious freedom, Missouri’s Catholic bishops are opposing a potential state law that would allow people to carry concealed weapons into churches without the pastor’s permission.
Under House Bill 1883, which is under consideration in the Missouri House of Representatives, churches wishing their places of worship to remain gun-free “would have to post signage in their sacred spaces, prohibiting guns,” the bishops noted.
“This is highly offensive to us and would violate our First Amendment rights to religious liberty,” they stated. “As the leaders of the Catholic Church in Missouri, we vigorously object to this change in Missouri law.”
The bishops, speaking collectively in their role as the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) Board of Directors, included their objections a broader statement on gun violence.
Signing the statement, released April 2, were: Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, executive chairman of the MCC; Bishop James V. Johnston Jr., of Kansas City-St. Joseph, vice chairman; Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, general chairman; and Bishop Edward M. Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
They said their statement is a response to the “senseless gun violence that is occurring in our schools, on our streets, and in our inner cities.”
“The disturbing frequency of these events is making us numb to the profound impact on those directly affected and it calls for serious reflection on why people are carrying out senseless acts of violence,” the bishops stated.
The bishops said an honest national discussion needs to take place about the effects violent images and experiences are having on people, especially the young.
“We must work toward peace in our communities through restorative justice policies and practices, and through ongoing discussions about the presence of so much violence in our entertainment and neighborhoods,” the bishops said.
They acknowledged the right to self-defense and noted that many Catholics and other people of good will own guns, follow the law and “would never consider the use of lethal force unless it was necessary to preserve human life.”
“Law-abiding gun owners know that guns must be used in a safe and responsible manner,” the bishops stated. “This is taught in every gun safety course, and these courses are a means of promoting the common good.”
Although several bills are currently being debated in the Missouri General Assembly that would further loosen gun regulations, the bishops called for some tighter controls.
They said they see no reasonable justification for civilians to purchase and own so-called “bump stocks” “that transform already potent semi-automatic weapons into weapons of war.”
The bishops also expressed support for universal background checks for gun purchases, as well reasonable limitations on civilian access to high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the 10-round limit imposed for hunters in Missouri (Missouri Wildlife Code 3 CSR 10-7.431).
“We see no purpose or justification for civilians to carry large capacity magazines that permit the kind of sustained firepower that can result in multiple casualties,” the bishops stated.
They also called for improving access to and increased resources for mental healthcare and earlier interventions.
“We ask our fellow Catholics and people of good will to work toward this end by discussing these matters in their local communities and by contacting their local, state, and federal representatives to address these issues through policy and legislative measures that uphold the safety and wellbeing of all persons in our communities,” they stated.
The MCC is the public-policy agency of the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses.
The full text of the bishops’ statement on gun violence, along with more information about HB 1883, can be found on the MCC website: www.mocatholic.org.