The Gun Debate and the Dignity of Life

In the wake of the tragic St. Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, much of the “national conversation” in the mainstream media about mass shootings and gun violence has been missing a key element: recognition of the widespread lack of respect for the dignity and sacredness of human life in the U.S.

Many are using their media and entertainment platforms to blame mass shootings on the existence of firearms in our communities. But a firearm is simply a tool, an inanimate object, used for good or evil depending on who wields it. Firearms are used to save lives and to end lives. They’re used to hunt, they’re used in crimes, and they’re used for self-defense.

There are many factors that lead people to commit acts of violence — mental health issues, drug abuse, etc. — that all seem to be on the table for discussion. But there’s no denying we have a morality problem in America, and no one is talking seriously about how to address it.

A large percentage of Americans sit idle, look the other way, or actually cheer as the most gruesome and evil deeds are committed against the innocent and most vulnerable in society. Worse, we’ve empowered our own government to protect and even promote this evil.??The results of a Knights of Columbus-Marist poll released in January found 41 percent of Americans believe abortion is morally acceptable, regardless of how they feel about its legality. Put another way: Almost half the country doesn’t see killing innocent babies in the womb as evil.

In the 45 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on the federal level, roughly 60 million human lives have been lost with the full blessing of the federal government and many of our fellow citizens. If we observed a minute of silence for each life lost through abortion, we would be silent for more than 100 years.

The same Knights of Columbus-Marist poll found only 8 percent of Americans believe abortions should never be committed under any circumstance. The rest of the respondents found some way to rationalize killing other innocent human beings.

Part of the problem with these horrific findings could be attributed to decades of propaganda and misinformation about abortion and human development — intentionally spread by the abortion industry and their allies in the government and media. For example, the poll found only 47 percent of Americans believe human life begins at conception, a proven scientific fact.

And the support for killing our fellow man doesn’t end there.

A May 2017 Gallup poll found 57 percent of Americans believe that the heinous practice of physician-assisted suicide is morally acceptable — a record high. Gallup also noted record highs for Americans believing the following practices are morally acceptable: birth control, divorce, sex outside of marriage, polygamy, pornography, and same-sex relations. All are considered mortal sins in Catholic teaching.

In April, Hawaii became the seventh state where allowing doctors to help kill their patients can legally take place. Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, Colorado, and California allow physician-assisted suicide, as well as Washington, D.C.

For many in society, there is simply no value placed on human life — nothing precious or sacred that sets us apart from animals or insects.

The Church teaches in its instruction on respect for human life, Donum Vitae: “From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way … Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves ‘the creative action of God’ and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.”

Clearly, this instruction hasn’t taken hold.??We live in a culture where there’s national outrage after every mass murder of the “wanted” but virtual silence over the murder of millions of the “unwanted” in society. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to place value on who is and isn’t worthy of life — devaluing the dignity of all human life in the process. So how can we be surprised that people are murdered every day to fulfill selfish desires?

The politicians and figures in the media and entertainment industries speaking the loudest right now in the debate over guns are often unwilling to address America’s morality problem. Many of them are actually complicit in the rise of immorality in our country.

It’s time to start paying attention to the real source of violence in America and have a serious discussion about reclaiming the value and sacredness of human life.

Adam Cassandra is a Catholic fundraising professional who works with national and international nonprofit organizations to grow support for their charitable causes. Follow him on Twitter: @adamcassandra.