Bishop Tobin wades into controversial debate – on gun control

Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin is making headlines this week for a letter to lawmakers urging them to resist pressure to legalize same-sex marriage during this year’s legislative session. The Church played an active role in defeating the proposal in 2011.

The marriage letter fits into a familiar narrative about Tobin, who always attracts attention when he discusses hot-button social issues. But not all of the bishop’s policy positions are in line with the Republican right. For an example, read his new Rhode Island Catholic column addressing gun control:

The right to own guns is not an absolute right. As a personal right it always has to be balanced with the legitimate rights of other people, and with protecting the common good. That’s a principle that applies to all individual freedoms. …

The National Rifle Association (the NRA) has again emerged as a key player in the current debate. Despite its influence, however, the NRA is not a fourth branch of government. If the Association wants to be a respected and credible part of our community, it has to be part of the solution, not the source of the problem. It has to promote the common good; not protect its own interests. The NRA, too, is subject to the law of God.

One of the signature songs of the iconic folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary, was “Blowin’ in the Wind,” written by Bob Dylan. There they ask nine questions, including: “How many times must the cannon balls fly, before they’re forever banned?”

In a similar way we can ask ourselves, “How many children must die, how many families must suffer, how many communities must be forever scarred,” until we as a society agree to reasonable limits on firearms? If the answer’s not clear now, it never will be. It’s time for our nation, state and local governments to enact legislation that will severely limit the number and nature of firearms available to the general public.

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