Message from Bishop Paul regarding recent school violence
February 15, 2018
To Our Youth and their Parents in the Midwest Diocese,
Once again we have heard about another tragic mass shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida earlier this week.
“Police say the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people and wounded at least a dozen others in the rampage,” reports Yahoo News. “Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that Cruz had been expelled from the school for ‘disciplinary reasons.’ Israel said that an AR-15-style weapon and ‘countless magazines’ were recovered at the scene. According to the Associated Press, Cruz purchased the weapon legally about a year ago.”
This AR-15 style weapon, according to Yahoo News, has no fully automatic mode, but it is still marketed as coming from a lineage of military-grade arms. It is modeled on the M-16 used by the US Army and Marine Corps and carried by thousands of troops around the world.
I begin this note with this information because the time has come to ban private citizens from purchasing military-grade and other kinds of semi-automatic weapons designed for use by the military for war. This would not deny a citizen’s right to purchase a simple firearm to protect his or her family and home from possible danger. But this need not include military style weapons.
Of course, the only true answer to this and the many similar tragedies that occur all too frequently is not a ban. Rather, there is a need for us to repent from acts of violence and turn to the Prince of Peace, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, to receive forgiveness and reconciliation. As we enter into Great Lent, we need to call upon the grace of the All-Holy Spirit to give us the grace to do what is not in our fallen sinful nature to do — to forgive the troubled perpetrator from the horrible acts he committed in Parkland, Florida; and to pray for those who were slain and their family members who are suffering.
Forgiving, however, does not necessarily mean forgetting. Why can’t we learn from these tragedies? We live in a fallen world in which people do not always do what they should do. The Orthodox Church sees abortion as an act of murder and many call upon and pray for the day that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned. But these horrific mass killings in our schools are equally a Sanctity of Life issue. We need to advocate for laws to be passed to protect our students from these military style weapons. In my opinion, doing so would help significantly to make our schools safer places for our youth to attend and learn.
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest