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Knights of Peter Claver release statement on gun violence

(Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary)

The nation’s largest Black Catholic organization has spoken out on the need for gun legislation—including a ban on assault weapons—following recent mass shootings and the fraternal order’s national convention held last week in Illinois.

The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary’s new “Statement of Concern and Urgency,” urged by an attendee of the conference during a public forum, was released Thursday, July 28.

“The loss of innocent lives through gun violence is an epidemic that has negatively impacted our families, communities, and the entire country,” the organization said.

“It is past time for our legislative leaders to work together in order to create legislation which addresses the purchasing of assault weapons and the societal problems associated with gun violence.”

The statement also hones in on the need for action in the Black community specifically, where mass shootings are relatively rare but gun violence remains epidemic—especially in major metropolitan areas.

The KPC’s “Save our Children: Stop the Gun Violence” public forum was held near Chicago earlier this month, co-sponsored by the fraternal order’s Dignity of Black Lives committee and featuring panelists Fr Michael Pfleger of St Sabina Catholic Church and Rep. Danny K. Davis.

Both men are Chicagoans whose families have been personally affected by urban shootings, and they railed during the forum against government inaction on holistic gun legislation. They also called for people of faith to redouble their efforts in the ongoing crisis, which hit home even as they spoke.

During the weekend of the Clavers’ national convention, eight people were killed and more than two dozen wounded in Chicago across 22 separate shootings.

“Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children, teens, and young adults under the age of 25,” the new KPC statement notes.

“Black males are 20 times more likely to be victims of gun homicide.”

During the forum, Pfleger also connected the issue of gun violence to the pro-life cause, likening gun manufacturers to abortion providers and eliciting a strongly positive reaction from the assembled crowd—a point also reflected in the KPC’s official response.

“Allowing average citizens the opportunity to purchase military-style assault weapons to attack other citizens is a paradigm of a culture which challenges our pro-life belief that all life is sacred, from conception until natural death,” they said, adding a direct challenge to the federal government.

“We beseech the leaders of the United States Senate and House of Representatives to immediately pass legislation restricting the sale and use of these weapons, and we urge our membership to do the same.”

Though political polarization, including in the Catholic Church, has largely muted a strong lay or ecclesial response to the issue of gun violence, the Knights and Ladies assert that the issue is “no longer a debatable matter.”

“We understand that this is a time of great challenge and upheaval, and many may be afraid to express these views for fear of retaliation by those who do not share our values,” they said.

“We faithfully continue to trust in the holy scripture: ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.’”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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