San Jose, Calif., (CNA).- After a shooting at a food festival in California on Sunday in which the gunman killed three people and injured 15, the US bishops’ representative for domestic justice called for legislation to prevent such losses.
Santino William Legan, 19, opened fire at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., 30 miles southeast of San Jose, the evening of July 28. He was shot dead by police shortly after beginning to fire a rifle. Police have been investigating reports of a second suspect.
Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose said July 29 that “our hearts are heavy with sadness in the wake of the horrific shooting … I am grateful for the first responders and individual citizens whose quick thinking and professional actions saved countless lives.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, survivors and their families in this time of sorrow. May God, the source of our faith and strength, grant comfort and hope to all those affected by acts of violence. May grief give way to healing and grace, as we work together to protect the innocent and prevent future massacres, so that peace may prevail in our hearts and communities.”
The Diocese of San Jose held a bilingual prayer vigil July 29 at St. Mary’s parish in Gilroy.
Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice in Florida, chair of the US bishops’ committee on domestic justice and human development, said July 30 that “our legislators must make changes to our gun policy to prevent the loss of life.”
“As Americans, we must be honest with ourselves that we have a sickness, almost a plague, with the problem of gun violence. As Christians, we must look to the cross, repentant of the ways that have led us to this point and, with God’s grace, abandon such senseless, inhuman acts. Let us resolve to make the sacrifices necessary to end the violent killing that saturates our nation.”
He added that “the Lord calls us to comfort those who mourn and to be peacemakers in a violent world. We pray, and we must, for the victims and their families. The Church should act in ways that heal and support all those affected by gun violence.”
Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill on 26 February. For now the measure is a mostly symbolic gesture, not likely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
By David Smith
Gun control campaigners celebrated a precious win on Wednesday when the US House of Representatives passed its first major legislation on the issue in nearly a quarter of a century.
Members of Congress approved a measure requiring federal background checks for all firearms sales, including online and at gun shows, by 240 votes to 190. But for now it is a mostly symbolic gesture, not likely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Even so, Democrats characterised it as a significant move towards relaxing the gun lobby’s grip on Washington and addressing a national epidemic of gun violence, including the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, last year that prompted a fresh surge of activism.
The bill, HR 8, bans firearms transfers by a person who is not a licensed dealer but its exemptions include “gifts to family members and transfers for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense”, the House judiciary committee website says.
In a debate on the House floor on Wednesday, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said: “Here are the facts: nearly 40,000 lives are cut short every year from gun violence. An average of 47 children and teenagers are killed by guns every single day.
“It’s all about the children, the children, the children. We read about the tragic mass murders that have happened in our country and they stir us to action, hopefully. Here it’s been they stir us to a moment of silence, and now finally to action.”
Democrats made the case that 97% of Americans support background checks, including 94% of gun-owning households. More than a hundred gun violence survivors, student activists and other campaigners, including Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, watched from the House gallery.
The bill passed largely along party lines with only eight Republican members voting in favor and two Democrats against. A late, Republican-backed amendment requires Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to be notified when illegal immigrants attempt to buy a firearm.
The bill is the first of two that Democrats are bringing to the House floor this week as part of an effort to tighten gun laws following eight years of Republican control, which in June 2016 saw Democrats stage a sit-in protest over 26 hours. The other would extend the review period for a background check.
But neither bill stands much chance of success in the face of the Republican-controlled Senate and veto threats from Donald Trump. John Thune, the Republican majority whip in the Senate, told CNN it is “unlikely” his party will take up the bill for debate any time soon.
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2017 (IPS) – More than seven decades after the deployment of deadly atomic bombs in Japan, the UN has passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons around the world. Though it has sparked hope for a future without nuclear weapons, uncertainty in the success of the treaty still lingers.
More than 122 countries, representing two-thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic treaty banning nuclear weapons after months of talks.
“We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons…the world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” said Elayne Whyte Gomez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica and the president of the UN conference which negotiated the treaty.
Nuclear Disarmament Program Manager for the civil society organization PAX Susi Snyder similarly highlighted the importance of the occasion to IPS, stating: “People have been working for decades on the issue, myself included, and to have a moment that you know, to the very tips of your toes, that history is being made? That’s a moment to feel all the feelings.”
There are approximately 15,000 nuclear warheads globally, more than 90 percent of which belong to the United States and Russia.
Unlike the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which allowed five countries to possess such arms, the new instrument is an explicit prohibition on the direct or indirect use, threat of use, possession, acquisition, and development of nuclear weapons.
It also for the first time includes obligations to provide assistance to victims of nuclear weapons testing and use as well as environmental remediation of areas contaminated a result of nuclear weapon activities.
“This normative treaty highlights the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons—it is a huge achievement especially for the Hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Arms Control Association’s (ACA) Researcher Alicia Sanders-Zakre told IPS.
Reference to such consequences can be seen throughout the treaty, including the deep concern “about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons” and the persistent risk to humanity posed by the “continued existence of nuclear weapons.”
Though the awareness of nuclear weapons’ devastating humanitarian ramifications is certainly not new, both Snyder and Sanders-Zakre noted that states still legitimize nuclear weapons in their security approaches.
“Some states negotiating the treaty would say that by having a security doctrine of nuclear deterrence, nuclear weapons states legitimize nuclear weapons and distract from their humanitarian consequences…which are often not in the forefront of the security stage,” said Sanders-Zakre.
The new treaty aims to strip nuclear weapons of their prestige by making them unacceptable under international law.
Not Without a Fight The world’s nine nuclear-armed states as well as the majority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) members boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands which voted against the document.
Among the most vocal critics is the United States who, since the beginning of the talks, said that the process was not “realistic,” especially in the wake of rising tensions between the North American nation and North Korea.
“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclearweapons?” asked U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
In a joint statement, the U.S., United Kingdom, and France announced that they do not ever intend to sign, ratify, or become party to the treaty.
“A purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security,” they stated, reiterating their continued commitment to the NPT.
Snyder told IPS that it was not surprising that such nations did not participate due to a desire to retain the political power associated with nuclear weapons. However, she criticised the joint move as it may be in violation of the NPT.
Article 6 of the NPT, which the majority of member States have signed, states that each party must “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”
Snyder noted that negotiations were considered by the majority to be an “effective measure” in the pursuit of disarmament.
“While this prohibition is not the final effort to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world, it is certainly a key element of a world without nuclear weapons. It was an absence that is embarrassing for the nuclear armed states, demonstrating their commitment to inhumane weapons over humanity,” she continued.
However, nuclear-armed nations would argue that they are not violating the NPT as they do not consider that the prohibition will result in the elimination of nuclear weapons and is thus not an “effective measure,” said Sanders-Zakre.
The treaty reflects a growing divide between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states on visions of disarmament.
Between a Nuke and a Hard Place? Additional frustrations have arisen concerning the treaty’s prohibition on the stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons on territories as it puts many NATO members in nuclear sharing agreements in a sticky situation.
Five nations, including Germany and Turkey, currently host U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing policy. In order for NATO members to join, they will have to reverse or withdraw from their obligations.
“One the one hand, the treaty seeks to be universal to include many members. But at the same time, it is a prohibition treaty and having a member of a prohibition treaty that has nuclear weapons on their soil would be contradictory,” Sanders-Zakre told IPS.
But can a nuclear ban treaty be successful without such nations? Snyder and Sanders-Zakre say yes.
“The treaty sets a norm, and the nuclear armed states have a history of following norms even when they don’t sign up to the treaties behind them,” said Snyder, referencing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which, despite not being ratified by all nations and not entering into force, has set a norm in which nuclear testing is condemned.
“That norm will grow from this treaty as well, and will likely result in ongoing substantive condemnation of the activities of the nuclear armed states that are not disarmament,” Snyder continued.
Sanders-Zakre noted that there might be some obstacles in the way before the treaty’s entry into force, including potential lobbying by nuclear weapon states to dissuade others from ratifying the instrument or a general decrease in political momentum.
But, with or without the nuclear weapon states, the treaty will mark a significant normative step towards disarmament if all 122 states which negotiated the instrument sign and ratify.
“My hope is that this treaty will be the first step towards more productive disarmament dialogue, and that it will serve as a wake-up call to nuclear weapon states that have not seriously been pursuing disarmament negotiations for quite some time,” Sanders-Zakre said.
Snyder similarly described the historic occasion as the first step of many, stating: “This treaty will help towards the elimination of nuclear weapons—it’s not the last thing that will get them out of the world forever, but it helps by reaffirming the complete illegitimacy of such inhumane weapons and offers a pathway for elimination.”
The treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be open for signature by member states on 20 September, marking the beginning of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly. It will enter into legal force 90 days after it has been ratified by 50 countries.
Earlier this year, atomic scientists set the Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes before midnight, reflecting a fear that the world is closer to a nuclear disaster than it has been since 1953 after the U.S. and Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs.
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