NEW YORK – With the U.S. Supreme Court allowing an Illinois assault weapons ban to stay in place, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has reiterated his own call, and that of the U.S. bishops, for the entire country to adopt legislation of the same kind.

“We have a gun epidemic in America, and it is far past time for us to do something about it,” Cupich said in a May 17 statement. “Gun safety laws like the assault weapons ban signed by Governor JB Pritzker are one essential component in our fight against gun violence.”

The Supreme Court denied an emergency request from challengers of the law to put it on hold while lower court challenges to it continue. The high court gave no explanation for its decision, and none of the justices publicly dissented the decision.

State lawmakers passed the law in January. It bans the sale of various assault weapons, including the AR-15 and AK-47. The law also bans high-capacity magazines – meaning handgun magazines that have more than 15 rounds of ammunition, and long gun magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The law also extends the ability of courts to issue firearm restraining orders, which prevent those deemed dangerous from possessing a gun. Under the law, existing owners of semi-automatic weapons are able to keep their guns. However, they must register with law enforcement.

The impetus for the legislation was largely the killing of seven people at a 4th of July parade last year in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, where the assailant was armed with an AR-15. Cupich highlighted that the mass shooting that day was “carnage made possible by the nature of the weapon.”

“In its statement on the Highland Park massacre, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not mince words: ‘We support a total ban on assault weapons and limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines,’” Cupich said, adding that he welcomed the Supreme Court decision.

Data from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that has tracked all gun-related injuries and deaths in the U.S. since 2013, shows that as of May 18 there have been 226 mass shootings in the U.S., and overall 16,016 gun related deaths. Last year, the organization’s data shows that there were 646 mass shootings, and a total of 44,358 gun related deaths.

The organization defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people were killed or injured.

Cupich argued that part of the reason for gun violence in the U.S. is a culture that “seems to prioritize the right to bear arms over the right to life.”

“We must learn to see one another in a deeper way. Not as avatars of this or that ideology. Not as competitors in a kind of team sport looking to put points on the board. But rather, as members of the same human family who deserve respect,” Cupich said.

“For religious believers, we trace that conviction to our belief that God created all of us in his image,” Cupich continued. “It is my fervent prayer that as the United States continues to be brutalized by this wave of gun violence, we as people may come to see one another with the eyes of God, with love.”

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