‘A multi-prong problem’ | Experts, leaders gather to address St. Louis gun violence

Faith leaders, healthcare professionals, community activists and more came together on Saturday to address gun violence.

David von Diemar

SHREWSBURY, Mo. — Right now, there’s a continued push to put an end to gun violence across the St. Louis area.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis held a gun violence summit on Saturday.

Faith leaders, healthcare professionals, community activists and others came together at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury.

The morning started with speakers and ended with breakout sessions, but the whole day was centered around the crisis our city and country continue to face.

The hours-long summit was filled with long conversations about how to solve this issue together as a community and with powerful and emotional testimonies from people personally affected by gun violence.

It’s something that can’t be ignored, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski said

“Those stories are real. They’re human, and they show the experience— the devastating experience that gun violence brings to us,” he said.

Songs, prayers and conversations filled the center on Saturday morning.

Archbishop Rozanski said the issue of gun violence is something they want to help solve.

“We are a church that promotes hope— hope in Jesus Chris, and we see the despair of gun violence. So, we wanted to bring the light of hope to the darkness of gun violence— to see how we can help to transform our society, so that those choices for gun violence will not be made,” the archbishop said.

It’s a darkness that has impacted and traumatized many who filled the room on Saturday, including Professor of Moral Theology Dr. Tobaias Winright.

“A year ago in October, my daughter was one of the students at the high school where the shooting was,” Winright said. “She was actually a student in the collegiate school, but she was texting me while I was in Ireland —me and my wife— as it was happening live. That has really traumatized and impacted us,” he said.

The crisis that gun violence has become is why the Archdiocese of St. Louis hosted the one-day summit, according to Archbishop Rozanski.

“It’s a human life issue, and it’s a quality of our life issue,” the archbishop said. “When people are threatened by gun violence, they’re not living the fullest potential of their lives. Going to school in fear or going to your workplace in fear is really against what human freedom truly is, so churches are working to bring about the fullness of respect for life, quality of life and human freedom.”

From mental health professionals to healthcare workers to gun violence victims, everyone who stood behind the podium talked about the magnitude of the problem.

SSM Health Chief Community Officer Dr. Alexander Garza described it as a huge public health issue.

“I mean, whenever you’re in the top five causes of death for young people in our country, we need to do something about that,” Garza said.

Doing something about it, according to Dr. Winright, won’t be easy.

“There is not just one solution. Pull out all the stakes; it’s a multi-prong problem. For me as a theologian, it boils down to how we need to be a people of community. We need to be in solidarity with one another. We need to come together to have encounters with each other, to try to understand each other and to work together, especially for our younger people,” Winright said.

It’s a problem that Dr. Garza believes can be solved through the community by investing in one another.

“Part of it is the law enforcement, part of it is health care, but part of it really is in the public sphere about investing in people, investing in neighborhoods. Creating the environment where people don’t feel like homicide or suicide is an option,” he said.

Dr. Garza said it has to be all hands on deck too.

“It’s going to take the entire community, not just certain segments of the community, to make this a better place for everybody,” he said.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis isn’t stopping with just this event. Archbishop Rozanski wants to set up a task force for the archdiocese to focus on what the church can do to prevent gun violence, help victims and heal the community.


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