John R. Lott, Jr.
should a modest local church turn down $10,000 a year for sports
activities that help keep children off the streets and out of gangs?
Apparently, that will happen this coming Saturday when the money
is raised by the Catholic Sportsmen's Organization by raffling off
Aquilino wanted to do something to replace the tattered uniforms
of the Hyattsville, Maryland, Catholic Youth Organization sports
teams. New basketball uniforms hadn't been purchased for nine years.
The blue-collar area also had numerous other pressing problems:
The convent roof was leaking, the parochial school was recently
fined $4,000 for faulty fire doors, and the school's carpet was
decrepit. Unfortunately, ordinary raffles for things like the sports
teams were only raising about a couple hundred dollars.
with St. Jerome's Catholic Church located only a ten-minute or so
trip from the Prince George's County Trap and Skeet Center, Aquilino
hit upon the idea of shooting contests and a gun raffle each year
on the Saturday before Father's Day. It has been a roaring success,
raising thousands of dollars just its first year. New uniforms were
purchased and money was provided for new carpeting at the school.
of the raffle and skeet shoot sprang up as soon as the idea was
discussed. Aquilino offered opponents a challenge to see whether
their approaches would raise as much money. One woman answered the
challenge and set up bingo contests (and in the spirit of friendly
competition, the "gun nuts" helped her out a lot along the way).
Starting three years ago, right when the Catholic Sportsmen's Organization
started, she has raised about a quarter of the money raised by the
sportsmen. But this was a contest where everyone won. As Aquilino
said, "I think that it is great, that is $8,000 [raised by the bingo
games] the kids didn't have."
Peggy Alexander, a former member of the church, "it's a moral issue.
It's about putting more guns out on the street. It's against the
life-affirming doctrine that the Catholic Church preaches." So far
the winners of the raffle during the first three years hardly fit
that dangerous image: a choir master at a neighboring parish, a
70-year-old mother of one of the people who helps out at the church,
and the general counsel for NASA.
no one wants criminals to get guns. But few criminals participate
in church fundraisers or pass background checks and the evidence
is that with over two million defensive guns uses each year, guns
are used at least four times more frequently to stop crime than
they are used to commit crime. The most vulnerable in our society,
those who are weaker physically such as women and the elderly as
well as poor people (particularly blacks) who are most likely the
victims of violent crime, benefit the most from owning guns. Police
are extremely important in stopping crime (my own research indicates
that they are the single most important factor), but they understand
that they can't be everywhere all the time and that they almost
always arrive on the scene after the crime has been committed. The
Catholic Church clearly recognizes the right of self-defense, and
telling people to behave passively also turns out not to be very
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, has tried
to stop the raffles and skeet shoots. The cardinal decided that
the sportsmen's group could only raise money for the church as long
as it was not "related in any way to the use or sale of guns."
hasn't satisfied opponents, who worry that some of the "tainted
money" could still find its way into church coffers. They also complain
that the "Sportsmen's group members wear t-shirts with gun images
to church events."
media hasn't missed the chance to paint gun owners as uncaring cavemen.
The Washington Post paints the disagreement as being between "some
people [who] cannot get beyond their fascination with guns and some
people [who] actually believe the words of their faith's commandments."
That good intentions might be on both sides never seems to have
crossed liberal minds.
Lott [send him mail], a resident
scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of the
newly released The
Bias Against Guns, which examines the evidence on multiple
© 2003 John Lott