WASHINGTON – In the wake of recent mass shootings that have devastated local communities and the nation at large, leaders in the United States Catholic Conference, as well as several Catholic organizations, have called for stricter federal gun control measures.

For decades, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has supported measures to address gun violence and it continues to support congressional efforts on this issue. A June 3 letter to Congress from USCCB committee chairmen stressed their support for a total ban on assault weapons and limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines.

They also said they support universal background checks for all gun purchases; back recent proposals to set a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership; and want Congress to pass a federal law to criminalize gun trafficking.

Referring to the recent mass shootings in the U.S., the bishops urged members of Congress "to reflect on the compassion all of you undoubtedly feel in light of these tragic events and be moved to action because of it."

The letter was signed by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, who was joined by the chairmen of USSCB's education, pro-life, and family and marriage committees.

In a televised speech June 2 from the White House, President Joe Biden pleaded with Congress to pass what he said are "rational, commonsense measures" to curb gun violence, saying it is time to put an end to the "carnage" and loss of American lives.

The president called for the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to be reinstated and said the minimum purchasing age for semi-automatic weapons should be raised from 18 to 21.

He also called for a strengthening of background checks and red-flag laws aimed at keeping guns away from those with mental illness. He also urged a repeal of the immunity that shields gun manufacturers from liability.

In the House, Congress is attempting to pass a gun control measure called the Protecting Our Kids Act, which is likely to pass in the House but then faces a divided Senate, where it needs 60 votes for passage.

Many of the steps Biden urged Congress to take also were emphasized in a June 1 letter to congressional leaders from Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association. She described the recent mass shooting as part of a "profound health, economic and moral crisis."

She said the organization of Catholic hospitals and care facilities recognized "the challenges of coming together to pass gun and community safety legislation," but stressed that "continued failure to take any meaningful action is unconscionable."

"We therefore urge you to work expeditiously to come together and pass meaningful legislations so that we can make our communities safer and healthier," she said.

On the day this letter was sent, a facility on a Catholic hospital campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma – St. Francis Health System's Natalie Medical Building – was the site of another mass shooting, where a gunman killed four people, including the doctor who had treated him for back pain.

In response, the CHA echoed its call for Congress to enact stricter gun laws, adding in a June 2 tweet: "We are saddened to hear of yet another mass shooting, this time in Tulsa at one of our member health systems."

Catholic Charities USA similarly tweeted June 2 a plea for "elected officials to take concrete action to help prevent the scourge of gun violence in this country."

In late May, the group stressed that thoughts and prayers in the wake of mass shootings are not enough.

"We know that faith without works is dead, and prayer without action will not bind the wounds of those who suffer.," it said. "Along with countless Catholic voices, we join the call to our elected officials to take concrete action to help prevent the scourge of gun violence in this country. As faithful people of goodwill, we can and must do more to protect our sisters and brothers."