The First Parish Blog

All Should be Safe from Gun Violence

By , Published on June 15, 2017

In the early morning of June 14th, we learned that a gunman targeted Republican representatives who practicing for an annual charity baseball game at a ball field in Alexandria, Virginia. I know Alexandria reasonably well; I grew up in Fairfax, the next county west from Washington, D.C. A familiar fear welled up in me when I saw the location — the same fear I felt for the weeks when the D.C. snipers killed indiscriminately in parking lots and at gas stations, the same fear I felt hearing the first reports about the mass shooting at Virginia Tech: “What if, this time, it’s someone I know?”

This week, I’m keeping in my heart and prayers all those who were injured: lobbyist Matt Mika, legislative correspondent Zack Barth, Capitol Police special agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (who represents the congressional district surrounding New Orleans, where I travel next week for the UUA’s General Assembly). I pray that they are healed, and that their friends and family are taken care of during this frightening time. And, difficult as it is, I keep in my heart the shooter, James Thomas Hodgkinson, and all those who knew and loved him; I pray his loved ones find solace in the aftermath of his death, and that everyone in our country recognizes how terribly wrong he was in his actions. It may go without saying, but no one should live in fear of such violence nor is violence at all a solution to partisan disagreements.

As one of my local colleagues, Rev. Robin Bartlett, reminded her followers on social media, this is now the third year in a row that there has been a hateful mass shooting the week before Fathers’ Day and flower communion Sunday. Two years ago, it was the Charleston shooting at Emanuel AME Church, targeting black church members; last year, it was the Orlando shooting at the Pulse night club, targeting Latinx LGBTQ people. Are we to expect that this is how we’ll close our regular church year, every year?

Each time we experience a mass shooting in the United States, I remember how important it is for us to continue to advocate for sensible reforms to our gun accessibility policies. Over 30,000 Americans are killed by gun violence every year — and almost two-thirds of those Americans die by suicide with a gun. Too easy accessibility to deadly weapons is a major public health issue in the United States. Like other countries around the world, we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones from attacks using such deadly weapons. And, we need to take seriously that men disproportionately commit such crimes, addressing toxic masculinity in our own families and communities. I pray that next Fathers’ Day, we will have no reason to hold in remembrance those injured or killed by gun violence — and I know we have much work to do before that time to make that dream a reality.

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