Dear First Parish,
My family and I were on the Cape this past weekend for my cousin’s wedding, and the morning of her wedding we took our daughter to a small playground in Hyannis. Little did we know that a walk for suicide prevention and awareness was happening at the same location. We were still able to access the playground, and right next to it were a number of tables with nonprofit organizations’ literature. From there, I picked up a Moms Demand Action button — some “swag” to declare (along with items from the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute) that I demand action against gun violence.
And, I do demand action against gun violence — as a parent and aunt, as a community member, and as a Unitarian Universalist.
In the last two weeks, 10 people were killed in a mass shooting targeting black Americans in Buffalo; 1 person was killed and 3 injured in anti-Asian shootings in Dallas, Texas, and Irvine, California; and, yesterday, 19 children and 2 educators were murdered in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
America has had plenty of time to curb gun violence against vulnerable and marginalized people. It’s been a year since 8 people were murdered at spas in Atlanta, Georgia, in a targeted attack against Asian women. It’s been 4 years since 14 students and 3 staff members were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School. It’s been 6 years since 49 people (mostly Latino queer men) were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and 7 years since 9 African-Americans were murdered in their own house of worship at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church. It has been 10 years since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when 20 children and 6 educators were murdered, and 15 years since 32 college students and faculty members were killed during a mass shooting at Virginia Tech. It’s been more than 20 years since 12 students and one teacher were murdered at Columbine High School.
And, these mass shootings don’t reflect the majority of gun violence in our nation, though they occupy most of our public consciousness about gun violence. More than 40,000 Americans die every year from gun-related injuries; about half are homicides, and half are suicides.
In the United States, we have an epidemic of gun violence. (And really, an epidemic of violence, period, as we mourn the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder from police brutality.) This epidemic is a curable one — most other nations do not experience this rate of gun-related deaths because they have sensible and strict policies for gun access and ownership. America does not need to reinvent the wheel on gun control, but does need and has needed immediate reform.
As Unitarian Universalists, we declare that every person has inherent worth and dignity, which reminds us that every single gun death is a tragedy. And, at our Annual Meeting, we just committed ourselves to journeying toward spiritual wholeness by acting to accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions. Our adoption of the 8th Principle compels us to continue in our anti-oppression work, our work for communal peace, and our work for adequate gun control in our nation.
We will pray and mourn together on Sunday for this latest terrible and preventable loss of young life in Uvalde. And, we will send each other forth to demand action against gun violence, partnering with organizations like the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in our work.
If you or your family would appreciate additional support in the wake of these tragedies, please reach out to me, Jenna Crawford, Sara Elizabeth Dyer Santa Cruz, or our Pastoral Care team. Please know as well that our national denomination, the UUA, and the UU Trauma Response Ministry have online resources for care and healing after a traumatic event.