May their memories be a blessing - A response to the Newtown tragedy
We sit in grief, shock, mourning, and anger. A massacre has occurred today of innocent children and adults. This tragedy occurred at a school, one of our most sacred public spaces.
Today’s extraordinary act of violence is a symbol to us of the soul-sickness that infects our land. This disease is the cause of violent acts of all kinds in a society that has become numb to violence. It sometimes seems that only when an untold tragedy, such as this one, takes place that we stop to reflect on the social and spiritual death in our midst. In a nation that continues to struggle with the effects of racism, sexism, militarism, homophobia, materialism, and other oppressions, can we ever truly come to find and embrace the beloved community?
We are parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Those of us gathered today at the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s offices in Nyack, New York, find ourselves a short one-hour drive from the site of this horrific incident in Newtown, Connecticut. Our hearts are aching, and yet, as activists for a more peaceful and just world, we also recognize that to support and protect our families and communities, we must speak out for change.
Our own children and grandchildren spent today in similarly “impartial” settings – in elementary schools, daycare centers, middle and high schools, colleges and universities, scattered in cities and states throughout this nation. Evidence tells us that our loved ones are increasingly vulnerable to acts of gun violence – more than 100 school shootings have been identified in the dozen years since the infamous massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.
We realize that some will say that we should not politicize this event. Gun advocates will say that it is not the guns that caused this devastation, but the human being that used the weapons.
We do not agree.
This year alone, we have witnessed a series of terrible mass shootings: of a half-dozen students at a school in Cleveland, Ohio; of 60 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; and of ten people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In between these highly-publicized incidents have been hundreds upon hundreds of acts of daily gun violence, resulting in the deaths of our neighbors and family members, those known and unknown.
Guns can be carried concealed in 49 U.S. states and openly in 43 states. Guns are not registered and gun owners are not licensed. Anyone can purchase guns at gun shows where background checks are not required. In many states, guns can be carried into the everyday places where we live – in restaurants, offices, bars, supermarkets, schools, libraries, and sporting arenas. The time for easy access to the purchase and use of guns must end.
We are immersed in a season of light that has become for many a season of despair. Let us hold the memory of the tender souls we bring into this world who have to face the violence of guns and weapons let loose upon us. In Newtown, Chicago, and Oakland; in Kabul, Damascus, and Hebron; in Kinshasha, Kigali, and Bamako. Everywhere there are children killed by adult guns, let us remember and mourn. May their memories be a blessing.
[Photos: “Rose and Grey” by Francisco Iurcovich/ Creative Commons (top); Gun violence vigil, courtesy of FOR Archives (bottom).]
Here is the statement of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship about this tragic event:
Episcopal Peace Fellowship urges reinstatement of federal assault weapons ban after school children slaughter
Ithaca, New York — Responding to the horrific slaughter of 20 six and seven-year-old students (some of whom were shot 11 times) and six staffers at their elementary school on December 14, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) urges the US Congress to quickly reinstate the assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004.
“Whether it is in a Denver movie theater, an Episcopal church in Ellicott City, Maryland, a Portland mall and now a grade school in bucolic Newtown, Connecticut, 2012 has been chillingly record-setting. This slaughter of innocent people can be stopped. Australia has shown that such a ban can effectively end the horror,” said the Rev. Allison Liles, EPF executive director.
After a gunman used a semi-automatic rife to kill 35 people in Tasmania, Australia instituted a ban of automatic and semi-automatic weapons and offered a weapon buy-back plan to its gun owners in 1996. A paper published ten years later in the scholarly journal “Injury Prevention” concluded the law appears to have worked, according to The Guardian newspaper.
The paper concluded: “Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides,” The Guardian reported.
“The EPF stands with President Barack Obama when he called for ‘meaningful action’ to prevent further such tragedies on the day of the Newtown massacre – our nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech slaughter of 2007. Such a ban would protect our citizens, as well as ensure the safety of our law enforcement officers who often find themselves out-gunned on our streets,” Liles said.
EPF – epfnational.org – has worked to promote peace since Armistice Day 1939.