Gun Violence and a UU Response. On Thursday, Aug. 27th this year New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.” That is a huge statement and researchers, led by Louis Jacobson with politifact.com examined the evidence to support such a statement. After a thorough examination of the evidence and using the broadest figures possible, they find Kristof’s statement true. From the Revolutionary War and all the others, the total of deaths came to 1,396,733. The total of firearm related deaths from 1968-present total 1,516,863. “That’s a difference of 120,130 more gun deaths than war deaths - about 9 percent more.” This gun death total includes the following, “In 2013, according to the CDC data, 63% of gun-related deaths were from suicides, 33 % were from homicides, and roughly 1% each were from accidents, legal interventions and undetermined causes.” This is sobering to understand - and begs the question for me, why can’t we have a real dialogue about the easy access to guns in this country? Why can’t our elected officials have a sound debate about reasonable regulations around guns? Have we come to value life so little that we cannot demand and enforce background checks to those wanting to buy guns? When most of the deaths related to guns aid in suicide - what does that say about our mental health programs and the value of life itself?
And another major concern I have is this: when I consider the recent mass killings that have happened in this country...from Aurora to Tucson, Sandy Hook to Charleston and beyond, most of the ones firing the guns, most of the ones causing this destruction have all been young, white men. What is happening in our society that we seem to be producing young white men who take these kinds of actions? Some of them are suffering from mental illness, no doubt about it; some have been fed the lies of racism...and I have to think that if we had more robust background checks, better mental health services and less tolerance of systematic racism, lives would have been saved.
As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of each and every life; we are called to address systemic injustices and do what we can to support the efforts of justice and peace for all. Join the Social Justice Ministry team, the Caring Ministry team and other groups and their programs in the call for regulation of gun access, for better mental health care for those in need and engage in raising awareness of racism’s cruel systems that keep people of color in poverty, uneducated and feeding the for-profit prison systems of this country. We have work to do - as E. J. Dionne writes, “There is always a choice between the politics of resentment and the politics of remedy.” Let us choose to work for sustainable remedies for life, for better mental health access and a better country for all.
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