I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of the “thoughts and prayers” rhetoric every time there’s a mass shooting in America, which is quite a lot. I’ve written too many messages to the community and too many blogs (see list below) on the topic of gun violence, and here we are, still thinking and praying. Now is the time to ACT to stop the madness.
Yes, of course, we do pray for the victims… this time for the unfathomable 59 dead and more than 500 wounded in Las Vegas. They were there to enjoy themselves at a concert, a festival of joy and love, and now they are gone, or maimed, or damaged for life. Yes, of course, our thoughts are with them…. and with ourselves; thoughts of being caught in similar violence have become inescapable, a national mental health crisis that our leaders are doing nothing to alleviate.
Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lectured us — We The People, the people she’s supposed to be supporting — when she said that now is “not the time” to discuss getting a grip on gun violence in our nation. It’s never the time, it seems. Unless the shooter is Muslim, in which case it’s always time to discuss banning the entire Muslim population from travel into the United States. (Don’t blame the NRA, said Sanders, blame the shooter. Yes, of course. Remember that next time the shooter’s name is Ahmed, please.) And it always seems to be time to urge ordinary citizens to arm themselves to the teeth — “good guys with guns” v. “bad guys with guns” in the NRA Gospel. Good guys with guns were helpless in Las Vegas, however, since the shooter was high up on the 32nd floor of a hotel a quarter mile away from the killing field, mowing down concert goers with some kind of powerful machine guns — he had an arsenal in that hotel room, God knows how he got all those guns up there. Nobody on the ground could defend themselves from the fatal hailstorm of bullets. How is it that people can get guns like that in America?
But the President’s spokesperson said now is not the time to ask such questions. Really? If not now, when? When was the time after Newtown, after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Aurora, after Charleston? The list goes on and on. “Don’t politicize” is another way of saying “forget about it.”
NOW IS THE TIME to take action. A majority of Americans really do want at least some minimal controls on who purchases guns and what kinds of guns people can buy. While some of us might prefer a complete ban, in fact, the political realists who are the majority simply want some political spine to achieve some minimal restraints to save lives.
And, by the way, for all of those who proclaim that they are “pro-life,” NOW is the time to stand up and be counted on one of the most serious life issues we face. The wanton destruction of human life through gun violence in this nation shows how hollow most of those politically expedient moral proclamations are. If political leaders want to save human lives, they can start by restraining the availability of guns.
Taking action NOW to begin to slow down (note: not stop, that will take a long time) the prevalence of gun violence is a deeply moral imperative for our nation and communities. We need to hold lawmakers accountable for their lack of action, for their corruption in devoting more of their loyalty to the NRA than to their own people. Politicians who place guns ahead of lives violate their most basic duties to protect the people they represent.
Today is the International Day of Non-Violence. I sent the message below to the campus community:
Dear Students and Colleagues,
Today is the 2017 International Day of Non-Violence. We cannot escape the terrible irony of this day in the wake of the horrific news from Las Vegas. With 58 now dead and more than 500 people injured in an unfathomable massacre perpetrated by one lone gunman, we may tend to feel helpless, hopeless, or at a loss to comprehend how or why such tragedies continue to plague our society.
I have no good answers but I do know this: we must persist in our commitment to be people of peace, to confront and resist those whose violence in words and deeds shatters the essential compact of a good society. We must demand the exercise of greater responsibility by media who, too often, sensationalize and glorify violence in ways that some tragic souls find compelling and worthy of imitation. We must insist that our leaders walk back from violent rhetoric — whether taunts toward other nations or violent jokes at the expense of political opponents,, every time a leader speaks with violence some twisted mind feels encouraged. We must resist our own urges to respond to every provocation with anger, to think that the only solution is to arm ourselves in the belief that more guns will make us more safe. More weapons means more violence.
We must find a way as a nation to come to grips with the clear and urgent need to have sensible, effective controls on guns. The litany of mass shootings that we have to repeat with so much frequency is a disgrace to what is supposedly an advanced civilization.
At Trinity, our entire mission emphasizes the life of the mind, the belief that through knowledge we can make life better for ourselves, our families and communities. We do this with a spiritual center that is rooted in the Catholic and Christian traditions of love and service to humankind, belief in the dignity of the human person and respect for human life. The outrageous gun violence that afflicts and infects our nation is a direct challenge to our institutional values intellectually and spiritually.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “Nonviolence means not only avoiding external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”
Mahatma Ghandi, whose life and work are the inspiration for today’s International Day of Non-Violence, wrote: “Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of humanity. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of humanity… We have to make truth and nonviolence not matters for mere individual practice, but for practice by groups and communities and nations. That, at any rate, is my dream. When the practice of nonviolence becomes universal, God will reign on earth as God reigns in heaven.”
On this day devoted to the idea of non-violence, let us offer what prayers we can for the victims of the violence in Las Vegas and in so many other places. And let us also pray that we can have the courage to stand up even more firmly to insist on non-violent solutions to the ills that plague our world, to demand that our leaders take the option for peaceful solutions to national and international threats, and that we come together as a human community to reaffirm our commitment to peace as the most essential element of the good society we seek.
With thanks for your devotion to the ideals of Trinity’s mission,
President Patricia McGuire
Here are just some of the pieces I have written on gun violence and mass shootings:
December 14, 2012 after the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT
December 17, 2012 in the Huffington Post on Sandy Hook
December 19, 2012 joining letter of college leaders after Sandy Hook
September 16, 2013 after the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard
December 14, 2013 after shootings at Arapahoe High School in Colorado
January 26, 2014 after a shooting at the Columbia Mall
June 18, 2015 after the Charleston church shooting
October 1, 2015 after Umpqua Community College Shooting
June 12, 2016 after Orlando