We all watched in horror last week as Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and 5 Dallas police officers lost their lives. These incidents have become an all too familiar part of American, and particularly African American, life in the last few years. They are a symptom of a system where underlying prejudices are far too easily manifested. This we all know by now. But they are also a symptom of the same system that resulted in 49 lives being lost just a month ago in Florida. It is time for us to face the fact that this is the result of us allowing our citizens to be so easily armed, civilians and law enforcement alike. It is time for us to change our inherited culture of violence.
For further information, please see our official statement, copied below.
Stop The Violence
Anton Sterling and Philando Castile were men guilty of nothing. They were men with families; men whose lives mattered. But now they’re no longer with us. Over the last several months and years, poorly trained, racially biased police and their victims have been in the news far too frequently. Through their actions, they have given new life to the question of whether the lives of Black Americans are in danger from the men and women sworn to protect them. But there is another question we must ask as well: if guns were not so readily available, if our citizens were not so commonly armed and if police were not so conditioned to expect it, would these events happen so frequently?
After every shooting there are those who scream that guns aren’t the problem, but the solution. They say that the way to keep our country safe is to have more guns, and that shooting victims wouldn’t have been victims if only they’d been carrying at the time. However, the shooting of 5 police officers in Dallas last week clearly demonstrates that guns often don’t make a difference. These were good men, good cops, the proverbial good guys with guns, but their guns did nothing to protect them. Their protection was useless in the face of the snipers’ unlimited right to bear arms.
Many of the remedies to this are familiar at this point. We need background checks on all gun sales. We must give our justice system the tools it needs to properly prosecute gun traffickers. We need to lift the ban on federal funding of gun research. We need to renew the bans on assault weapons, and create new ones for extended magazines (and for sniper rifles), whose only purpose is to dole out death. We need to ensure that no law enforcement official is handed a gun who cannot handle the responsibility. We need to better educate and train everyone on the use of non-deadly tactics.
Most of all, though, we need to actually listen: listen to the experiences of people unlike ourselves; listen to people we disagree with, and find the common ground where change can be made. And we need to make our elected leaders listen to the large majorities of people who support sensible limitations.
While the instinctive solution to deadly violence is simply more violence, we will never end the cycle. It’s past time for the culture to change.