Below is a media statement from Johnny Zokovitch, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, in response to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Johnny’s reflections below reflect the various statements that Pax Christi USA has made in response to mass shootings and gun violence in the United States over the past 2+ decades, including last week’s statement on the shootings in Buffalo. Find many of those statements under the heading “Gun Violence” on our statements webpage here. Sadly, the calls for action in those statements still echo unanswered today.
Yesterday, 19 children and 2 adults were massacred while at school in Uvalde, Texas. I know, especially as a parent, that the devastation and grief of this cannot be overstated. I also know that we have been here before and that we will be here again.
In December 2012, I was tasked with writing the first draft of a statement in response to the mass shooting of 20 schoolchildren and 7 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I have written many more since. I don’t want to write another statement this time. This nation, our elected leaders, have had a decade since then (and in actuality, much longer) to address this madness and to demonstrate that the lives of our children are more precious to them than the campaign donations of the NRA.
Reading today that statement from December 2012 locates us in the exact same spot we were then and have been so many times since. The unimaginable happens over and over and over again and nothing changes. Except for the pain and loss of those most directly affected and their advocates, this system — this culture — continues to accept child sacrifice as a normal component of keeping the political and economic machine intact as-is. Pax Christi USA’s statement from 2012 called this “madness”, yet it is a madness that our elected officials eagerly accommodate, ready to exploit it for their own greed and power and satisfied they can keep it from reaching their own door.
Mitigating gun violence isn’t rocket science. Common sense, reasonable solutions exist and have been proposed and advocated for generations now, but to no avail. Pax Christi USA has advocated for such actions repeatedly without significant change taking place.
As people of faith, our stories often revolve around making a choice between blessing and curse, between that which gives life or that which cultivates death. Such a choice should be clear. Unfortunately, for those public servants who could put an end to this madness, it apparently isn’t.
Our work as Pax Christi USA continues. Dorothy Day once challenged us to understand the gospel as a call to “comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable”. In this moment of overwhelming grief for the families of those who lost their loved ones in Uvalde, let us hold them and their spirits tenderly, inviting their mourning and desperation to be ours as well, to carry this grief and loss with them. And let us refuse to support politicians who believe that certain lives are expendable; let us find ever more creative and provocative ways to jolt the consciences of those in power back into some semblance of humanity, capable of making decisions which assure no more Uvaldes, no more Buffalos, no more Atlantas, Pittsburghs, Orlandos, Las Vegases, Umpqua Community Colleges, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schools, Sandy Hook Elementary Schools or Columbines.
From Pax Christi USA’s statement of principles:
ON GUN VIOLENCE
On average in the United States, 100 people are killed every day due to gun violence, resulting in over 36,000 lives sacrificed annually and millions more forever traumatized in deference to the gun lobby. The disproportionality of gun violence is evidenced by Black people being ten times more likely to be murdered with a gun than their white counterparts, and women five times more likely to die if they are a victim of domestic violence when their abuser has access to a firearm. Individual and community trauma resulting from gun violence is devastating. As a community of conscience, we stand together to call for common sense legislation that reflects how much we love our children and each other; this includes such reasonable measures such as universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and the recognition that gun violence is a national public health emergency.