The following statement was written by members of Pax Christi USA’s Gun Violence Prevention Working Group in response to the August 26 shooting in Jacksonville, FL. Find additional statements on gun violence at this link on our Statements page under the heading “Gun Violence.”
On Saturday, August 26, a 21-year-old male shot and killed three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida. We know this shooting was racially motivated because, before he got to the Dollar General, he tried to enter nearby Edward Waters University (EWU), an historically Black college. He was turned away by campus security before he could harm anyone but, armed with a Glock handgun and an AR-15 rifle, he proceeded to the Dollar General and killed Angela Michelle Carr, Anolt Joseph Laguerre, and Jarrald De’Shawn Gallion. He also openly proclaimed his hatred of Black people on social media. Sadly, this attack is just the latest in several shootings across the country targeting Black people, including the well-known mass shootings at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York last year and at an historically Black church in Charleston, SC in 2015. Here in the United States, hate crimes seem more and more commonplace. Almost daily, we find ourselves mourning those who have died at the hand of violence in our country.
Despite the toll that this violence has taken on our neighbors, both young and old, we have become ever more divided over how to address this epidemic that is destroying our culture. Over the past two decades, Pax Christi USA and other like-minded organizations have worked to pass reasonable, common-sense gun laws, support the survivors of gun violence, and address the root causes of this violence. However, these efforts have been constantly thwarted by big-money organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun manufacturers who make a huge profit on the sale of guns, consistently opposing legislation to control access to even the deadliest of these weapons. Currently, there are more guns in the U.S. than people according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey — about 120 guns for every 100 U.S. residents. That’s the highest rate of any country in the world. Not surprisingly, the U.S. also has by far the highest number of mass shooting incidents as compared to other countries. These statistics reveal the insanity that exists in our culture of gun violence and speak to the importance of putting the welfare of people ahead of the greed for money and power exhibited by pro-gun organizations and politicians.
We are devastated for those who were killed two days ago in Jacksonville, for their families, for the community, and for those of us who are Black and face yet another act of violence perpetrated against us. By taking Black history out of schools and whitewashing the impact of slavery while at the same time rejecting gun safety legislation and making it easier for extremists to buy firearms, lawmakers have fueled the racism that underlies such acts of gun violence. As in many other shootings, this shooter was able to legally purchase an assault weapon that he used to quickly kill three people and then himself.
In these violent times, it seems to us that we need less talk and more action. Pax Christi USA is revitalizing its commitment to violence prevention through the establishment of our working group to study gun violence and present comprehensive programs that will be available to local Pax Christi groups across the country. Several groups have already acted, developed educational tools, and exerted political pressure in their hometowns to pass sensible gun laws. Working across religious, racial and cultural lines, coordinating with groups already formed and engaged in this work, and thinking in creative and unique ways we hope will bring the results for which we long.
This is work that we cannot do alone. But together we can bring about change. Together we can make a difference in the epidemic of gun violence that infects the U.S. Together we can build hope for a better tomorrow. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Let us never give up this vision of tomorrow where our resources are used to feed, heal and house people rather than invested in weapons of death and destruction.