Three weeks ago, Sr. Manuela and I stopped at Walmart to pick up a few groceries and some medicine. It was in El Paso – the same Walmart that was the site of the horrific shooting on Sunday. Had the gunman decided to come earlier to do his dreadful deed, we might have been among the victims. I have never lived or ministered in a neighborhood where I was afraid to walk outside so gun safety or anti-gun violence legislation was always more of an intellectual exercise than a personal need. The El Paso shooting has changed that for me.
I have ministered in El Paso twice and during both my experiences, I met many, many kind and generous people. There were concerned about the asylum seekers coming to the United States for a safer life. They care about their community. They live in one of the safest cities in the U.S. They did not deserve to experience such evil.
It’s pretty clear that the shooter acted out of hatred for Latino people especially those seeking asylum. Where did he get the idea that this hatred was justified and that killing was a legitimate method for eliminating them? It comes from the very top of our government. Speech vilifying people of color especially those from Mexico and Central America and actions to ban or mistreat their legitimate requests for asylum gives individuals the OK to take action into their own hands.
So what do we do? Assault type weapons should be taken off the market and made illegal for all but military use. There is no possible reason that a person needs to own an assault weapon expect to perpetrate events like El Paso or Dayton. Weapons manufacturers should act in a responsible way and remove them from the retail market.
Universal background checks must be implemented and anyone with records of violence or mental illness should not be allowed to purchase weapons.
Red Flag laws also called extreme risk protection order laws, that allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others should be implemented. Family members or others can petition the court for these orders if they fear their loved one is in danger of killing himself/herself or others.
Hate speech should be condemned at every level of government and society. News organizations should bleep out this language just as they do with swear words. This message should be preached from every pulpit – hatred of anyone is not part of our faith.
Our state and national representatives have by and large refused to act on legislation that would reduce gun violence. Only 30% of Americans own a gun. 57% of Americans believe that we need stricter gun legislation. Why do our legislators feel the rights of gun owners especially the most extreme are more important that the safety of everyone else?