Last Sunday’s (Nov. 5) shooting at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shocked the nation. But it was inevitable, just one more in the list of mass shootings in the United States. There have been 308 mass shootings, defined as four or more wounded or killed, in the United States in 2017, according to data collected by Gun Violence Archive. The Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shooting has been billed by many as the largest church massacre in modern history, but that discounts the 1847 massacre at the San Geronimo Church on Taos Pueblo.
Rick Romancito wrote in The Taos News, Feb. 7, 2013, that over 150 people of color, mostly woman and children, from the town of Taos and Taos Pueblo, were massacred with cannon fire and the horrific violent act of burning the occupied church by a U.S. Army Force sent from Santa Fe to “put down” a Pueblo Rebellion in Taos.
It is time for us to do more than lowering the flag to half-staff, praying, mourning and paying homage to those killed in mass shootings. It is time to remember that while Sutherland Springs fills the news and our hearts, there were an additional 228 people who died by gun violence in the United States in just the first six days of November 2017, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It is time that we have a civil political discussion about the causes of gun violence in the United States and how we can reduce it.
We have heard politicians say that “it is too soon to talk about gun violence” and “we must not politicize the shootings.” They are wrong. It is now that we need to talk about it. We can no longer wait, because on each day we wait another 42 people, on average, will die from gun violence.
We need not talk about attacking the 2nd Amendment, but we do need to talk about common sense approaches to background checks for every gun purchaser, training for those who wish to purchase guns, development of “smart” guns, and secure storage for firearms. We need to talk about restricting access to firearms for those who have a history of criminal acts, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health or family abuse. We need to talk about informed laws that remove bump stocks and other modifications which effectively change firearms into automatic weapons. We need to talk about making gun violence a national public health crisis so that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention can properly investigate and make appropriate recommendations to stem gun violence in our country.
The many studies comparing gun violence in the United States with the rest of the world make it very clear — we have more guns and more gun violence per capita than any other country. Across all countries and societies, as numbers of guns go up, deaths by gun go up with them. We know statistics will not convince a lot of people, but if statistics don’t count, how about the funerals of the 12 to 14 children killed in Sutherland Springs? Have we become so callous that even the deaths of our children don’t matter?
It is time to talk, to talk to each other, to talk to our elected officials, to come together to find and implement common sense solutions which will reduce gun violence. For too many years the subject of gun violence was taboo, we were afraid to bring it up. If it came up we immediately drew lines in the sand, and both sides refused to enter into a dialogue about potential solutions. It is time to talk, not about each other, demonizing anyone who does not believe the way we do, but to enter into honest dialogue where we can listen to and learn from each other.
It is time, actually, to do more than talk. It is time that we take concrete action, identifying those areas that should be gun free zones—churches, schools, and town, county and public facilities at the minimum. It is time to talk to our town and county officials about taking a stand on gun violence.
The Taos Interfaith/ Intercultural Alliance is inviting other groups to help us begin the discussions. The alliance membership and friends include retired military, pacifists, gun owners, police trainers, educators, counselors, priests and pastors; we do not always agree but we know that working together we can make a difference. We are planning a public program on this public health problem, on a date to be determined.
The Alliance Core Group is Daniel Escalante, Mary McPhail Gray, Bette Myerson, Linda Yardley, Steve Fox, Fr. Mike Olsen, Darien Fernández, José González and Rev. Ginna Bairby.