Gun violence in the United States is an epidemic that affects all communities.
There are many in and outside of churches in our country who feel called in every way to be a protector of women, children, and communities and who are carefully trained in operating guns safely and with mastery to do just that.
Many churches and Christians believe that it has been God's will to ensure that each American has the right to bear arms and to defend themselves if necessary and to hold a federal or local government in check.
"The link between guns and faith is inescapable; People want a feeling of existential security and religions have historically provided that in very powerful ways. For many Americans, firearms do the same" (Mark Mwandoro, Marketing Director).
Whatever a church’s or a person’s stance on the right to bear arms, "religious communities play a significant role in efforts to reduce gun violence, including by advocating for commonsense gun reforms using a variety of tools driven by both a sense of ethical obligation and concern for the safety of their communities" (Mark Mwandoro, Marketing Director).
We all need to come together to bring what we know in the service of preventing the cultural influences that are perpetuating gun violence, especially in communities still facing redlining in homeownership, employment, access to healthcare, transportation, clean air and water, and reliable police protection. Redlining means black, brown, and white people living in redlined communities have literally been denied access to each of these resources – through our laws and our practices.
As a result of redlining, in the 2020 Census, the homeownership rate for Black Americans was 43.4%, for Latinx it was 51.5%, and for White Americans it was 72.1%. In 2020 in MO, 72% of white families owned homes; 40% of Black families owned homes. The national rate of increase in homeownership for Black families (1.4%) in 2020 was lower than it was in 2010. Black families are the only racial group to go down in the rate at which they are pursuing homeownership over the past 10 years. (2022 National Association of Realtors, Snapshot of Race and Home Buying in America).
“In the United States, the average Black and Hispanic or Latino households earn about half as much as the average White household and own only about 15 to 20 percent as much net wealth.” (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, Oct. 22, 2021) What this means is that Black, non-Latinx families have an average net wealth of around 150K compared to white families whose average net worth is about 900K.
Our national history of segregation and redlining has not only meant white middle to upper class communities have always received the best in homeownership and property taxes that fuel resourced education, transportation, and employment opportunities, but also, white families have been able to invest in housing, business, education and every resource they need to grow wealth they can pass on to their children.
Redlined communities (not only urban but also rural and some suburban) not only face the removal of these sustainable resources. Redlined people live with community members who have lost faith in our American society which favors those from communities who have always benefitted from stabilizing resources (the best housing, education, employment, and access to years of economic capital which continues to accrue). They long to see the rest of America do everything in its power to ensure they have equal opportunity for employment, housing and other sustainable resources.
They face the ramifications of living in vulnerable destabilized communities where non-law abiding employment options bring drugs, alcohol and weapons right into the center of their lives. Here, our young people grow up with way too much fear of being gunned down and have stories that never end related to the layers of trauma they are daily carrying from the gun violence impacting them and their families. They and their families are navigating histories of trauma and daily traumas they are carrying while they navigate minimum wage jobs and societal cultural barriers that still make moving into safer and more stabilized communities challenging.
Those inside and outside of churches who support the right to bear arms and who know guns well and have a heart to protect are so needed in the efforts to curb redlining and other violence that permeates our country. There is so much that is not taught in schools that we have to pursue together by learning our different experiences of this country, especially the history of violence black and brown communities are still experiencing as it was written into federal housing histories and as it permeates to today.
These housing histories ensured black and brown families would not access stabilizing resources such as homeownership and business capital. These housing histories are joined by land zoning laws and policing legislation that permitted black and brown people to be contained to small, under resourced neighborhoods (Gordon, 2008). These zoning and policing laws also permitted white communities to use single-family zoning and police to prevent black and brown people from living in or coming into their communities (Gordon, 2008).
These histories contributed to the prevention of equal legal protections and equal opportunities and support for employment and access to all needed sustainable resources. These housing histories are exacerbated by cultural biases that lean towards white people and Euro-centric privileging of standard English that cast deficit perspectives on many.
We as a society need to hear what our littlest black, brown, and many white children are living with each and every day. We as a society need to learn what our black, brown and many white teens know about how guns are impacting them and their families and neighborhoods.
When we have the courage to step outside of the narratives our political parties and medias feed us and our religious institutions into the actual lives and stories of our young people, we also learn how to be the best protectors we can be of all of our youth, families and communities.
We are meant to be one America. Not an America of Americans who seek to protect their own races, classes, and ethnicities and neighborhoods at the expense of others, but an America that does the heart work needed to learn the value in every single person because of their race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. We have so much to share with one another from the riches of our cultural identities. We all want to see our youth, families, and communities thriving.
We are meant to come together to undo histories of segregation and forces that love to pit us against one another – these forces silence conversation and we all end up becoming victimized into keeping the gun violence we all are experiencing in place.
In any conversation on gun laws, when instead of starting with mandating our own many rights and freedoms, we instead orient towards what our rights and freedoms in the context of histories of redlining actually mean for the most vulnerable in our nation, we have taken the first step into the real solutions waiting for us. We have taken the first step towards the kind of community building across all of our perspectives and experiences that helps us become learners together who can look at all of the data together, including our stories and forge new logical, balanced, common sense, and innovative possibilities for all of our communities.
To learn more about this history in powerful trainings that help us come together to solve these and other pressing problems in and through our companies, schools, universities, non-profits and governments, see our Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum® trainings.
Gordon, C. (2008). Mapping decline: St. Louis and the fate of the American city. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Feds Notes (Oct. 22, 2021). Wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap. (Retrieved from Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/wealth-inequality-and-the-racial-wealth-gap-20211022.htm)
National Association of Realtors (Feb. 2022). Snapshot of Race and Homebuying in America. (Retrieved from https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2022-snapshot-of-race-and-home-buying-in-the-us-04-26-2022.pdf)
When will it ever stop?
The shootings, the violence, the deaths?
“Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that’s unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop a mass shooting in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t ‘too soon.’ It’s much too late.” - Ezra Klein (Harvey, 2022).
Over the past few years, gun violence has risen to the forefront of public consciousness. Time and time again, news of another mass shooting hits our headlines. Part of our healing must be the conviction that we will do everything in our power to keep these tragedies from happening in a nation that continues to face a pandemic of gun violence (Fleshman, 2022). We must work to prevent the daily death by guns as well as the mass shootings that claim so may lives of Americans.
A shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, left seven dead and at least 47 injured. Well, here is the thing, the authorities in Philadelphia are unsure of whether the bullets were fired in malicious attack or in jubilation of the July 4thcelebrations (Richardson, 2022). The results of the shooting are the same as all others: Americans dead, some wounded and the perpetual fear of the risk of being killed in a shootout. Upturned folding chairs, miniature flags flapping in the breeze and the still visible police barricades are what was left of patriotic fervor that quickly turned into abject panic.
In Orlando, the authorities state that there were no shots fired, but when the people at the celebrations heard what they thought could be gunshots, they began to scream and scatter in a stampede.
The trauma of gun violence doesn’t end when the shooting stops; gun violence has lasting emotional, physical, legal, and financial impacts on survivors as well as their communities. America’s gun death rate, which is 13 times higher than that of other high-income countries, makes us a global outlier. Every year, more than 40,000 Americans are killed in acts of gun violence, and approximately 85,000 more are shot and wounded. That is the equivalent of over 110 people shot and killed each day in the United States, with more than 200 others shot and wounded (Everytown Research & Policy, 2022).
On Wednesday, the House endorsed some of the most aggressive gun-control measures taken up on Capitol Hill in years. It has taken several decades, but at least there is some hope of change regarding gun control in America. There are proposals to raise the minimum age for the purchase of most semiautomatic rifles to 21 and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines in a bid to curb the recent high-profile mass shootings (DeBonis, 2022). Five Republicans joined most Democrats in backing the legislation and two Democrats voted no. This was necessary to show Americans that more can be done to prevent not only mass-casualty incidents such as the killings last month in Buffalo and Uvalde, but the hundreds of less deadly mass shootings and everyday incidents of gun violence that have long scourged America.
The Senate is also exploring means of encouraging states to create red-flag systems, a modest expansion of background checks to incorporate juvenile records, as well as funding for mental health programs and school security improvements.
DeBonis, M. (2022, June 8). House passes tough new gun measures hours after wrenching testimony. Retrieved from Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/08/house-gun-legislation/
Everytown Research & Policy. (2022, February 3). When the Shooting Stops. Retrieved from Everytown Research & Policy: https://everytownresearch.org/report/the-impact-of-gun-violence-on-survivors-in-america/
Fleshman, M. (2022). Gun Violence Must Stop. Here's What We Can Do to Prevent More Deaths. Retrieved from Prevention Institute: https://www.preventioninstitute.org/focus-areas/preventing-violence-and-reducing-injury/preventing-violence-advocacy
Harvey, B. (2022, May 26). 28 Quotes About Gun Violence To Inspire Change. Retrieved from Goodgoodgood: https://www.goodgoodgood.co/articles/gun-violence-quotes
Patrick Jonsson, N. R. (2022, June 6). Has the gun become a sacred object in America? Retrieved from The Christian Science Monitor: https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2022/0606/Has-the-gun-become-a-sacred-object-in-America
Perry, S. L. (2022, MAY 25). School Shootings Confirm That Guns Are the Religion of the Right. Retrieved from Time: https://time.com/6181342/school-shootings-christian-right-guns/
Richardson, M. (2022, July 5). The Fourth of July 2022, a day of violence and fear in America. Retrieved from Grid: https://www.grid.news/story/global/2022/07/05/the-fourth-of-july-2022-a-day-of-violence-and-fear-in-america/
Happy Independence Day, USA!
It's that time of year again — the time when we all look up to the skies and watch a spectacular display of fireworks with a feeling of pride over our country, The United States of America.
The 4th of July is an all-important American holiday that dates back to July 4, 1776.
So, what do we really celebrate on this day? Well, this wasn’t the day that independence was declared nor the day that the Declaration was officially signed.
The 4th of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by delegates from the 13 colonies (Almanac, 2022). The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence and that is when we celebrate the birth of the United States of America.
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. It was an official act taken by all 13 American colonies in declaring independence from British rule. The document was originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson in consultation with fellow committee members John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and William Livingston. The Congress had voted in favor of independence from Great Britain on July 2 but did not complete the process of revising the Declaration of Independence (Waldstreicher, 2022).
This national holiday is marked by patriotic displays similar to other summer-themed events. Celebrations often take place outdoors with many politicians making it a point to appear at public events to praise the nation's heritage, laws, history, society, and people. Traditionally, Independence Day is observed with parades, concerts, outdoor food, and fireworks. Fireworks have been part and parcel of U.S. Independence Day celebrations since its first celebration in July 1777.
In celebration of the 40th Fair Saint Louis and in recognition of the St. Louis region’s collaborative efforts to overcome the pandemic, Fair Saint Louis 2022 will hold a three-day extravaganza that will feature action-packed entertainment that includes family-friendly attractions, numerous concerts, concessions, and a special mainstage Salute to the Troops and Folds of Honor ceremony (Explore St. Louis, 2022). The Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular will be framed by the iconic Gateway Arch and dazzle over the Mississippi River which will be the largest fireworks show Fair Saint Louis has ever produced.
Almanac. (2022, June 27). Happy Independence Day, America! Retrieved from ALMANAC: https://www.almanac.com/content/independence-day-fourth-of-july
Explore St. Louis. (2022, June 8). Fourth of July in St. Louis. Retrieved from explore St Louis: Fourth of July in St. Louis
Waldstreicher, D. (2022). Independence Day. Retrieved from Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Independence-Day-United-States-holiday
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. specializes in supporting teams, departments and schools, businesses, and government agencies in building inclusive innovative change-making communities who understand how to connect well with and join diverse populations in providing needed sustainable resources for all youth and families.