Yet another community is in mourning. They have lost 19 young elementary school-age children, two committed teachers to gun violence, and several others who were injured. Unless you have lived through the experience of losing a child, it must feel cliché to say that IFR shares the grief of the parents, families and Uvalde community for the precious lives lost. To the extent that it is possible what it would be like to lose one of our children or family members, we respectfully acknowledge and share your tremendous sadness.
As a Latinx-serving organization, we are also heartbroken to learn the shooter was an 18-year-old Latinx young man. We have no idea what motivated him or what he could have been thinking. What we do know is that his unaddressed mental illness undoubtedly played an enormous role.
Uvalde, Texas, a community that is said to be 80% Latinx where everyone knows each other. It is one of those communities where people leave their doors unlocked and watch out for each other. Robb Elementary School is said to have a 90% Latinx student population. Rather than becoming known for these special attributes, Uvalde joins the growing list of communities that have been devastated by gun violence in their schools, churches and synagogues, supermarkets, and malls. They are involuntary members of a club that includes Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkside, and many, many others. Education Week reports that, in 2021, there were 34 school shootings, and 68 people were killed or injured. What’s worse is that there have already been at least 27 shootings at schools in 2022. When we add to these the various mass gun shootings in Florida at Pulse, AME Church in Charleston, Top grocery store in Buffalo, at synagogues in Brooklyn and Pittsburgh, and many others, it is clear that shared prayers and heartfelt condolences are not enough.
It’s been 23 years since the shooting at Columbine High School. Not only has nothing been done, but things have gotten exponentially worse. As a result, we have come to expect our pleas for gun reform to fall on deaf ears…again. Nevertheless, we cannot allow complacency to threaten the lives of our children and communities.
We must use every bully pulpit available to us to state: when guns are allowed in our communities, they result in devastating, rather than protecting, our communities. We must insist that Congress eliminate access to assault weapons and other guns meant to be used in times of war. We must fight for increased mental health services in all communities, increased screening for gun purchases, and sensible limits on gun usage in public settings.
While San Francisco’s elected leaders have almost uniformly supported gun control legislation, we know that many others throughout the country do not. In addition, many courts are more willing to honor the right to bear arms despite in the broadest possible terms rather than as a response to the need for a regulated militia.
Despite these challenges, the lives of our children and communities are at stake. We will not be silent.