Editor’s Note: The following is a statement from Muffy Grant, executive director of the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), on recent mass shootings.
The last weeks of May are typically joyful for families, with moving up ceremonies, graduations, end-of-year picnics, and a range of family celebrations like Mother’s Day. It’s also a month when we bring awareness to the importance of mental health and well-being.
However, the month’s half-way point was marked with a mass shooting at a grocery store in a majority Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York where ten lives were brutally stolen. The lives of their loved ones are irrevocably marred by violence. Beautiful lives cut short by a racist, with racist motives, and an AR-15. An 18-year-old wielding a weapon of war in a place where people take care of an everyday task necessary to feed and nourish their families. This firearm was easily accessible due to permissive and reckless gun laws.
That was Saturday, May 14. Then, Tuesday, May 24, sent us to bed with more tragedy. Our mothers, fathers, and loved ones were grieving yet again, instead of celebrating, as they should be. The tragedy marks at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school this year alone.
Nineteen elementary school children and two of their educators were murdered in Uvalde, Texas. An AR-15 ripped through the bodies of these precious people. An 18-year-old once again wielding a weapon of war. That 18-year-old was unstoppable by the “good guys” — law enforcement who confronted him unsuccessfully before his entry into the school. His tactical gear shielded him and he was able to commit mass murder in just moments — breaths.
More guns have yet to make us more safe. Twenty-one people gunned down in another school and dead due to the lunacy of gun culture in the United States.
The cycle of violence is killing our families; Americans want it to stop
Yes, I said lunacy. Yes, NCECF is politically nonpartisan. We know it’s a risk to speak against American society’s gun fetish because somehow it’s become tribal. How is safety in our communities, where little children learn and grow, something that is up for debate? Guns are synonymous with partisan politics. To be for gun sense legislation has been reduced to a cynical talking point perpetuated by the gun lobby.
Neutrality cannot exist when children are denied their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the result of perversion of the 2nd Amendment. Our organizational mission is to marshal North Carolina’s great people, ideas, and achievements to ensure equitable access to opportunity and success for every child by the end of third grade. That includes supporting healthy and successful lives for children and their families. We use third grade reading proficiency as a proxy for child well-being. In a moment like this, it is hard to think about third grade literacy when we are faced with third grade death — in their school — due to lax gun laws.
According to Pew Research Center, 48% of Americans believe gun violence is a serious problem and 53% believe more gun control is needed. It’s a slim majority. Why? Is it because we can’t believe the bad will happen to us? What about the next mass shooting at the grocery store, place of worship, or school?
Between the ongoing COVID pandemic impact, economic crises, and adding violence, we are seeing so much trauma on a daily basis. And it harms our abilities to live, work, and play freely.
Our children need action to make us safer
We must hold our elected officials, at all levels, accountable to address this dire and pressing issue. Hunters, we need more of you to stand up for your sport by standing up for gun safety. Emergency room personnel, sheriffs, and first responders — we need you too. We have reached a point in our cultural history in which so many of us have been affected by gun violence. We must stand up and demand our government protect our right to a future.
Now is the time to channel the love we feel for any young person in our lives. Do we want them to meet the end of a gun because we’re too cowardly to come together for the benefit of one another? Our culture is headed down a very dark road — one that is regressive — the last gasps of a past that we must reckon with. We must embrace enlightened thought, longer and more inclusive tables, the ability to listen and not be fearful of difference. White supremacy and the gun culture that enables it must be dismantled.
Groups who advocate for gun violence prevention, like North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action, Newtown Promise, and Everytown for Gun Safety, aren’t lobbying the government to take away your arms and rights to defend yourself. They are working to make life safer by acknowledging that guns are a right that, like all other rights, require responsibility on every level, which means sensible laws pertaining to their accessibility and ownership.
Teachers are underpaid, children are over-tested, and parents are overwhelmed. The fear of gun violence only adds to that mental and emotional load. This is one aspect of raising the next generation that we should band together to relieve. Let’s come together to focus on healthy development by using our voices to advocate for common sense gun laws. We cannot profess to be a culture for the children if we do not protect and cherish them.
June is Gun Violence Awareness Month. Let’s mark it with more than just performative talk and enact change to actually make safer experiences for our children and families.
In hope, solidarity, and resolve,