Our country has become a killing field.
Every week the news is full of stories about innocent people who were mowed down with guns while they pursued their everyday routines—shopping at the grocery store, enjoying friends at a nightclub, worshiping at their houses of faith, attending school, watching a July 4th parade. Each of them woke up that day not knowing it would be their last.
Last week we saw two terrifying mass shootings tear through close-knit Asian American communities in California. On January 21, at least 11 individuals were killed and many more seriously injured at a dance studio in Monterey Park, and within 24 hours on January 23, seven people were killed, and an eighth person was critically injured at a shooting spree at two farms in Half Moon Bay. We do not know their motives for these senseless murders, but we do know that they used guns that were semiautomatic with extended magazines capable of killing many innocent people in a matter of seconds. And these are just two of six devastating mass shootings that have occurred in that state during this first month of 2023. This must stop!
Over the past week, the Gun Violence Tracker has reported 350 deaths and 574 injuries. The Gun Violence Archive counted 648 mass shootings in 2022, of which 21 involved five or more fatalities. That’s almost two per day. The Pew Research Center reports that gun murders have climbed sharply in recent years, rising to nearly 20,000 in 2020. “The 19,384 gun murders that took place in 2020…represented a 34% increase from the year before, a 49% increase over five years and a 75% increase over 10 years.”
I join you in mourning the lives lost and families broken. I hope for the recovery and the resilience of survivors. We must demand an outright ban on military-style assault rifles, large-capacity magazines, bump stocks, and much more. And to do that, we need a Congress that is willing to stand up to the gun manufacturers and gun lobbies, especially the NRA, and do what is right for the American people. It’s not enough to enact gun laws – California has some of the most stringent gun laws in our country, many of them enacted in response to violent mass shootings, and yet the shootings continue. Hiding behind the Second Amendment is an act of cowardice and duplicity. Assault weapons were banned by Congress in 1994 until the law was allowed to lapse in 2004. This daily massacre of those living in this country can and must be stopped.
This month also saw continuing unlawful and deadly brutality by police with the violent and senseless murder of young Tyre Nichols in Memphis, another young man of color to die at the hands of police. The video of his beating is unbearable to watch, and the heartache of his mother and family over their loss is heart-wrenching. For those whose names we know – so many, Floyd, Taylor, Anderson, Nichols – and the hundreds whose names we don’t know who have been gunned down, beaten, and brutalized at the hands of police, I grieve. The five former Memphis officers each face charges of second-degree murder, Whether seen as acts of bad cops, and/or understood as rooted in the historic legacy of law enforcement’s inhumanity against Black and Brown communities, this is abhorrent, unacceptable, and we must get involved to make it stop. While the Memphis Police Department appears to have taken significant and rapid action, the pain across the streets of America is palpable. Transforming policing and stopping the brutality is urgent and must address everything from selection, training, accountability, resources and so much more.
I am grateful to those of you involved in protesting these injustices and raising your voices for more justice and more peace. I am grateful for the engagement of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni with communities across this nation, working on issues of mental health, police reform, community safety, civil rights, and for our institution’s commitment to continue the work of being antiracist and pro-inclusive in our teaching and learning.
I cannot speak in detail to each and every moment of these past few weeks. There is no way to do them justice. But I have another idea. I’m asking that the Antioch Community join me in taking 30 minutes today, Monday, January 30, to pause and reflect in any way that is most meaningful for you, alone or with colleagues, in quiet or in writing or in conversation. Take this time, please, to reflect, be it to sit with your grief for the loss of these lives and compassion for survivors, be it with your rage at systemic injustices and the need for gun control and the transformation of policing, be it to think about ways you intend to get more involved. I know each of us believes in something better, we continue to be inspired to try to win those victories for humanity.
We have also posted some resources below that may be of use, as well as a few prior Chancellor’s Statements on related topics.
I, too, will pause today as I sit with you all across our University and our country, joined together to share the pain, find solace, and come together to build a more just and peaceful future.
Bill Groves, Chancellor
A Few Resources to Learn More & Get Involved
Stop Gun Violence:
Sandy Hook Promise
Transforming Policing Resources:
Legal Defense Fund
Related Prior Chancellor’s Statements:
Say Their Names! A Response to the Buffalo Hate Crime Shooting