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Proposed CSAI: Gun Violence: A Public Health Issue

Congregational Study/Action Issues (CSAIs) are issues selected by Unitarian Universalist (UU) member congregations for four years of study, reflection and action. 

Issue

Since the tragedy in Newtown, CT, I have been studying the issue of gun violence. Here are some of the facts I have learned: since 1963 166,500 children and teenagers have lost their lives to guns. That is an average of 3,470 deaths every year for 50 years. The number of children and teens killed by guns since 1963 is three times as great as the number of personnel killed in action in the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars combined. That is an average of eight children a day.

Every time a tragedy like Newtown occurs the gun industry would have us ask ourselves, “How did this happen?” The events of Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, Seattle, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and oh, so many more are not isolated. They are the direct result of the NRA’s perpetration to sell more guns, to make guns more accessible, to reduce the restrictions on gun purchasing. It is all about the selling of guns and creating new markets for guns.

We are in the midst of an epidemic of violence fueled by the gun industry. The problem of gun violence is a public health issue. We can approach the situation the same way we challenged the tobacco industry, namely by exposing the facts. Because of the facts we have learned to wear seat belts, we have safer highways. We have learned the dangers of smoking, and that foods and drugs need to be regulated.

It is our right as citizens to have access to this data and to all facts regarding consumer products. It is how we make informed decisions. It is unbelievable to me that guns and firearms are not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Act. The gun industry has strategically protected itself from the consequences of its very harmful products.

I believe the industry will not be able to stand up to the scrutiny of an informed public. Lets learn the facts and take on the national gun industry.

Grounding in Unitarian Universalism

As our first UU Principle states, we affirm the worth and dignity of all people. We are called to action on behalf of the innocent victims of gun violence.

Topics for Congregational Study

  • What are the cultural factors that contribute to gun violence?
     
  • How is the second amendment used to justify current gun laws?
     
  • What are the laws and policies of other nations in regard to gun laws?
     
  • How does the culture of violence affect the lives of children?
     
  • What is the relationship between gun violence and unaddressed mental health issues?

Possible Congregational / District Actions

  • Work with state and federal legislators to pass common sense gun laws
     
  • Work to create a federal agency to collect, integrate all data regarding gun crimes
     
  • Schedule a series of forums to educate the public about this issue
     
  • Initiate programs that support families affected by gun violence
     
  • Establish local vigils to build community awareness of this issue
     
  • Incorporate a time in your church services to remember victims of gun violence
     
  • Create study groups to educate and book clubs to educate and reflect on gun violence

Related Prior Social Witness Statements

  • In 1972, 1976, 1991, 200, and 2004, the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly passed resolutions supporting commonsense gun laws.

Additional Documentation

Sources

  • Diaz, Tom; “The Last Gun”, The New Press, New York, 2013
     
  • Edelman, Marion Wright, Network Connection, Second Quarter 2013
     
  • Palfrey, Judith S. MD and Palfrey, Sean MD “Preventing Gun Death in Children” New England Journal of Medicine
     
  • Hemnway, David Phd, and Miller Matthew MD, “Public Health Approach to Prevention of Gun Violence”; New England Journal of Medicine 2013

Other Groups

For more information contact socialwitness@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, November 1, 2013.

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