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1999 Action of Immediate Witness

On April 20, 1999, at about 11:21 a.m., two students, heavily armed with firearms and pipe bombs, entered Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado. Over the next few horrifying hours, twelve students were killed, a teacher lay dying while protecting those students in his care, some twenty students were wounded, and the two ended their acts of terror with their own suicides.

A shock wave spread across the Denver metropolitan area, across the state, and out over the nation, finally reaching every corner of the world. In a terrible list of school attacks, Columbine became almost instantly a symbol and a cause. Bills in the Colorado Legislature, easing the requirements for concealed weapons, disappeared. The United States Senate, reeling under public reaction, reversed its vote and passed a measure requiring background checks for all gun sales everywhere. Vice President and Mrs. Gore visited the emotional and spontaneous memorials in Clement Park, next to the school, and on May 20, President and Mrs. Clinton met with the families of the slain children, then spoke to the Columbine community.

The copy cat violence in Taber, Alberta, heightened the shock.

Now it is time for the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association to speak our truth as a community of justice and compassion in which the worth and dignity of all people are affirmed.

There is no single cause for such a complex situation as the attack on innocent students at Columbine, but some factors in our society stand out as major contributors:

  1. The complacency and tacit approval of adults and peers who witness cruel and cynical behaviors toward others and take no action;
  2. The bullying and cliques in our schools which are a reflection of the society outside and give rise to violence, both mental and physical;
  3. The availability to our youth of hand guns and automatic rifles;
  4. The popularization of violent role models in television and film and the apparent celebration of gratuitous violence and death with casual indifference; and
  5. The video games that desensitize youth to the horrors of senseless violence.
We note with sorrow and shame that the event which motivated public concern about youth violence is not the almost daily violence in our communities of poverty and communities of color.

More of us must begin to address youth violence in all of its complexity.

The rising numbers of suicides, acts of violence, and other antisocial behaviors in general demonstrate an increasing sense of hopelessness among our youth and in society.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 1999 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges the Association and its member congregations:

  1. to communicate with national, regional, and local school authorities to call for the development of nonviolent conflict resolution training programs for K-12 education;
  2. to work for legislation in the United States and Canada to increase the legal age for possession of hand guns, and to prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of all assault weapons, except for law enforcement and military use, and to require that parents be held responsible for weapons they know to be in the possession of minor children; and
  3. to communicate with major film and television studios and television networks, and to work in concert with other religious groups, to demand the reduction of violent images prevalent in our society.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the 1999 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges individual Unitarian Universalists:
  1. to work in their communities through such groups as parent-teacher associations and school boards, in concert with others from any religious denomination, to press for the introduction of conflict resolution training programs as a way to help bring about universal understanding and acceptance of the fundamental concept of respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. to preview videos and motion pictures to be viewed by their children, and to refuse to support entertainment based strictly on the excitement of violent images;
  3. to stop purchasing video games in which human or human-like figures are targets to be killed for higher scores, causing, however unwittingly, a gradual but certain reduction in feelings of revulsion or guilt in the act of discharging a deadly weapon toward a human being;
  4. to provide in our congregations youth programming and activities for member families and other youth in our communities;
  5. to provide youth advisor training within our congregations;
  6. to encourage our children to participate in organized youth programs and to be active participants in and supporters of those programs;
  7. to work in our wider communities to foster a positive image of hope for the future of civilization; and
  8. to commit to giving of our time and gifts to the young people in our communities whether these young people are members of our immediate families or congregations or members of the greater communities.

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For more information contact socialjustice@uua.org.