As the United States engages in a national discussion on ending gun violence, tragedy continues. The recent attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which took the lives of 49 people and injured 53 more, highlights an epidemic that claims 89 lives a day across the nation. While some aspects of gun violence are complex and systemic, we can take immediate action.
We can ensure responsible gun ownership with laws that keep some guns out of the hands of all people, and all guns out of the hands of some people.
First, we the delegates of the 2016 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly call upon state and federal legislators to make it a crime for civilians to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, retrofit or transfer a semiautomatic assault weapon or large capacity ammunition feeding device. Private citizens have no reason to have access to weapons like the MCX Carbine firearm used to murder 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. These weapons have immense destructive power and do not belong in civilian hands. Specifically, we call on legislators to follow the lead of the seven states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and New York – that already ban assault weapons for any purpose other than law enforcement or military and to join those seven states plus Colorado in prohibiting large capacity ammunition feeding devices that hold over 10 rounds.
Second, we call upon the states and the federal government to implement comprehensive, universal background checks. Legal access to guns is still too easy – and this recent tragedy is only the latest in a long line of examples. We call on states to require that all parties (private or licensed) conduct a background check of the proposed purchaser before selling any firearm. All states that do not currently do so should ensure that all relevant records are provided to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS).
Policies such as expanding background checks to cover all gun sales would help keep guns out of the hands of those already deemed illegal purchasers. Ninety (90) percent of Americans, including the vast majority of gun owners, support background checks because they make us all safer. Since 1994, the Brady law has blocked over 2.4 million purchases.
These actions will not finish the task of building the world we dream of, but they will keep innumerable people safe as we continue to address broader issues of hate rhetoric, cultural violence, suicide, and access to mental health care.
As Unitarian Universalists we affirm the worth and dignity of all people, and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. This General Assembly calls on Unitarian Universalists to work together and in collaboration with others to ensure that the states and federal government create safe and responsible gun ownership legislation and a more just and compassionate world.