From the UUA President: We all deserve to live in our communities without fear.

By Susan Frederick-Gray

Below is a statement from Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), regarding the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

My heart aches for the children, teachers, school staff, families, first responders, and community in Uvalde, Texas. I am lifting up the families who lost loved ones and their community, who will live with the legacy of yesterday’s violence forever in their hearts. The horrific toll of this loss of grade school children is truly beyond words. It doesn’t have to be this way.

While we are still learning about the victims, community, and the young man who perpetrated this horrifying act, we are aware of one, incontrovertible fact – once again, innocent individuals lost their lives to the scourge of gun violence. We have not even had time to process the grief of the atrocity rooted in racism in Buffalo, the church shooting in California, and now we have the grief of the mass murder of children and teachers in Uvalde.

Today also marks the second anniversary of the brutal murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. I don’t think there are sufficient words to express all the many layers of devastating grief and anger that are present and legitimate for this day as we continue to absorb and understand all of these events. I repeat – it doesn’t have to be this way.

Unitarian Universalists have a long history of supporting common sense gun safety measures that would make all communities safer. In 1991, we passed a General Resolution that recognized that “safe coexistence within society requires reasonable compromise with the concept of absolute personal liberty.” This followed a 1972 General Resolution that advocated for reasonable gun legislation measures.

We are currently experiencing higher rates of gun violence in schools than we were prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Washington Post, the massacre in Uvalde was “one of at least 24 acts of gun violence committed on K-12 campuses during regular hours in 2022... Those shootings have left at least 28 people dead—making this year already the third-worst since 1999.”

So while we pray for the victims and their families and provide support and comfort to their community, we must also demand action to pass reasonable gun safety regulations. We cannot tolerate and accept living under these conditions of mass violence anymore. We must not accept these violations of places of community gathering and safety - places like grocery stores, religious communities, and schools.

Inaction from our leaders is unacceptable. And–we the people–must use everything within our toolboxes to demand action, from electing leaders who will act to running for office ourselves, in order to make our communities free of violence and hate. We must invest in equity and human thriving instead. We all deserve to live in our communities without fear.

It does not have to be this way. Let us grieve with these families, hold them in care—and show up in solidarity with them. Unitarian Universalists hold sacred the inherent worth of every human being and every child, and we must uphold this value in all aspects of public life. We must, at last, turn this kind of terrible tragedy into action.

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