In the United States this year, there have been over 300 mass shooting incidents. The latest tragedies include the shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Nov. 7 that left 13 people dead and another at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, which left 11 dead.
Earlier this year, our country witnessed the deadliest mass shooting at a school since Sandy Hook when a gunman killed 17 people and left dozens injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Since then, our country has embarked on a conversation on the culture of gun violence that permeates every corner of our society.
As a woman of faith, I know that we need all communities and members of all religious and cultural groups involved in this movement if we are to change the current narrative of our country. Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman, I have heard from fellow faith leaders across the country who share my outrage that our people are needlessly dying. We all share the belief that gun violence has no place in our society, nor does the hate that often precipitates the gun violence.
In accounts following the tragedies in Pittsburgh and Parkland, we have learned that the gunmen were filled with hateful and bigoted ideas. These bigoted views combined with an obsession for guns resulted in the deaths of innocent Americans.
As a woman of faith, I know that we need all communities and members of all religious and cultural groups involved in this movement if we are to change the current narrative of our country.
Sadly, these actions tell a larger story of the inextricable link between hateful views and rhetoric and gun violence in the United States. According to the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, approximately 8,000 hate crimes a year involve a firearm—more than 20 each day. Data from the F.B.I. show a 17 percent rise in hate crimes last year. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported that the number of U.S. hate groups grew for the third year in a row. The organization currently counts 954 active hate groups nationwide, representing a 4 percent increase since 2016. Yet in most of the United States, there is no law prohibiting people convicted of violent hate crimes from owning guns.
And I know all too well just how deadly hate can be when it is paired with a gun.
My 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed by an older white man in an argument over loud music at a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 23, 2012. My son died because a white man assumed the worst of him. This traumatic and life-shattering moment is something no parent should ever have to endure.
After Jordan died, I vowed to commit my life’s work to fighting for gun violence prevention and helping to protect the marginalized communities most affected by gun violence. My mission as a faith leader is to preserve life and liberty for all, not just a select few. We are building a movement toward love and acceptance, away from hate and fear. As people of faith, we are always reminded to protect the least of these. We are called to deliver and stand upon the word of God.
In order to create the change we seek, we must work to combat divisive and hateful rhetoric in partnership with our efforts to pass proactive gun safety legislation that will protect our diverse communities and reduce everyday gun violence.
In order to create the change we seek, we must work to combat divisive and hateful rhetoric in partnership with our efforts to pass proactive gun safety legislation that will protect our diverse communities and reduce everyday gun violence. The words we speak to each other and that are written into law are critical to protecting the lives of all Americans.
And it must start with our leaders and lawmakers. We need our public officials to step up and denounce hate of all kinds. No person or group deserves to live in fear of gun violence because of the color of their skin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or any other form of identity. This is not the United States we should be living in, and it is certainly not the country our children deserve.
We can and must do more to protect one another. And to protect human life, we must protect human rights. These are principles that people of faith—and all people—should live by. The time for change is now.