Prevention of Gun Violence
The Unitarian Universalist faith teaches us to work for justice with love. We hold the life of each person to be sacred and we feel the loss of each life due to gun violence. We have a collective responsibility for protecting all lives from gun violence. Our shared grief and moral outrage impel us to demand freedom to peaceably assemble without fear of gun violence.
We recognize that there are legitimate reasons for gun ownership: hunting, target shooting, and self-defense. However, there are many locations where possession of firearms is inappropriate and detrimental to safety. There are firearms which have no appropriate use outside the military. There are appropriate ways to safely store and transport firearms, and reduce the potential for harm.
We are committed to developing social understanding for our larger community together. We must balance rights and responsibilities. We must support measures that contribute to the public wellbeing. We support common-sense regulation of firearms to support our freedom to assemble in public without fear of gun violence.
--Adapted from Interfaith Toolkit: DC Area Interfaith Gun Violence Prevention Network
Gun Violence Prevention in Maryland:
Thankfully, Maryland is currently ranked 8th in the nation for strongest gun laws.
However, Maryland’s Handgun Permit Board was undermined by the United States Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen. This decision ruled that states cannot require individuals to have "good and substantial reason" to carry a handgun in public.
Here’s what you need to know about gun violence in Maryland:
An average of 743 people die by guns a year, and 1,363 people are wounded
The rate of gun deaths increased by 46% from 2011 to 2020
An average of 474 people die by gun homicide a year
Black people are 3.4 times more likely to die by guns than white people
Guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Maryland. In Maryland, an average of 64 children and teens die by guns every year, and 83% of these deaths are homicides.
Gun violence costs Maryland $10.5 billion each year
Source: Everytown Research and Policy. https://everytownresearch.org
Actions and Facts
Who Commits Mass Shooting? According to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (www.csgv.org) 4% of interpersonal violence is attributable to mental illness alone. Decades of research have identified various behaviors that do indicate an elevated risk of violence. Past violent behavior is the best predictor of future violence, regardless of a diagnosis of mental illness, domestic violence, substance misuse, alcohol misuse, and illegal use of controlled substances, also increase the risk of violence. Most of the shooters were white males.
Some Data: In 2016 there were 707 (suicides: 251, homicides: 436) total firearm deaths by guns in MD. As of 6/28/18 there have been 154 mass shootings this year in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, of the 5,323 guns that law enforcement in MD recovered in 2016, almost half came from other states.
Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO Bill): Many have asked if the 2018 MD legislation (HB 1302), which went into effect October 1, 2018, would have been instrumental in preventing this tragedy. According to the Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and the Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, yes if it had been in effect. Their response is: “law enforcement, blood relatives, spouses, dating partners, co-parents or legal guardians can file ‘red flag’ petitions. It has been reported that both the victim of the gunman’s harassment and staffers at the Capital Gazette met with police to voice concerns about the threats they were receiving. Had the new law been in effect, those officers would have been able to take that evidence to petition a judge for the temporary removal of the gunman’s firearms and prohibited him from future purchases. Maryland has been given an important tool in the ongoing battle to prevent gun violence. If used properly, it might prevent the next tragedy from even happening.” Check this site to learn about ERPO http://lawcenter.giffords.org/resources/factsheets/
The Conclusions and Relevance of a May 2018 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association were: “Strong state firearm policies were associated with lower suicide rates regardless of other states’ laws. Strong policies were associated with lower homicide rates, and strong interstate policies were also associated with lower homicide rates, where home state policies were permissive. Strengthening state firearm policies may prevent firearm suicide and homicide, with benefits that may extend beyond state lines.”
Unfortunately, gun violence has spiked during the pandemic. In 2019 and 2020, gun homicides increased by 45%, and gun suicides increased by about 10%.
Contributing factors were:
not having access to social support within the community,
being isolated, and
being worried about job stability.
On top of that, some people felt fearful, uncertain, and insecure. Unfortunately, folks turned to purchasing guns, in record numbers.
Who Are the Victims of Gun Violence in the U.S.? The October 1, 2017 Washington Post article has been updated as of June 29, 2018 to include Wendi Winters and her four co-workers from the Capital Gazette. The numbers for 2018 are: 154 shootings in which four or more people were killed by a lone shooter (two shooters in a few cases), 40 dead from mass shootings and 7,075 from gun related deaths. This compelling article can be found at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/mass-shootings-in-america/?utm_term=.f515af57857c
Related Policy or Information
Children should feel safe in their schools, free from shootings
Children should be protected from gun violence without arming teachers. Teachers should model nonviolence, not the use of force to protect their students.
Responsible gun owners should be allowed to keep their weapons.
As long as guns are kept away from children and others who should not have access, gun owners can keep and use their firarms for legitimate purposes, including hunting and self-protection.
Guns should be kept out of the hands of children, mentally ill people and those who would commit crimes with them
Background checks and a database of ineligible people should be maintained by law enforcement.
Law enforcement should have the tools to prevent gun violence.
Reasonable regulations should include background checks for any transfer of a firearm and establishment of a database to track stolen firearms and those used in crimes.
We want our communities to be safe
Inter-state trafficking in firearms should be addressed nationally since states cannot close their borders.
Victims of domestic violence should be protected from their abusers
This should include removing firearms from homes where abuse has taken place.
Gun violence is a major health problem and should be addressed as such.
Social scientists and health officials should be provided with adequate data to analyze and develop solutions.