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Engagement Lab Faculty and Staff Statement on Orlando Mass Shooting

June 16, 2016

On Sunday, our country woke to hear the news of the most deadly mass shooting by an individual in US history — resulting in the murder of 49 people and wounding of 53 others who were celebrating Pride Month on Latin Night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This senseless mass murder targeted a young, LGBTQIA, Latinx community, but its impact has resonated across the globe, across differences, across communities.

Like so many of you, we all felt a combination of shock, heartbreak, horror, fear, and outrage. Bystanders and first responders snapped into action to save lives. In Orlando and across the nation, people rushed to donate blood, joined in organized vigils and moments of silence, or simply paused during their days to reflect on the tragedy. Moments of violent crisis move people to action. And yet these moments are all too familiar to those of us in the United States — after Newtown, Charleston, Aurora, Fort Hood, Ferguson, Tucson, Binghamton, Chicago, Columbine, San Bernardino, Navy Yard, Virginia Tech, Killeen, San Ysidro, Austin, and Edmond. The grave and senseless acts of violence by people living in this country towards other people living in this country goes deeper: centuries of slavery, Wounded Knee, Mountain Meadows, the East St. Louis Massacre, police brutality against unarmed minorities, or the hundreds of thousands of acts of domestic abuse, sexual assault, attacks against LGBTQIA people, racial and ethnic violence, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and hate crimes that happen every year.

We simply can’t sit back as the accusations, hateful speech, and fearful proclamations fly, like bullets, across our media channels. We write today to ask you to join us in helping to restore peace to our communities, our cities, and our country. Once the grief has settled, we are committed to channeling our anger into constructive action, advocacy, and policy-making. But we can’t do that on the literal and proverbial battlefield of polarized language. We need to take a deep breath, put down our weapons, and truly listen to those around us.

We need to disarm in two ways:

  1. Restrict Access to Guns: Work to establish state and national gun-reform laws that allow us to thoughtfully disarm civilians of military grade weapons. Commit to a process of limiting access to all guns by those who have been accused of any form of violence in the past.

  2. Change the Language: Disarm ourselves and each other of the violence-laden rhetoric of prejudice and fear that permeates our language and simmers beneath the surface of too many conversations across difference. Recommit ourselves to open communication around issues that have become nearly impossible to talk about in rational and productive ways within this country, including gun reform. End the violence and cruelty toward each other that we commit in our choice of words, deeds, and actions.

When terrible things happen in this country, it is easy to place blame on others — some other group of people, some other country, some other religion, some other gun owners. We all need to ask what we can do, how we can change our actions and behaviors. To foster the thoughtful, inclusive, truly democratic society we all want to live in, we need to disarm now.

Eric Gordon, Executive Director and Associate Professor

Miranda Banks, Principal Investigator and Associate Professor

Jabari Asim, Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director

Catherine D’Ignazio, Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor

Paul Mihailidis, Co-director and Associate Professor

Christina Wilson, Programs Manager

Sean Van Deuren, Lab Manager

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