I write this post with the waves of grief from Buffalo, Uvalde, Pittsburgh, Tulsa, the litany that is constantly being added to. After every mass shooting in this nation, I have spent days in despair, in grief, in mourning, in anger, and in rage.
And over the last week I have also witnessed countless others express their frustration, their rage. From NBA coach Steve Kerr’s impassioned speech
to the USA Men’s Soccer Team submitting a petition demanding Gun Reform from Congress.
And it did not stop at thousands of tweets, Facebook posts, TikTok’s we again started to see a clear line between those funded by the Gun industry and those willing to do anything to stop more deaths. Democratic Candidate for Texas Governor Beto O’Rourke courageously and fearlessly addressed Texas politicians including current Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz. Children walked out of their schools in protest and solidarity, thousands got into good trouble protesting the NRA convention that was held mere days and miles away from Uvalde before the victims were even given proper burials.
And while we have seen more and more people becoming vocal, taking action, Congress has remained action-less in providing any type of help, relief, or change.
Recently, Uvalde born actor Matthew McConaughey has spoken to Congress and the White House to plead for safer gun control policies and to fix America’s ‘life preservation problem’. Below is the full speech.
I have a distinct experience of being raised in a world that was not dominated, controlled, and stripped by gun violence. I also have very visceral experiences and memories of each and every moment when different spaces, locations, and events became saturated with threats of gun violence, mass shootings, and enormous amounts of grief and loss.
I remember life before Columbine, and I live in the world after Columbine. I was in seventh grade when the shootings of Columbine happened in 1999. We had the television on in the classroom watching as the horrors unfolded. I remember coming back from summer vacation and my entire school campus became a closed campus with gates and fences; alongside fire and earthquake drills we had a lockdown drill.
And now looking back over the last 23 years, I have a new understanding and clarity in the true consequences and aftermaths of Columbine. When I look back on the conversations and effects of Columbine, I can not recall any true pushes of restricting gun use, rising the age limits, of mental health checks, of background checks. What I do recall was a saturation of conversations and arguments that video games, television, and music were an indirect if not direct cause to pushing the two twelfth grade boys to kill thirteen people at their high school before killing themselves. I also remember very clearly that there was an additional conversation about the shooters being Atheists and killing Cassie Bernall for answering yes to believing in God. Famed Christian musician Michael W. Smith even wrote a song titled “This is Your Time”:
It was a test we could all hope to pass
But none of us would want to take
Faced with the choice to deny God to live
For her, there was one choice to make
It has created a ‘Martyrdom by Gun Violence.’
We have reached the time where it is exceedingly rare that you have not either been directly affected by gun violence, experienced gun violence, or had your lives altered by it. A second cousin of mine was at the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, a colleague of mine was employed and on campus during the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting. I was at a midnight screening in California of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies the same time, at the same coordinated event of the 2012 Aurora Shooting. I lived five miles from the 2015 San Bernardino Mass Shooting where I had to shelter in place for over 48 hours without reception or internet while authorities tracked down and diffused bombs and two miles from the 2017 North Park Elementary Shooting. I have been part of four different on-campus sheltering in places due to varying ranges of threats, one of which I had to barricade myself and forty college students in a room for over an hour. When I tell you this radically changes you, I mean even on a cellular level my DNA has been alter due to living under the threat of gun violence and mass shootings. That no where in my upbringing, in my education, in my graduate students, in my spiritual and religious journeys prepared me to have an intimate and unwanted relationship with gun violence.
President Clinton had passed an Assault Weapon ban in 1994. Which had helped reduce the amount of daily, monthly, yearly mass shootings in America. President Bush let the law lapse in 2004. Humans are being sacrificed on the altar of gun rights.
Now I know for many it was after, the 2012 massacre of Sandy Hook Elementary were twenty-six were murdered by a lone shooter, twenty of which were children under the age of 7 that became the demarcation, erosion of our society in becoming fully linked to gun violence and mass shootings. But Sandy Hook might have been avoided if our government if our collective shock and anger and grief over Columbine would have been turned into action and policy. But Virginia Tech happened five years before Sandy Hook which saw thirty-two people killed and legislation did nothing. After each new mass shooting, each new location that becomes saturated with the blood of victims and littered with bullets we do nothing. And we wonder why many of us are overwhelmed, overloaded, and incapable of functioning in any form of normalcy. No space in this nation is safe or spared from gun violence and mass shootings. Schools, Movie Theaters, Sacred Worship Spaces, Concerts, Offices, Hospitals, Grocery Stores, Bars, Night Clubs – name a space and you could have a gun violence event somewhere in the US.
I would really like to break up with this forced upon relationship, until then I will have to continue to be vocal in demanding change, reform, and a better and safer world.
As of June 24, 2022 The Supreme Court has ruled to struck down Gun Legislation in New York State and struck down Roe V. Wade. On the other side of the Federal Legislation, the US Senate has pass a 30 year historical Bi-Partisan Gun Reform Legislation with a 65-33 vote. The bill was passed in the House in a Bi-Partisan vote, 234-193. It now heads to President Biden’s desk for signature into law. I have included the names of the Republicans who voted against this new Gun Reform in light of Buffalo, Oklahoma City, and Uvalde. You will also see those Senators who are up for re-election this November.
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is currently experiencing a Midwest Summer. Anjeanette is currently the World Religions Professor at Saint Louis University. She continues to be the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. She has also recently helped to set up and is the current Chair of the Disabilities Studies Unit for the Western Region. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. One of the main themes in Anjeanette’s work is seeking out representations of women and queer people in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. She is still exploring St. Louis and finding treasures beyond measure.