Only for a moment, was it an unmatched statistic.
When 49 people were gunned to death in what was for some – the only safe space where they could be themselves; we watched, cried, and prayed in horror. But only for a moment did that stand as the largest mass slaying of Americans targeted by an “active shooter” actively engaged in unleashing a fusillade of bullets into a crowd of people in a confined space. Only for a moment.
Then came Las Vegas and the killing of 58 people at a country music festival. And then, mass killing came to church a month later when 26 congregants were gunned down in rural Texas. Only for a moment do these statistics stand as we remain incredulous at Washington’s inability to act.
Just days after the Pulse nightclub tragedy in June 2016, a quilting guild in Orlando reached out to the world asking that quilts be made for and in remembrance of the victims, families and first responders. A beautiful PRIDE-inspired heart hangs in the new Orlando police department headquarters lobby – right down the street from the Pulse nightclub, where in addition to the deaths, another 53 people were tragically injured.
But, only for a moment do we imagine that our country’s leaders hear us and embrace the hopes of our hearts to stop the violence now!
Our prayer must continually be to relinquish violence of all kinds – hatred, racism, xenophobia, heterosexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism. Stop the madness.
Now, the mass shooting of 17 teenagers at an affluent South Florida high school outside Fort Lauderdale presents us with yet another moment to reassemble choirs of outrage and heighten screams from already hoarse voices. It is the third deadliest shooting of children at school in modern American history following massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and at Virginia Tech University.
Moment by moment the statistics escalate.
With the Valentine’s Day killings inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there have been 10 mass shootings at American schools since Connecticut. These are defined as incidents where at least four or more people are injured or killed at the same general time and location, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks mass shootings and other violent incidents.
A few hours before the school shooting, Gays Against Guns delivered a “bloody valentine” to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) protesting his sponsorship of SB446, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill. SB446, which sailed through the United States House of Representatives, has Trump Administration support. It would make gun permits like driver’s licenses. If a person is permitted to legally carry and conceal a weapon in their home state, they could do so anywhere. We stand with Gays Against Guns, alarmed by the fact that the latest massacre was the 18th school shooting in 2018 – a year in which there have only been 30 school days so far.
We stand with the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, to work for sensible gun laws while working more broadly to advocate for LGBTQ safety and equality.
And, most urgently now, our hearts break as we stand with all the victims, parents, teachers, and families whose grief was echoed so powerfully by Lori Alhadeff.
With tears rolling down her face, Ms. Alhadeff – in a poignant, powerful, and heartbreaking interview with HLN on Thursday – begged for action: “President Trump, you say ‘What can you do?’ You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands,” she said. “What can you do? You can do a lot! This is not fair to our families and our children [to] go to school and have to get killed!” She is making funeral arrangements for her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, who was killed in the rampage, and the carnage wreaked by a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic weapon wielded by a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the high school.
In this moment let us come together in action and in prayer:
Eternal God, in this Lenten season of reflection, our hearts are heavy with the deepest knowing that gun violence cannot seem to take a holiday in our nation. Even as we thank you for the Light that shines brightly in the dark corners of our lives, we grieve with the families and friends of all who have been slain by violence, in churches, on streets and yet, once again, in schools. Draw us nearer to you God so that we might work harder for justice and equality and see peace in our streets. Peace in our homes. Peace in our schools. Rule in our hearts so that we might shine Christ’s light in the world. Amen.