America, We Have A [Gun] Problem.
It’s been just six days since the last mass fatality event. Another mass shooting. Another public venue. Another 10 lives lost—another 21-year-old male suspect in custody.
Countless families traumatized. Devastated. Grieving the loss of their loved ones. Let’s remember their names: Officer Eric Talley, 51, first responder; Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.
The shooting took place at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado—a liberal enclave, north of Denver. Just 10 days before these 10 lives were lost, a court struck down Boulder’s assault weapons ban.
Boulder saw this coming. There have been nine school shootings in Colorado since the 1999 Columbine massacre (located just an hour south of Boulder). And four other major shootings within 20 miles of Columbine High School, including the 2012 massacre at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. Boulder tried to take action to prevent this. Yet, the court cited State and Federal laws permitting gun ownership in their decision to block the assault rifle ban. So now what?
The time for ‘thoughts & prayers’ is long-past—it’s time for nationwide gun control. We must get serious about taking the ‘mass’ out of ‘shootings’ by removing people’s ability to purchase and carry large-capacity magazines and assault-style weapons, and enacting background checks, to ensure that those with hate in their hearts cannot amass an arsenal. Just think, in the state of Georgia, where same-day voting registration is banned, a man was able to purchase a gun and kill eight people in the same 24 hour period. In Boulder, the suspect purchased his gun just six days prior to opening fire.
Next, we need to take a hard look at how we raise our boys. According to Mother Jones’ Mass Shootings Database, of the 121+ mass shootings since 1982, 96% were carried out by males—of them, 56% were white males. A total of 975 lives lost. Furthermore, 59 of these shootings (including Boulder) were committed by males who had prior signs of mental health issues, of which 74% legally obtained their weapons.
If we want to realize a peaceful future, we must face the root cause at the heart of this issue. We can take away the guns (and absolutely, we have to start there). Still, until we stop perpetuating toxic masculinity and start providing the necessary tools for our young boys and men to process their emotions and deal with trauma in healthy ways, we’re going to see the cycles of violence continue. We have a gun problem. Even more, we have a mental health crisis. And, it will get worse after this pandemic if we don’t start paying attention, begin to transform the cultural norms and values that perpetuate violence, and put the resources where they are desperately needed now.
The most revolutionary thing we can do right now is to care—to teach empathy and peace to our children so when they grow up, they know kindness, compassion, and love over violence, racism, and hate.
We must demand more from our elected officials. Together, our voices can be louder than a gun.
Co-founder and Executive Director
In this short video, produced after the Parkland massacre in 2018, Hawah speaks about OCU’s approach to violence prevention by focusing on holistic physical and mental wellness through social-emotional learning, peace education, and arts expression.