Dispatch 54: Saybrook Transformative Social Change Faculty Statement on Gun Violence

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Our Saybrook University Transformative Social Change faculty released the following statement on gun violence last week on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Statement on Gun Violence in the United States
Transformative Social Change Department Faculty
Saybrook University

“Fight for your lives, before it's someone else's job."—Emma Gonzalez, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Student

The faculty of the Department of Transformative Social Change at Saybrook University believes that it is our role as scholar-activists to share with the Saybrook community, and beyond, our views on the context of contemporary events. Reactions to school shootings have illustrated the admirable energy of young people to take nonviolent action to provide greater safety from gun violence.

We wish to congratulate the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who originated the March For Our Lives movement, and all those who participated in the March on March 24, 2018, including many of our own students. They are truly transformative social change agents, in that they have re-framed the specific problem they are addressing in its larger societal context, creating a potential paradigm shift in public thinking about the issue.

These students adhered to nonviolent methods. They presented their case forcefully to school officials, media outlets, and legislators. While the precipitating incident occurred in a predominantly white upper-middle-class school, the marchers quickly became a broad coalition, including minorities who have been disproportionately affected by gun violence. They have given us reason to hope for the future of our nation. We applaud their remarkable wisdom and leadership in moving toward a less violent world.

As a group of faculty long committed to this goal, we offer the following perspectives:

1. Gun violence occurs not only in mass shootings, but as a daily occurrence of domestic abuse in home settings and in the overuse of lethal force by law officials. Its victims have been overrepresented among persons of color.

2. The availability of guns for individuals below 21 years of age increases the likely use of such weapons.

3. The availability of military-style automatic weapons makes mass killings more likely.

4. Restrictions on the availability of lethal weapons are endorsed by all factions of the public, including gun owners. The opposition is clearly led by gun manufacturers who exert inordinate influence upon legislators.

5. Proposals to address gun violence by arming teachers do not make sense. Individuals already committed to engage in a mass shooting expect that they themselves will be killed as a result and would not be deterred by more guns on campus.

6. The skills needed to de-escalate conflicts through dialogue, discourse dialectics, and the extensive tools for nonviolent conflict resolution are powerful but are not widely taught.

7. The hand behind the trigger is but one part of the cause of gun violence. The requisites for providing healthy cultures and communities are often lacking. People feeling displaced, demeaned and discarded are potential risks for behavior destructive to themselves and others, as are people who have experienced severe trauma. This includes both soldiers and non-combatant victims of war.

8. Too many soldiers are returning from combat tours with PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). In many cases, they are returning from wars that should never have been waged and they are receiving inadequate help to recover.

9. A culture of violence needs to be addressed. The model of scapegoating adversaries, threatening them with force, and abetting wars to kill them, is not consistent with practices of restorative justice, of listening to diverse voices, empowering creative solutions to dangerous conditions, and of building a caring social order.

10. In addition to focused political action, addressing gun violence involves a strategy that includes creation of a culture of self-care and community-care, such as suggested in Family-Care, Community-Care and Self-Care Tool Kit: Healing in the Face of Cultural Trauma, by the Association of Black Psychologists--of which TSC faculty member Dr. Theopia Jackson is the incoming President--and the Community Healing Network.

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we renew our commitment to teaching alternatives to violence and pledge our support for the new generational movement to address gun violence and advocate for a just social order, free from fears of preventable human violence.