SEEKING UNITY & HEALING IN 2021 by Toni Wellen, CAGV, Chair Emeritus

Do we live in a culture that is inherently violent? Will you ever forget the images of January 6, 2021, a lawless mob attacking our nation’s capitol, some with firearms? Now in order to inaugurate a new president, we are fortifying the nation’s capitol and state capitols. Last month I wrote, “When you have a society that loses respect for the rule of law, you lose the values on which our nation was founded.”

We saw an armed mob break into our Capitol on January 6, an image we will never forget. We must begin to question the violence that permeates our nation. Violence is not a solution. It is a problem. Violence doesn’t solve issues; but rather, it creates more division, anger and grief.

We certainly have more firearms per person than any other first world country. Why do so many Americans want guns? In the last four decades the NRA has pushed its “guns everywhere” agenda and weakened our nation’s gun carrying laws. Today, three million Americans carry loaded handguns in public every day. 47 states allow for open carrying of guns in public places, with many states allowing individuals to openly carry assault rifles at protests, into state capitol buildings, and in front of polling places.

In a previous piece you read that Americans purchased 3 million firearms in one month and that we have more guns than people in our nation. Lax gun laws fuel insurrectionism, armed intimidation, and a shoot-first culture of violence, such as Stand Your Ground. They lead to senseless killing in communities across the country.

At last the largest purveyor of guns and violence, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is standing at a precipice. The NRA announced it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is moving operations to Texas in a pathetic effort to escape legal culpability. Such a filing could have two outcomes: allow the group to emerge as a sustainable enterprise or it can lead to dissolution or liquidation

The New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the group. The AG has accused the organization of diverting millions in charitable giving for “personal use by senior leadership. The National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby that has been at the center of some of the nation’s most heated debates over weapons rights, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday. AG James added, “The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt.”

Americans must not be paralyzed by fear of both COVID and the insurrectionists. These two viruses are invading our nation and must be appropriately dealt with. What do we want to teach our children? Our children should not have to grow up in an environment of fear and threat of violence by gun and fear of guns in their schools. Is this the cultural image we as Americans want to project?

We talk about a new coming together to unify a divided and ailing nation. Therefore, we must learn and teach in our homes and community, that as Americans we are a people who search for and practice peace and unity in families and community. We must teach by example by: resolving conflict without violence, not pre-occupying oneself with an enemy, and maintaining a spirit of good will.

We live in difficult times and perhaps we need to reflect on the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

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