Statement on the Mass Shootings in Buffalo and Laguna Woods

The shootings in Buffalo, NY and Laguna Woods, CA are a horrifying reminder that America is awash in gun violence. The lives lost and the trauma now being suffered by those families and communities remind us that each year about 40,000 lives are lost to guns. Mass shootings get all the newsprint but individual gun deaths in our communities take even a bigger toll. Each death delivers the same trauma to the community that suffers it as does a shooting like Sandy Hook, Parkland or Buffalo. “It can’t happen here” doesn’t apply any more. It has happened here and will continue until real change occurs. 


Easy access to a huge number and variety of deadly weapons, and a culture that supports the use of violence to maintain power and solve perceived problems; both must be addressed to make any progress.


Common sense reforms like universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and large ammunition magazines, and safe storage laws are supported by a majority of Americans and yet remain unimplemented. These plus Extreme Risk Protection Orders (so called Red Flag Laws) would make an enormous difference in reducing the number of guns falling into the wrong hands.


As Quakers, we believe that there is “that of God” in every person. This informs many of our beliefs and practices. Our duty is to God and to each other. As Isaac Penington wrote in 1667: “Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.” Therefore, our tools are a helping hand, not a blazing weapon; a call for reform and transformation, not a wiping out of things we do not understand or agree with. 


The Buffalo shooting killed 10 and were racist and terrorist in every sense of the words. The victims were specifically targeted by their race and the intent was to kill large numbers and to promote fear and trauma in survivors. The Laguna Woods shooting killed 1 and injured 5 in a house of worship that traumatized that community.


America and other Western nations have a long history of using arms to subjugate other countries and other peoples. “Might makes right” is ingrained in many of these cultures. But only America allows its general population such unfettered access to almost any kind of weapon in almost any quantity.


When a weapon of war becomes the tool of choice for righting wrongs and resolving conflicts, then there is a Second Commandment problem of idolatry, not a Second Amendment problem. Guns divide us into “sides” and do not make us safer. A handgun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used on a family member or friend than an intruder. We need changes in our laws but also changes in our hearts. We call on all people to resolve differences peacefully, to listen to and understand the “other side” and look for creative solutions that allow all parties to proceed with dignity, safety, and well-being. 


Peter Murchison
Gun Violence Prevention Coordinator
NYYM Witness Coordinating Committee