AEU Gun Control Statement

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, FL, American Ethical Union reaffirms its commitment to strict gun control and for an end to the culture of gun violence

On the afternoon of February 14th a teenager shot and killed seventeen people, including thirteen children, with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he had purchased legally. As our hearts break for the victims and families of this atrocious shooting—and for the victims and families of the many school shootings that have preceded it—we at the American Ethical Union are led to ask: “How many people must die before we confront the evil of gun violence in America?” There is a deep sickness in any society which values private gun ownership over the lives of children, yet time and again grotesque acts of mass violence are followed by political apathy as elected officials choose donations from the gun lobby over the safety of young people in school. The American Ethical Union stands with the survivors and families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in saying “Never again.” It is well past time to enact restrictions on the sale and ownership of firearms, and to promote a culture of life and freedom over the deadly culture of the gun.

The mass shooting of children at Stoneman Douglas High School was horrific. Also horrific is the pervasiveness of deadly gun violence throughout American society. Every year guns take tens of thousands of lives: in tragic accidents; when guns are used for suicide; and through criminal action. Marginalized communities—particularly women and people of color—are disproportionate victims of gun violence, and have been raising their voices for decades without action. Enough. The lives of people of color are as worthy of respect as those of white children in Florida suburbs, and for all our sakes we must take action now.

The evidence from multiple scientific studies and international comparisons make clear that rates of gun violence in a society are directly related to the number of guns in that society: more guns means more gun violence. To reduce the amount of gun violence in America we must start reducing the number of guns. This is in no way contrary to the Constitution. The concept of an individual right to private ownership of almost any firearm is a recent and perverse reinterpretation of our founding documents. Regulation of private ownership of firearms is consistent with American history and American law, and is an ethical necessity.

Much gun ownership is motivated by the belief that owning a gun will make you safe. This is not true. Gun ownership is not only dangerous but irrational, driven by a culture which encourages us to fear our neighbors and arm ourselves against them. Gun ownership offers a false sense of security while compromising the safety of our families, who are at much greater risk of gun violence if we bring a gun into the home. Gun owners are not bad people: they are members of our family, our friends, and our neighbors. But gun culture is bad. Gun culture thrives on fear, is driven by greed, and results in death.

For all these reasons the American Ethical Union calls for immediate restrictions on the sale and ownership of firearms, including a ban on the possession of handguns and any weapons more deadly. Assault rifles, in particular, should be banned entirely. We call for an end to a culture which believes that the answer to gun violence is more guns. We call for the creation of a culture in which guns are viewed not as a guarantee of safety but as the lethal weapons that they are, a threat to all who encounter them.

To the survivors of Parkland, to the Movement for Black Lives, to the survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, and to all victims of gun crime, we say “We stand with you.” We call on people of goodwill everywhere to support the efforts of the gun violence survivors and their families to restore rationality and an ethic of life to our national discussion of guns.

To our elected officials, we say “Enough!” We call on politicians to enact reasonable restrictions on the ownership of guns, leading to a ban on the possession of handguns and any weapons more deadly.

To the gun lobby, we say “Stand down.” We know that your calls for ever more guns—in schools, in colleges, in places of worship, in private hands—are driven by naked greed.

To gun owners, we say “Join us.” We call on gun owners to lay down their arms, and join us in the struggle to create a safer and freer environment.

To America, we say “Never again.” It is time to end gun violence in America, by ending the reign of gun culture over our hearts and minds.

Resolution passed at 66th AEU Assembly & Reaffirmed at the 71st Assembly, 1979

We urge Ethical Society members and friends to support upcoming events:

  1. March 14, 10 am: Nationwide School Walk-out — A 17-minute scheduled walk-out is planned at schools across the country
  2. March 24: Nationwide March for Our Lives (yes, there is already a website; please go there to sign up to march)

    Facebook group for NYC march and Facebook event here (In 24 hours, 16,000 have signed up on Facebook to participate in the NYC march)Facebook page for D.C. march

    New York magazine, 2/18/18: Florida School Shooting Survivors Will Lead Nationwide Demonstration

  3. April 20: #NationalWalkOut — another student walk-out, on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.