Corrected Date: Update from Kate - Mass Shootings and the Decency of the American People

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Update from Kate

Mass Shootings and the Decency of the American People

At our August 6 Board of Supervisors meeting, I shared a letter sent on behalf of the Board to our Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris expressing our support for two bills passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year -- H.R. 8, the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019,” and H.R. 1112, the “Enhanced Background Checks Acts of 2019.” These bills would require a background check prior to the purchase of any firearm in the U.S.; strengthen background check procedures when transferring firearms to a private individual; and extend the background check review period from three to ten business days. 

Given the most recent tragic events and loss of life in California, Ohio and Texas, it is well past time for the Senate to act to approve these bills and we urged our Senators to convince the Senate Majority Leader to bring these bills to a vote. You can read our letter here.

I then offered the following comments:

All of us are reeling from 3 mass shootings in less than a week – starting with Gilroy, California (3 dead, 13 injured) a week ago Sunday, and culminating with back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas (20 dead, 26 wounded) on Saturday and Dayton, Ohio (9 dead, 22 wounded) on Sunday.

The least we could do was to send a letter to Senators Feinstein and Harris urging them to continue to press the Senate Majority Leader to bring two sensible background check bills to a vote.

Honestly, it shouldn’t be this hard for our elected representatives to act to protect the American people.

Many see these recent mass shootings as the horrific consequence of Mr. Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric. And I confess that I spent some time on Sunday studying the legal issues regarding holding Trump accountable for incitement to violence and the limits of the First Amendment.

I came across a remarkable rebuke to Trump issued on July 30 – this was before the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton – by the Washington National Cathedral, titled “Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump.” I want to share some of that document with you:

As faith leaders at Washington National Cathedral – the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?

We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society.

This week, President Trump crossed another threshold. Not only did he insult a leader in the fight for racial justice and equality for all persons; not only did he savage the nations from which immigrants to this country have come; but now he has condemned the residents of an entire American city. Where will he go from here?

Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous.

When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.

As faith leaders who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over. We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation. We must say that this will not be tolerated.

Amen to that.

Perhaps inspired by these words, a few days later the New York Times columnist David Brooks called for an “uprising of decency.” While that might sound like the kind of political action a group of nice Canadians would launch, in today’s world, acting with decency seems more and more radical.

An uprising of decency means, Brooks explained, reminding Americans of the values we share, and the damage done when people are not held accountable for trampling on them. Our shared values are pretty basic:

Unity: We’re one people and our leader represents all the people.

Honesty: We can’t have deliberative democracy without respect for the truth.

Pluralism: Human difference makes life richer and more interesting.

Sympathy: We want to be around people with good hearts, who feel for those who are suffering, who are faithful friends, whose daily lives are marked by kindness.

Opportunity: We want all children to have an open field and a fair chance in the great race of life.

So, let’s get radical – let’s launch an uprising of decency – for ultimately, it is the only way we can bring these horrific incidents of gun violence to an end.

If you wish to share your thoughts, please send them to me at