Urges Congress to take action via legislation
Editor’s Note: The following is a statement, unedited, from the National Association of Social Workers following the tragic mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH in early August.
The nation is again in the grasps of emotional turmoil stemming from two senseless mass shootings within less than 24 hours of one another. Currently, the total death toll from the two incidents is 32 people, with 53 injured. The shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio were the 21st and 22nd occurrence of mass gun violence in 2019.
The frequency and lethality of these acts of violence is an unbearable national outrage that must end. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) extends its condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the shootings.
However, this weekend’s mass shooting in El Paso was a repeat of the increasingly more frequent element of race and religion-driven hate and white supremacy. That El Paso’s law enforcement officials’ labeling of the incident as an act of domestic terrorism recognizes the growth of violent hate crimes and white supremacy nationwide. Much of this is fueled by ugly racial and religious discourse on social media, and the anti-immigrant rhetoric of local and national public officials.
As we have done in the aftermath of past mass shootings, NASW calls for legislation and policies restricting access to assault-style rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines. Such restrictions had been in place for over a decade, but Congress allowed them to lapse. Finally, we urge the Senate to pass the Background Check Expansion Act of 2020 (S.42). NASW is currently partnering with the Brady gun violence prevention coalition to help pass S.42
Given that the 2020 election season is fast approaching, social workers must make every effort to elect lawmakers who support common-sense legislation to prevent the public health crisis of gun violence. We must also actively participate in advocacy in our communities around this issue, providing our profession’s unique social justice perspective.
NASW continues its collaborative efforts to raise awareness of the growth of hate speech and crimes in our society. Most recently, we have joined hands with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights’ Stop Hate Campaign in presenting a series of webinars aimed at assisting victims of hate crimes or hate speech.
It is important to mention that NASW is perplexed and disappointed that the administration, and some members of Congress have insisted on identifying mental illness as the main causative factor for mass shootings. Nothing can be further from the truth. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted by such spurious rhetoric.
This public health crisis must come to an immediate end. NASW and its members will remain engaged with others in strenuously fighting for sensible gun laws and an end to racial and religious-driven hate crimes.