Friday, October 21, 2016

Letter to the National Rifle Association Against Gun Violence

In July of 2016, Split This Rock opened its blog to poets writing against violence and for embraceIn solidarity with all those targeted by violence at home and abroad -- from the LGBTQ and Black communities in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad -- Split This Rock requested poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities.

As we had hoped to do, we have sent these poems, in print, to the National Rifle Association and to members of Congress who represent the states most affected by gun violence. We invite you to do so as well!

To the National Rifle Association,

More and more rapid fire assault weapons are used in this country not in any defense, but for mass shootings in places of enjoyment and sanctuary and commerce -- colleges, high schools, malls, homes, grade schools, places of employment, churches, mosques, temples, and nightclubs -- to assault people for who they are and what they believe.
These are attacks of the most un-American kind, though perpetrated by Americans. People killed because of their faith, their class, their gender, their ethnicity, their sexuality, their ideas. People killed for every reason in the world, except self-defense. Mass shootings, hate crimes, domestic violence, domestic terrorism -- the attack on LGBTQ people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the attack on children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the attack on women at a movie theater in Lafayette, LA, the attack on people of faith at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, the attack on people of color at church in Charleston, SC -- these are not acts of self-defense. These attacks are personal and political in nature, built out of resentment, fear, and access to military-style assault weapons.

Split This Rock invites the leadership at the NRA to read the enclosed poems. They are from the pens of poets both nationally famous and yet unknown. They are poets who know what it means to live with gun violence, domestic violence, fear of their own society’s hatred of them. They are the kinds of people often killed by angry men or angry boys with access to assault weapons.

We appeal to your conscience. We ask that the NRA stop imagining that all these lives are worth less than the lives of their membership or the profits of the weapons manufacturers. We ask that the NRA, as an organization, come to understand its mission as vital to more than one American value. We call for the NRA to support, to actively demand the following:
  • a total ban on assault rifles (both sale and purchase);
  • mandatory background checks and a "no buy" list for all weapons for violent felons, domestic abusers, stalkers;
  • weapon liability insurance so that citizens who want to own guns for safety, sport, and collection can insure them the way we insure cars against liability;
  • weapons licensing in a manner similar to the training and licensing of drivers to own and operate a personal vehicle.

Offering these poems to you, we hope that you will be moved, perhaps at long last, to consider the deep social and personal costs of your positions and influence. Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. It calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. In the name of this mission, we offer you these voices from the nation you love.

You may read the poems at Split This Rock's blog.

For love of the people,
Split This Rock

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