Vigil reflects on Texas, New York mass shootings while remembering victims

May 27, 2022, 11:08 AM | Updated: 11:37 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Together they claimed 31 lives and devastated many others. Mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas  broadly evoked feelings of sadness, anger, frustration and helplessness.

On Thursday night, a small group of academics, activists and others gathered at the Peace and Justice Garden at Salt Lake Community College to reflect on the events and what contributed to them while remembering those whose lives were lost.

“What motivated me to take part in this is just the community healing,” said Brock Smith of the group, Save the Kids from Incarceration.

Speakers addressed the issues of racism, oppression, domestic violence, gun violence and mental health and their potential roles in mass killings.

“We can make mental health more accessible to marginalized communities, to really everyone,” Smith said. “Too often we catch these things on the back end and that’s when we send in counselors and everything like that, when ultimately we should have access to mental healthcare all along. Mass shootings are just the outlier of the situation. On that same continuum, we have substance abuse, we have incarceration, we have homelessness, we have domestic violence, we have all these things that are actively happening because of unchecked mental health.”

Kati Lewis, an associate professor of English and the director of the Community Writing Center at SLCC offered a differing viewpoint on the mental health matter.

“People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be the victims of violence than they are the perpetrators of violence,” she said. “We need to demystify mental illness and we also need to protect those experiencing mental health crises instead of demonizing them or throwing that out as an excuse for why gun violence happens in this country instead of actually tackling what’s causing gun violence in this country.”

She argued ease of access to guns played a significant role and also pointed to a lack of accountability on policymakers for inaction on the gun violence issue.

“Gun violence is a very uniquely American experience,” Lewis said. “Domestic violence makes up a huge portion of the percentage of gun violence in this country. Suicides make up a huge portion of the percentage of gun violence in this country. We need to also be tackling that along with the mass shootings. Why do these things happen?”

Some speakers addressed the need for healing after the shootings.

“I can’t take the pain away—there’s no way that losing your child can be without any suffering,” one woman said. “I can only help them heal from here.”

The group read off the names of the shooting victims while placing flags and flowers in the garden to remember those who were killed.

“People need to come together and know that we have each other and that we can stand in solidarity,” Smith said. “Even if these actions happened across the United States, people in Salt Lake City care.”

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Vigil reflects on Texas, New York mass shootings while remembering victims