Americans have been in horror and shock as images of police killing two black men went viral on social media, and later when a sniper opened fire during a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, killing five police officers and leaving seven more officers and two civilians wounded. Now another lone gunman has claimed the lives of three more officers in Baton Rouge.
We at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence decry the cycle of gun violence in America. The police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile outside St. Paul are abhorrent examples of the routinized use of violent, deadly force with guns as a first rather than last resort. The Dallas sniper shootings and the Baton Rouge police killings make plain what sort of tragedies are possible when easy access to deadly weapons combines with fury and hatred.
We value law enforcement as allies in working to keep communities safe. Law enforcement officers are understandably concerned about the number of guns on our streets and their increased firepower. The escalation of the civilian arms race—with more and more people carrying more and more high-powered guns—is indeed alarming and dangerous, but that can never be an excuse to violate the rights of the civilians they are vowed to protect or to justify disproportionate force.
We mourn with the families, friends and colleagues of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the officers gunned down in Dallas and now, Baton Rouge. We pledge to them that our determination to end the daily gun slaughter on our streets is only strengthened. Let us resolve that these horrific losses of life will not be in vain, but will inspire us to come together and end the arms race that is disproportionately killing Black Americans and turning peaceful protests, nightclubs, churches and schools into sites of tragedy.