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Nonviolence Or Nonexistence: Bernice King On the Aurora Killings

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(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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As an organization committed to the eradication of all forms of violence, The King Center deplores the killing of anyone, anywhere, for any reason. But we are particularly horrified by the senseless slaughter of 12 innocent people and wounding of 58 more, including children as young as 3 months of age, in Aurora, Colorado on Friday — one of the largest number of casualties of a mass shooting in United States history. Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims, and King Center flags will fly at half-mast throughout this week in remembrance of their lives.

It is sadly ironic that, also on Friday, The King Center completed a week-long educational program for 49 teens and 11 of their chaperones from Atlanta, Alabama, New Mexico and all the way from Cyprus, teaching them about the philosophy and methods of nonviolent conflict-reconciliation that empowered the movement lead by my father, Martin Luther King, Jr. Shocked by the horrific news from Aurora, the young people nonetheless reaffirmed their commitment to use these teachings to reduce violence in their homes, communities, nation and world. We will continue and expand our nonviolence education as an unflagging commitment, with the realization that horrific incidents like the mass murders in Aurora remind us of the still-relevant urgency of my father’s words, “the choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”

Although evidence about this terrible crime is still being accumulated, reports that the alleged perpetrator acquired assault and automatic weapons and massive amounts of ammunition — all online – are extremely disturbing. Something is very wrong when our federal and state governments have a high tolerance for the unrestricted distribution of weapons of mass destruction, and it would be wrong to let this deadly form of neglect continue to facilitate bloodshed across America.

My mother, Coretta Scott King was a strong advocate of meaningful gun control reforms. She joined with Mrs. Ethel Kennedy and Mrs. Sarah Brady in calling for sane policies to restrict the sale of assault weapons and other gun control reforms. The ‘Brady Bill,’ which they all actively supported, also did much to save lives. But much more is needed. The cause of urgently-needed, life-saving gun control reforms should still be a leading concern of all organizations dedicated to reducing the violence in our society.

A ban on the sale of assault weapons, clips and ammunition, tighter restrictions on the sale of large quantities of ammunition, a requirement that trigger locks be sold with all guns, more thorough background checks and other reasonable gun control reforms can save many more lives. None of these reforms place an undue burden on licensed hunters, legitimate collectors or those who feel they need a gun for personal protection. But they would help prevent unhinged individuals from killing large numbers of innocent people.

In addition to needed gun control reforms, America urgently needs a stronger protest movement dedicated to reducing the glorification of violence in our culture — in music, film, television, video games and even the internet. I am not advocating government censorship here, but calling on people of good will everywhere to urge the sponsors of violent media to invest their resources in more socially-beneficial undertakings. I would encourage the sponsors of media violence to do some soul-searching to answer the questions: Does glorifying violence in media contribute to actual violence in society? and What can I do to promote a nonviolent culture?

The private sector enjoys tremendous freedom in the U.S, as it should. With freedom, however, comes responsibilities. It is incumbent on the media industry to discourage the glorification of media violence. It is also incumbent on consumers who love America to support this effort with selective patronage campaigns to encourage media that provides uplifting content, and to boycott the worst offenders, if necessary.

Lastly, I would just encourage some serious thinking and action on the part of the nation’s policy-makers at the federal, state and local levels, about strengthening the nation’s educational infrastructure to include a greater investment in nonviolence education. The King Center will continue to do our part to support this effort with curriculum development, educational “camps” and workshops in “Kingian Nonviolence.”

In this endeavor we welcome the support of everyone who believes that we can indeed create a more nonviolent society. As patriotic Americans, we can do no less in remembrance of the innocent sisters, brothers and children whose precious blood was shed in Aurora, Colorado, and many more who have lost their lives so needlessly in tragic slayings across our nation.

“Copyright (c) Bernice A. King”

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