AFT Resolution

WE MOURN OUR DEAD IN BUFFALO AND UVALDE; WE ORGANIZE AGAINST HATE AND GUN VIOLENCE TO FIGHT FOR THE LIVING

WHEREAS, we call their names: Celestine Chaney, Roberta Drury, Katherine “Kat” Massey, Andre Mackniel, Margus Morrison, Heyward Patterson, Aaron Salter Jr., Geraldine Talley, Ruth Whitfield, and Pearl Young; and

WHEREAS, they were grandmothers, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and cherished grown children; and Margus Morrison, Aaron Salter Jr. and “Pearly Young” were our union brothers and sisters in the American Federation of Teachers, members of the Transportation Aides of Buffalo local and of the Substitutes United of Buffalo local; and all were members of our beloved community; we mourn their passing; and

WHEREAS, they organized food pantries, served as poll watchers in elections, provided security in the neighborhood grocery store, wrote for the community newspaper, sang in the church choir, looked after the children on school buses, and drove the elderly with no means of transportation to the grocery store and pharmacy, and served their community in ways big and small to connect even the most vulnerable and make all feel at home; and

WHEREAS, we call their names: Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo, Jacklyn Cazares, Makenna Lee Elrod, Jose Manuel Flores Jr., Eliahna Garcia, Uziyah Garcia, Amerie Jo Garza, Xavier Lopez, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, Tess Mata, Miranda Mathis, Alithia Ramirez, Annabelle Rodriguez, Maite Rodriguez, Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio, Layla Salazar, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Eliahana Cruz Torres and Rojelio Torres, and we reel in shock and pain at the loss of these sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and treasured friends, engulfed in sorrow for all the children, educators and family members who bore witness to the terror and agony of those last 78 minutes and whose injuries, both physical and psychological, will stay with them for a lifetime; and

WHEREAS, we grieve the cruel extinguishing of the lives of 9- and 10-year-old children who were loving and caring, who enjoyed dancing to TikTok videos and playing video games; who stood up to bullies; who played softball, basketball, football, baseball and kickball and ran track; who were honor roll students; who painted, drew and worked with clay; who cared for infants; who sang with powerful voices, and who had great dreams for lives that had just begun; and we mourn their passing; and

WHEREAS, we call their names: Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, and with their students, their school and their community, we recognize them as fellow educators, veterans of many years in the classroom, who died fighting to protect the students entrusted to their care, and we mourn their passing; and

WHEREAS, these 10 precious lives in Buffalo, N.Y., and 21 precious lives in Uvalde, Texas, were taken from us through acts of premeditated mass murder, in which 18-year-old young men turned weapons of war against innocent adults and children they did not know but nonetheless targeted solely out of their own hatred; and

WHEREAS, the manifesto of the Buffalo mass murderer made clear that his actions were motivated by an ideology of white supremacy riddled with racist conspiracy theories, especially the “great replacement theory,” which posits that white people are being “replaced” by Black Americans, other people of color and immigrants as part of a sinister plot masterminded by Jews; and

WHEREAS, this once-fringe racist conspiracy theory, which shocked the conscience of the country during the violent 2017 neo-Nazi demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., has been increasingly mainstreamed on mass media outlets such as Fox News and Newsmax, on social media, and by some Republican Party elected officials and candidates for public office; and

WHEREAS, this racist conspiracy theory has been the motivation for a series of mass murders in recent years, including the Tree of Life synagogue murders in 2018, Christchurch (New Zealand) mosque murders in 2019, and the El Paso Walmart murders in 2019—mass murders directly cited in the Buffalo assassins manifesto; and

WHEREAS, the history and actions of the Uvalde mass murderer—shooting his own grandmother at the outset of his killing spree and his online threats of rape and violence against women make clear that misogyny was one of his motivations; and

WHEREAS, there is a long history of shootings and mass murder in U.S. schools—now up to 331 separate school shootings since the assault on Columbine High School in 1999 that killed 12 students and one teacher, and includes the slaughter of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and the coldblooded murder of 14 students and three school staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018—all have been defined by their perpetrators acting out of rage and hatred; and

WHEREAS, there have been 27 school shootings in the U.S. during the first five months of 2022, and more than 230 mass shootings in the U.S. this year alone; and

WHEREAS, extreme gun violence now routinely occurs throughout this country and receives minimal media coverage, such as the recent attack on a congregation of a Taiwanese church in California and a dozen mass shootings this past Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, Chattanooga, Tenn., Charleston, S.C, and more, leaving almost no community untouched by the trauma, grief and long-term physical and psychological effects and devastation of the failure to limit access to weapons of war; and

WHEREAS, what is clear about all these mass shootings is the toxic mix of hate and guns and the dehumanization of the victims; and

WHEREAS, the Buffalo and the Uvalde mass murderers, both 18-year-olds, had legal access to weapons of war—assault weapons designed to quickly kill and maim large numbers of people and body armor—as a result of our nations entirely inadequate laws for the prevention of gun violence; and

WHEREAS, the statutes of the state of Texas exemplify what is wrong with our nation’s laws: An 18-year-old such as the Uvalde mass murderer needs a license to drive a car, but not to purchase, own and carry a gun; he can legally purchase an assault weapon of war at 18, but not alcoholic beverages or even a handgun; it is easier to obtain and use a firearm than it is to register to vote and cast a ballot in democratic elections; and

WHEREAS, there is widespread and bipartisan support for a significant overhaul of the nation’s gun safety laws, as the majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents support commonsense gun law reforms, including: 84 percent of voters (including 77 percent of Republicans) support requiring all gun purchasers to go through a background check; 75 percent of voters support “creating a national database with information about each gun sale”; 67 percent support banning assault-style weapons; and even 75 percent of Republicans support “red flag” laws; and

WHEREAS, culpability for the heinous crimes in Buffalo and Uvalde only begin with the individual who pulled the trigger: Moral and political responsibility extends to those who have promoted and mainstreamed ideologies of hate and to those who have prevented the passage of commonsense gun violence legislation:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers firmly resolves to turn our collective grief at the loss of these 10 good women and men in Buffalo and these 19 beautiful children and two dedicated educators in Uvalde into collective action to prevent future mass murders—we will mourn, and then we will organize against hate and gun violence; we will pray for the dead, and then we will fight like hell for the living; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with a broad coalition of AFT members, parents, students, elected leaders, gun violence survivors, advocacy groups and activists, and everyone who seeks to prevent gun violence to press the White House, Congress and state legislatures to pass commonsense gun safety measures at the state and national levels; and

RESOLVED, that in the name of these precious victims of gun violence and their families and the survivors; and for our students, their educators and school personnel; and for our parents, our country and our democracy, we must do everything possible to press for commonsense gun reforms will make people safe in schools, supermarkets and places of worship; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT, in pursuing commonsense gun reforms, will fight for our dignity, our collective humanity and a peaceful way of life; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT calls upon U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the state attorneys general to launch probes into the online networks of hate that promote racism and white supremacy, misogyny, antisemitism and Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQIA+ bigotry, and have fueled violence and mass murders in Buffalo, Uvalde and so many other places, and to develop and implement plans of action that will ensure bias-motivated violence and online threats and harassment are swiftly investigated and aggressively prosecuted to keep our communities safe; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will hold our elected officials and leaders at every level and in every branch of government fully accountable for taking action to address the deadly epidemic of gun violence and hate in the U.S., and in the 2022 and 2024 elections, and we will work to defeat candidates who have failed the vital test of providing Americans the protections from this scourge that other nations enjoy; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to actively participate in what Martin Luther King Jr. called the “coalition of conscience,” joining with civil rights organizations, other unions, faith communities and all people of goodwill to stand against hatred in all its manifestations, and to build mutual understanding in our students across the many different parts of the American mosaic.

(Adopted June 1, 2022)

(2022)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.