I hate that I’m writing this. I hate that I feel like I have to.
The unthinkable has become routine. Mass shootings occur so frequently that we hardly even let them into our consciousness. Which is tragic. We have witnessed too many family members and friends crying at the site of deadly mayhem. We have lit too many candles. Spoken of thoughts and prayers too often. Ranted about the need for gun control too many times. It’s as if we’ve gone numb. Or maybe that’s just me.
This particular time I’m seeing concerns from my colleagues about how we implement safety plans in our congregations. We don’t want to do this. None of us does. We don’t want to change an attitude of hospitality and openness into an attitude of suspicion. We don’t want to wonder if an unknown guest is going to shoot the place up. We don’t want to feel responsible for our members’ lives.
In this particular instance, the red flags around the shooter couldn’t have been much clearer. History of domestic violence. History of violent threats and attempts to carry out such threats. History of psychiatric danger to self and others. Yet, he could buy guns, no problem.
Clearly, we have a problem with our background check system. It’s not taken seriously by people who are required to report, and what does it matter, because if you really want a gun, you can always find a way to get one without a background check – gun shows, private sales, plenty of ways to get around it.
And what do we do with someone so violent they crack the skull of their stepchild, not to mention assault their spouse? Clearly, time spent imprisoned and a bad conduct discharge from the military did nothing to improve the shooter’s state of mind.
Gun proponents are encouraged that a bystander with a gun helped to bring this incident to an end. The NRA’s insistence that guns are the answer to gun violence has grown louder and more commonly accepted. That only increases the pressure to tell a different story, a story that maybe we can change the American worship of guns and the myth of self-protection that goes with the myth of self-sufficiency.
I wish I had a word of comfort in this, but I don’t. It’s time for lament, not comfort. I did contact my federal legislators with the message to fix the background check system and outlaw bump stocks. I will continue to push to change values and worldviews that extol guns and self-sufficiency at the cost of lives. I wish I could do more. But maybe lament is the only option left.
In faith and freedom,