As I sat there, this week, and watched the news of the horrific events in Parkland on TV, not only was I greatly saddened (as I am sure we all were), I felt frustrated mostly because I knew there was nothing that I could have done, or anyone in that school could have done (at least as things are right now) to stop it from happening…or ever happening again. Maybe next time, it could happen in our neighborhood. My son is a teacher. We have grandkids in school. It is very troubling stuff. It wasn’t that long ago that a young man walked into a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and killed 26 people and wounded dozens more. I saw somewhere that since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been over 50 “active shooter” events in public places in the US and over 20 with multiple fatalities. This is not just run-of-the-mill “bad behavior,” if you ask me. This is “pure evil” at work. The question is…of course…how do we stop it?
Let me begin by saying I am a Christian and I am a Conservative, but I have never owned a gun and I never will. I do not hunt. I do not sport shoot. And I do not feel the need to have a gun for my own safety. Honestly, my Dad had a gun in the house when I was young and it always bothered me. For me, personally, they could pass a law tomorrow to ban the sale of all firearms and require all firearms to be turned into authorities…take guns out of our society all together, except for military and police of course, and it would not bother me one bit. But, I am just one person and that is my own view on guns. Does that mean I favor restricting or banning gun ownership for civilians? I do not. I firmly believe in the rights of all Americans to “bear arms,” if they choose to. It’s constitutional. Plus, I believe more good people with guns is a great deterrent to bad people with guns.
But, if the government did decide to restrict gun ownership, the question would remain, would it solve the problem? You could sell 1000 guns tomorrow, to first-time gun owners, and there is a very good chance not one out those thousand people would have the desire or the gumption to walk into a school or a church and kill dozens of innocent people they have never met. That takes a special kind of depravity. It frustrates me when people say, “the shooter was mentally disturbed and not in a right frame of mind.” Really? Did they think that somebody who was not mentally disturbed or who was in a right state of mind could actually do something so evil? Let’s get real folks. People who are not mentally ill in one way or another do not desire to kill dozens of innocent people for no reason.
The problem for our law enforcement people who are trying to stop these horrific tragedies is that it is like trying to finding a needle in a haystack. There are lots of people with guns, for sure, and plenty of “soft targets” out there. But, not a lot who actually want to go out kill a bunch innocent people and most likely die in the process, themselves. Thankfully, there is a very small number of people living among us that do have that ability and desire to do these unthinkable things but, of course, it only takes one to kill many. I understand that. Plus, when deadly weapons are available to people capable of doing such terrible and unexplainable things…the results are often tragic, to say the least. And when you add in a 24/7/365 news media that thrives and profits from showcasing human tragedy, it is like putting gas on a fire. The temptation to “go out in a blaze of national media coverage” (I won’t say ‘glory’ because what they do is not glorious) is quite alluring to this type of psychopath. So, we do not help the problem when we make media stars out of these folks for a week or two, or until the next one happens. We really are our own worst enemies, sometimes.
So, how do we identify and deal with the people who fit the profile, without taking away the rights of the multitudes of people who would never think of doing such a thing? That is a very difficult question. It is one I am sure we all wish someone could come up with a good answer for, especially when events like this happen. And they happen way too often these days, even once is too often, right?
Let me ask a few questions about some things that may or may not help and see what you think (you can always email me or post comments on Facebook or Twitter):
1) Do you think mental health officials need to do a better job of notifying law enforcement whenever they see someone who fits a profile that could possibly lead to violence against themselves or other people?
2) Do family members and friends need to be more willing to “say something” if they witness suspicious behavior? No one wants to turn in a loved one, of course. But if innocent lives are in truly danger, maybe you have to.
3) Do social media companies need to do a better job of identifying suspicious behavior on their sites and removing it (plus notifying the appropriate authorities)?
4) Should the media realize their part in all of this and quit making these monsters famous in the name of ratings and profit?
5) Should we ban the sale of assault-style and semi-automatic weapons? How much would that really help? Will the criminals find ways to kill, anyway? BTW, did you know that the man in Sutherland Springs who came running out of his house, confronted and shot the active shooter, did so with his own personal AR-15? It’s true. Good thing he was nearby.
6) Have you noticed that these cowards like to go after easy targets, like schools and churches, places where they are unlikely to be faced with other guns that can shoot back? This shooter in Parkland almost got away. He filed out among other students and actually got pretty far before they caught him.
7) Should we place armed officers at every school and church, or could we even afford to? What about arming teachers, at least a handful of them at each school who are willing to go through the proper training?
8) What about banning the sale of all firearms to civilians, even those who own them for sport or personal protection? Heck, one of them could go crazy one day and start shooting up a mall. Could happen, right? Not likely. I don’t know anyone who thinks going that far is a good idea.
In my mind, I think all of the above could help to some degree. But I do not think any of them will stop evil or deranged people from doing terrible things.
I do, however, want to bring up one more aspect of this problem. One that does not often get talked about, but one that I think is a huge part of why this utter disregard for innocent human life seems to be so prevalent in our country, nowadays.
The Bible says that as the end of the age and the return of Christ approaches that “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love grow cold.” I believe that means that there will be a gradual trend towards the loss of love and respect for others and a noticeable depreciation in the value and sanctity of human life. Mankind will become “lovers of self” and put their own feelings, needs and wants above the needs of others and especially over the will of God in their lives. And when that happens, some people are more likely to take matters into their own hands…and that usually does not end well.
Another key point that too often gets kicked to the curb is that God is not just “a God of individuals,” but also “a God of nations.” Many who know the Bible well, teach that all through biblical history, nations have risen and nations have fallen in accordance with their stance before God. If they honored God as a nation, they were blessed. When they dishonored God…well, you get the picture.
About seventy years ago, here in the good ol’ US of A, the Supreme Court tried to remove God from having a “say-so” in our government by redefining the Establishment Clause of our Constitution into the modern interpretation of “separation of church and state.” And we have been slip-sliding into spiritual apostasy ever since. In 1962, the Supreme Court decided to deem organized prayer in school unconstitutional. In 1963, just months before the assassination of JFK, SCOTUS deemed reading the Bible in school unconstitutional. Then, as if that was not enough of an affront to the ways of God, ten years later in 1973, SCOTUS passed Roe vs Wade which effectively legalized the termination of 60 million God-ordained lives (so far) in their mother’s womb. That is ten times the number of innocent lives terminated during the Holocaust, just for comparison sake.
I would say those decisions qualify quite easily for being “dishonoring towards God.” And if we add in the 2015 SCOTUS decision to legalize same-sex marriage, I’d say it is clear we decided to send God a “Dear John Letter”…the break-up was all but official. And when a nation decides to go that way, God honors their decision by removing His hand of blessing and protection. Like the Prodigal Son, they are left to choose their own path and bear the consequences. And I believe that is exactly where we are, as a nation, today.
I am sure you have heard all about the story of Noah and the Great Flood, and how wicked the world had become right before the rain started to fall. Here is what Jesus said about those days and the days right before He would come again:
“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” [Matthew 24:37-39 NASB]
The takeaway from this passage should be, I believe, is that the world became very wicked and God warned the people many times. And it was made clear that if they did not turn from their wicked ways, severe judgement was coming. But no one believed the warnings. They just kept on doing what they had been doing, “come rain or high water.” And sure enough, the flood waters came and all but Noah and the seven members of his family perished. When God cares enough to warn us…we should be smart enough to listen.
So yes…I agree it is very dangerous to have deadly guns so readily available to people with evil intentions and allow the devil to come and steal the lives of our precious children much too soon. And yes, we should find a reasonable solution to the problem of guns, one that everyone can all live with….and not one that strips the rights away from millions of good, decent and law-abiding citizens who would never hurt anyone just because of a handful of sick individuals are willing to take their miseries out on others just to get attention.
But I also believe it is far more dangerous to turn our backs, as a nation, on a God who loves us…and to reject His help, His blessings and His protections.
Prayers and thoughts are not weak excuses from people who do not want to address the problem. Real and earnest prayer changes things.
And if someone talks to God (prayer) and God talks back (answers to prayer)….that is not “mental illness.” Mental illness looks more like the shooters in Parkland and Sutherland Springs.
Let’s all use our energies to try to find solutions…rather than trying to tear each other down.
May God have mercy on us….even though we certainly do not deserve His mercy.
(author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)