Something should be done! When it comes to the epidemic of mass murder, I don’t think there is anyone who disagrees with that. When it comes to exactly what should be done, of course, that’s a different story.
Many, including me, are quick to offer prayer and call others to it. Others are just as quick to dismiss it as a nuisance and distraction from the “real” solutions. Many, on both sides of the gun control debate seem certain what solutions are needed and/or which are not. But maybe the fact that prayer is so easily dismissed or even engaged in so lightly is part of the problem. I’m not saying it is the only thing we should do, but it certainly should not be dismissed or even offered lightly as just a polite courtesy for that matter. I think we sometimes offer prayers, but fail to really pray. Saying prayers and actually praying may be two different things. We should pray with expectancy and faith that God will really move in powerful ways to change hearts, minds, and legislation where necessary. Neither should we assume that we already know exactly what needs to be done. We should pray seeking divine wisdom and the faith to obey. We pontificate too much and pray too little. God, help us!
Something needs to be done! But what? As with any major problem, this is multifaceted. I don’t think the best solutions will be reached through the blame game played in the arena of partisan politics. The political parties hell bent on gaining or maintaining power by making their political opponents look bad may not be the best source for real solutions apart from ulterior motives. I don’t think we can name call our way to the best solutions either.
What exactly is it that we want to stop? That may sound like a stupid question, but if we really want to find solutions, I think we should be asking at least as many questions with the desire for real answers as we spout off pat answers and offer simple analogies to make those we disagree with look stupid or worse.
What do we want to put a stop to? We need to be specific. Do we want to reduce the overall number of murders each year? Or do we just want to focus on preventing mass shootings? What’s the difference?
Well, according to the CDC there are a little more than 11,000 homicides by firearms committed each year. According to one database, Statista, the vast majority were committed with handguns. There is a very significant category, however, where the type of firearm was not stated. Where identified, rifles, presumably of all varieties, only accounted for 374 homicides in 2016—knives and other cutting instruments were used in more than 1600 homicides. Although it would be good to know more about that unidentified firearm category, which accounts for a little more than 3,000 homicides, if the aim is to reduce overall homicides by firearms through gun control measures, then the handgun should clearly garner most of the attention. Barring a repeal or amendment of the 2nd Amendment, however, a handgun ban is not viable—not that I think we should repeal the 2nd amendment.
If, on the other hand, we want to prevent mass shootings at schools, then the focus could be on semi-automatic rifles, but then again, handguns are still more commonly used. Apart from a total gun ban, what more could be done to keep the guns out of the hands of those likely to commit mass murder? And would a gun ban actually keep these things from happening? Making it harder to get a semi-automatic rifle would not eliminate mass-shootings, although it might reduce the number of deaths during each incident. If handguns are still easily accessible, then what would prevent someone, or multiple shooters as in the case of Columbine, from bursting into a school with multiple handguns still capable of murdering multiple people rapidly?
Those aren’t rhetorical questions. I don’t know the answers for sure, but I don’t think simply focusing on gun control measures as the simple solution is the answer, even without considering the need to amend or repeal the 2nd amendment.
It may very well be time to invest in increased security measures at our public schools. Too many schools are just too vulnerable in our increasingly volatile society. How can we increase security to protect our children in our schools?
Legislative measures and security logistics, while important is still not enough. How do we address our culture’s and popular entertainment’s glorification of gratuitous violence. There’s something in us that seems to enjoy gratuitous violence for entertainment—I think of the popularity of movies like Saw, for example. Without violating the First Amendment, what do we do? Can we not think of anything other than adding more laws to the books anyway?
What about bolstering and equipping children’s very first institution of nurture, education, discipline, and authority: the family? Can we really address these issues without making moral judgments about right and wrong, and teaching about good and evil in the family? Parent’s need to be parents and not just the ones with the troubled kids who might be likely to commit murder, but also those with kids who might be likely to bully and gossip at the expense of other kids, which stokes the already burning fires of resentment and anger in those who have been alienated at home and among their peers.
There is talk about mental health, but what if we no longer know how to differentiate between mental problems and moral problems as a society. Psychiatrist Scott Peck, long lamented the lack of the recognition of evil as a clinical category. Being better equipped to provide mental health to troubled teens is important, but still insufficient, I suspect. I’ve heard some say law enforcement needs the ability to apprehend kids who make the kind of threats that the shooter in Florida apparently made; but how long could they be retained against their will for making threats; and how effective would mental health treatment be if you are dealing with a true sociopath?
What can really be done right now? Is there anything that most people can agree on? I don’t think the majority would agree with a gun ban. Would a majority even agree with additional “common-sense gun laws”? Perhaps, but I don’t know.
If we want to prevent mass shootings at our schools, what can the majority agree on now? Increased security at our schools? I don’t know.
The fires of resentment and contempt are burning pretty hot in our country right now. That is a danger in and of itself. What can we do to cut off the fuel supply?
Maybe less blame-throwing and more cool-headed cooperation on the things most actually agree on. Is there anything left that the majority of us actually agree on?
God, help us!
Moreover, I don’t think we can continue to ignore the larger philosophical and theological issues that may contribute to the multifarious epidemics we seem to have all at the same time. As I’ve said before, America seems to be firmly in the grip of each of the seven deadly sins. Hedonism seems to be the reigning value. Should we be surprised that we are reaping the effects of the nihilism that comes with it? (See my article on a conversation with a teenager who talked about what he would do if he were to shoot up a school and the topic of hell)
We may need prayer, real, fervent, godly prayer, more than anything!
God help us! Deliver us from evil! Show us the hard path to life. Amen.