What Can we Do?

I haven’t had anything yet to say on the recent spate of horrific mass shootings, the most recent being the killing of four in a doctor’s office in Tulsa. One main reason is that I’ve decided that since the “hot take” is often the WRONG take (which doesn’t stop many from insisting on speaking, often to their own embarrassment), I prefer taking a few days to reflect before I speak. Generally, problems such as this, which won’t be solved speedily (nor is my take likely to be that influential anyway), ought to be approached with whatever the opposite of knee-jerk reactions is. Ergo, I’m studying to not be a knee-jerker.

But of course there was knee-jerking aplenty, from zillions of the hoi polloi all the way up to the top, where as is his wont our President, in lieu of reasoned, deliberate thinking, chose to shoot from the cuff and send White House staff on their now-familiar rounds of scurrying to tidy up the mess. And one of the things that frustrates me the most are ill-considered, simplistic memes, which help little (meaning: not a-tall). One example from each side will suffice, before I move on to some thoughts I have.

First, from the Christian right, there was, “We have a sin problem, not a gun problem”. I don’t argue that we don’t have a sin problem; this is Scripturally accurate. It’s also downright unhelpful, not only because it comes off as somewhat dismissive, and/or as “business as usual is fine”, but because

A. Yes, we have a sin problem; that’s why we have laws;

B. Yes, we have a sin problem, but they also have a sin problem in every other country in the world, hardly any of which have a mass-shootings-of-innocents problem such as we have; and

C. Yes, we have a sin problem, but it doesn’t follow that the only means we employ to respond to the plethora of shootings is spiritual in nature.

Then, from the left, we have a meme that pictures the kids tragically killed in Uvalde, with the caption that “they died for your right to own guns”. This is simplistic to the max, vulgar in its conception, offensive to the 99+% of people who own guns with the intent to use them lawfully, unhelpful in actually proposing a solution (similar to the meme above), and also like the one above, will convince exactly zero people not already convinced (but for “ticking people off needlessly”, it scores pretty high).

Those things dispensed with, what might be done to actually help with this problem?

First, reality: there is no magic bullet; there is NOTHING that we can do to stop each and every one of these nightmares. That said, reality #2: we can likely do some things that will have an effect.

But before I offer a few thoughts, one perspective that some won’t want to hear, but which seems obvious to me, is that we have created societal conditions which form the context for these crimes; they are not taking place in a vacuum. And whether anyone wants to hear this or not, we are teaching our kids lies which form the aquarium in which they swim (and from which a few commit such heinous crimes):

  • We teach our children not only that they are evolved animals, but that their very existence is a cosmic accident. In such a scenario, there is, indeed can be, no basis for human dignity (save one arbitrarily assigned). If this is the case, what ultimate value does human life actually have? We kid ourselves if we think that this doesn’t come across to our kids.
  • We treat human life carelessly, from the way we slaughter unborn babies in the womb (often, though certainly not always, out of some type of convenience to the would-be parents), to the violence we watch on TV and in movies, to the video games where blood splatters freely, to the cheapened nature of life that is reflected in our art and music. I see these things as flowing directly, even inexorably, from the idea that we’re evolved apes.

In other words, we teach our children that they are animals, and then we are shocked when they take us seriously and act like it. If that sounds like a sermon, sorry-not-sorry, because it forms the roots from which this ugly tree has grown. I continue to support Christian education and homeschooling, in no small part because these provide the opportunity for our children to be taught what I believe is not only true, but which forms the only basis for human dignity: that our children are created in the express image of God.

With that as prologue, what might we do to mitigate at least as much of this problem as possible, to save at least some from this awful scourge? The issue should be framed this way: what can we do right now, which would both fit within the strictures of the United States Constitution, one, and two, would actually WORK (as opposed to laws which might be passed that make people FEEL like we’ve done something, when in effect they do little-to-nothing to actually solve problems)?

  1. I believe we should implement so-called “Red Flag” laws. If you’re not familiar with them, here’s an excerpt from David French’s longer piece explaining why we should pass Red Flag Laws now: ” if a person exhibits behavior indicating that they might be a threat to themselves or others (such as suicidal ideation or violent fantasies), a member of his family, a school official, or a police officer can go to court to secure an order that permits police to seize his weapons and prohibit him from purchasing any additional weapons so long as the order lasts.” Now, as French explains, the wording of such laws should be precise, and the parameters drawn as narrowly as we reasonably can, such that there’s no danger that a law-abiding citizen, from whom there is no reason to suspect an imminent threat, has his Second Amendment rights abridged. Draft the laws wisely and carefully, yes…but common sense should lead us to agree that people who have, by their words or actions, given us reason to believe that they pose an imminent threat to the lives of others, should not be allowed access to the means to commit such crimes.
  2. I believe we should raise the age at which people are eligible to purchase certain types of guns to 21. Now, I will be the first to admit that while I am a defender of the Second Amendment, I am not a “gun guy”, and am not qualified to make the call as to which weapons should be included in this list. Though hunting isn’t my thing, every kid who wants to go hunting with his dad (or mom!), to be trained properly in gun safety by them, should be able to have a gun for that purpose (and I don’t know what that age is; that’s for others to figure out). That said, an AR-15, such as used by the coward in Uvalde? Let’s think about this…18 is an arbitrary age. Frankly, you can even make the argument that age is an arbitrary measurement, but in the absence of a better one, it seems the best we can do (though I’m open to suggestions). Back to my point: 18 is arbitrary, just as 21 would be, but I know a couple things: one, the loser in Uvalde waited until his 18th birthday to purchase the gun used in the massacre. No, that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have gotten it some other way in theory…but he DIDN’T. Two, kids have to wait (legally, at least!) until they are 21 to buy a beer. Maybe having them wait until they’re 21 to buy an AR-15 isn’t a bad idea? Maybe those three years of growth will mature these immature individuals? Again, no guarantees and no perfect solutions, but if we can set 18 arbitrarily for access to certain guns, we can change it to 21 and do zero damage to the Second Amendment. Does anyone seriously doubt that the average 18-year-old today is significantly less mature than an average 18-year-old a generation ago? Good luck convincing ANYONE that kids are MORE mature these days when they graduate high school.
  3. The networks can reach an agreement not to publicize the names of these twisted losers. How much will that help? Who knows! But I’m not a twisted loser, and neither are you, and the notoriety that is gained by these people getting their “names up in lights”–even if it’s for doing heinous deeds–might be enough to persuade some to act on their fantasies. Sure, the names would get out, at least locally, and anyone who wanted to know could find out, but that’s not the same as the rush for the networks to get those names out there. I’m not talking about censorship; I’m talking about networks doing one small thing–voluntarily–to try to help with the problem.
  4. We should NOT “arm the teachers”–that’s both simplistic and problematic on a lot of levels–but we should allow any teacher who WANTS to be armed, to be able to carry (yes, with appropriate safeguards and proper training, of course). It seems like those who argue this point choose one extreme side (“arm all the teachers”) or the other (“don’t make the teachers carry one MORE burden”), whereas there’s a common sense middle ground: leave that up to the individual teacher (and because I believe in openness with regard to parents–unlike way too many educators today…and that’s all I’m going to say about THAA-AT–let parents know which teachers are choosing to carry and which aren’t, so that they can make choices with regard to their own kids).
  5. This is sad to say, but a concession to the times, we need to make schools safer. Since we learned that the shooter in Uvalde entered unsupervised through an unlocked door, it’s obvious that things in some places aren’t like they are in others. Here in Cobb County, for instance, a person wanting to gain entrance to an elementary school has to be “buzzed in” by someone in the office who can both see and speak to the person desiring entrance (and that person had better have a good reason!). Now, this of course only pertains to school shootings; it won’t do anything to protect a supermarket or a doctor’s office, but while all human life is sacred, even as we are repulsed and sickened by any mass shooting, we are just a tad more so when it involves innocent school kids, and it seems that taking a long look at school security–such that these people cannot enter open doors unseen–is worth doing.
  6. Finally, every law enforcement official, in view of the failings in Uvalde, needs to be looked in the eye and asked the simple question: in the event of such a situation, do you solemnly swear to intervene with all appropriate speed to take down the criminal? If the answer is “no”, have them surrender their badge. Period. Wearing a uniform is an honor, and entails a willingness to lay down one’s life, if necessary; that’s why we lift these folks up, rightly, as heroes. We must simply demand that they act like it.

No, enacting some of these things will not solve all of our mass shooting problems. But might they help? I believe so.

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