Last Friday we had a terrible reminder of how fragile life can be. A broken and selfish man took young precious lives.
And then the aftermath… People hurting and grieving. Millions of people via social media saying what they think should be said in these circumstances.
I’m alarmed at a few things: First, the violence itself, also the scores of Christians with a religious devotion to guns, and the conversation or inability to have a conversation about preventing the next tragedy.
The Appropriate Response
In the immediate time after this sort of tragedy, the only appropriate thing to do is mourn, cry and be near the ones you love.
However I have to admit that I’m conflicted. Those who desire to have a serious nation-wide discussion on gun control and gun violence are rightfully told to that in the immediacy of a tragedy, this is not the time. But perhaps they don’t heed that advice because the time never seems to come.
We must ask the question: When IS the appropriate time to have this conversation? I know there are many on the conservative side of the gun control issue who are open minded and really do believe that we can have a reasonable debate about guns, but I fear that for many pro-gun advocates the answer to the question of when?, is: never. I also wonder if many in the pro-gun community believe this conversation should take place SO distant from any tragedy because they don’t want the ugliness of this violence to be so fresh on our minds, so that we can distance ourselves from the repugnance first.
So while I agree that the very day of a tragedy and perhaps the next are not appropriate times to begin the conversation of prevention. I have to ask; How long do we have to wait?
My fear is that those who are so repulsed by gun control talk after a tragedy are not really repulsed by political talk, but by political talk that they disagree with. In fact I remember very quickly after the shooting at Virginia Tech, hearing pro-gun advocates claiming that this would have never happened if other students and teachers were also carrying guns (a case by the way that will be harder to make now that this tragedy has taken place in an elementary school), and I didn’t hear other pro-gun advocates chastising those people for talking politics so soon after the tragedy.
For some people the issue is not even about time, but that people dare offer gun control as a solution to gun violence at all. On Friday after the twitter-verse had erupted with response to the catastrophe, a prominent Christian tweeted
“You people that use a horrible act of evil to promote your gun control agenda should be ashamed of yourselves.”
We sometimes have a bad habit of calling our opinions “deeply held beliefs” while others opinions are “agendas.”
What kind of event should be used to begin a serious talk about gun control? Arbor day? The NHL playoffs? It seems to me that this is the most appropriate event to make us sit back and ask how we can better prevent violence. Saying that we cannot use this tragedy as a way to improve, is like saying that we should not have used September 11th, 2001 to begin talking about how we should respond to the perpetrators of such a horrendous crime and how we can prevent it from happening again.
It’s also worth noting that plenty of people have been using this horrible act of evil to promote a pro-gun agenda. On Friday and throughout the weekend pro-gun facebook pages and groups were popping up as well as countless statuses ensuring us that guns are not the problem. Who is telling them that this is not the time?
Just A Fallen World
A common theme I’ve heard this weekend is: “This happens because we live in a fallen world.” I whole heartedly agree. Billy Graham hit the nail on the head, shortly after the school shootings at Columbine High School, when Larry King asked him why it happened;
“Thousands of years ago, a young couple lived in a garden called Eden, and God placed a tree in the Garden and told them not to eat from the tree”
But I fear that this response is sometimes used as an excuse to avoid dealing with the problem, code for – “this is inevitable, we just have to accept that it happens.”
We have to ask ourselves, does the gospel call us to step back when faced with the problems of the world- poverty, famine, hunger, without engaging them and meeting those needs? Why does this issue deserve special treatment?
Christians Religious Devotion to
I wrote here recently about idols. I fear that guns and maybe even the idea of guns and what they represent have become great idols of the Christian Church.
When you don’t have to drive far to see a bumper sticker saying “God Guns & Glory,” that should be a wake up call.
When calls for less violence via gun control provoke an angry and hateful responses inside of us, that should sound an internal alarm.
When our views on guns don’t match up with Jesus’ views on the sword, we must pause and ask why.
Pathways To Less Violence
Let me be clear; I don’t think the government should be able to take away my dads collection of hunting rifles. I’m not a advocate for prohibition of all fire arms.
Gun control doesn’t have to be a black & white/ all or none issue. We have to ask if making assault weapons available to the consumer is wise, if longer waiting periods and other hoops to jump through are a bad idea.
It’s also not exclusively about guns, but also about care for the mentally ill.
I have no comprehensive gun control solution for which to advocate. What I do advocate is the discussion, a call to the end of demonizing others who don’t share our opinions, and for Christians to love peace, abhor violence and go to great lengths to prevent more of it and protect life.
UPDATE: I posted in a comment that the NRA was the largest PAC in the country. It’s not, and not even close. Thanks to David for pointing that out. That being said, it’s still very powerful and vocal.