Mass shooting again. This time at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC. Twelve people plus the gunman are dead. This is madness.
I awoke Monday to read in the paper that a shooting incident in Times Square on Saturday night resulted in two bystanders getting shot, although neither died. Apparently, a large man was lurching erratically through Times Square traffic. Police arrived. Ordered to stop, the man reached into his pocket, withdrew his hand as though he had a gun, and pretended to shoot at some of the officers.
After reading it, I said to myself that this might have been different if we didn’t have so many guns floating around (and though NY City has pretty tough gun laws, there is no border check to stop a person carrying a gun from another state with much less stringent gun laws). I also noted that though these officers were trained in the use of firearms, their bullets did not hit their intended target. (Never mind that discharging a firearm in Times Square is highly questionable.) Why, then, do some people insist that liberalizing gun laws will increase security and protection by allowing regular people (aka, not trained law enforcement officers) to carry them and use them in the event of a dangerous situation? It makes no sense.
And then the shooting at Navy Yard.
Apparently the suspect had a history of mental illness going back a decade and had an incident as recently as a month ago in Newport, RI where he suffered severe hallucinations while there on business and had to call the police. More disturbing, he had two gun violations going back several years ago, one in Seattle and the other in Forth Worth.
Keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It makes sense, but that’s not a real gun policy that would make life safer for everyone. The alleged gunman, Aaron Alexis, should not have had a gun, but it’s really too late now, isn’t it? Even without mental illness, his two gun violations should have disqualified him.
But how do we keep guns from people with mental illness who might use the weapon inappropriately or how do we keep guns from people who have gun violations when gun laws in this nation are not evenly restrictive? That someone could purchase a gun in a state with lax gun laws, such as Virginia, and bring them into a jurisdiction, such as New York City, without being subjected to a search already makes enforcement difficult. Furthermore, some members in Congress have argued that people who carry guns legally in one state should not be subjected to the gun laws in a more restrictive state. Additionally, several states have passed laws that would let them ignore any federal gun laws.
I wish I could be optimistic to believe that Monday’s shooting will lead to more stringent gun regulations, but after nothing was done subsequent to the December’s shooting in Newtown, CT. why would I be? Still, how many more mass shootings must we endure before we’re can admit that our allegiance to lax gun regulations over the value of life is a sickness of our national soul? How much longer must we willfully blind ourselves to the obvious that high gun ownership does not make us safer? (Over 30,000 people die each year from guns in this country. About 60% are suicides.) This far exceeds any other nation’s rate of gun fatalities.
Our inability to address gun regulations goes beyond politics. It’s emotional. I wrote in my sermon after Newtown that we want certainty. We’re also losing faith in our institutions. Taken together, we need to be in control. But the reality is that nothing is certain. Life has no guarantees, except to trust in God.
Trusting God. Having faith in God, should lead us towards finding hope in love’s actions: caring, forgiving, reconciling, and all that stuff which makes for real community – a community not of people like each of us, but community comprised of people regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, and mental capacity. Community will include people on the left and the right and people who have no opinions at all.
We won’t achieve real peace through the barrel of a gun, which, incidentally, was from Mao Tse-Tung’s Little Red Book. Real peace comes by placing our trust in God.