Can we try something new?

Another day, another mass shooting. Or, rather, make that two. This time beginning in a Walmart and ending in a mall, and then in a downtown entertainment district in another state. And people have already forgotten about California the week before. That means we have to set the number to three.

Between these three acts of domestic terrorism Thirty-two people were killed. Just because they were going about normal life.

That’s awful enough, but by the time I got home from worship the morning after the second shooting the “gun control” vs. “let citizens defend themselves” shouting match was already happening on the news. We’ve played this record before. The needle keeps on skipping back to the beginning of the track, but someone keeps changing the volume so we get confused and think it’s a new song 1. But it’s not a new song, it’s the same one, and it will end the way this song always ends – each side will shout “foul” at the other for not doing what their own side wants.

Lather, rinse, repeat a multiple death shooting of people just going about their daily lives.

The problem is we’ve turned this into a “political issue” instead of a societal issue. In a culture where every political issue is treated as a hill which must be conquered, and the opposition beaten to a metaphorical bloody pulp, these rarely get solved. In fact, the extreme polarization of our politics may be contributing to the violence we’re seeing.

Look, I would love to see an assault weapons ban. This is a class of weapon with the world assault in the title. But, as the “let citizen’s defend themselves” crowd likes to point out, “People who want to murder a lot of people are going to find a way to do it, gun ban or not.”

The logic of this statement is somewhat true, but it’s also cynical to the extreme. I mean, the worst domestic terrorism incident in this country has ever faced was the Oklahoma City Bombing. Fertilizer was used as part of the explosive, and an assault weapons ban would have saved none of the people murdered in that attack. So, point taken. Evil people who want to commit mass murder will find ways to do this. What makes the logic cynical is the failure to also point that that, since the bombing, we regulate the crap out of the fertilizer which was used in that terrorist’s bomb. And we do this even though there are other ways to blow up buildings. Why did we bother regulating the crap out of fertilizer if there are other ways to blow up buildings? Because keeping one less tool of mass murder away from those who would commit mass murder is a good idea.

What I find weird in the shouting matches between gun control advocates and gun rights activists is that they agree on the same core point. We have people in the country who are looking to commit mass murder. And our “solutions” to this dark reality, from both extremes of the polarization, have the same philosophy, “Just slow them down.” The uncommunicated assumption is this problem cannot really be stopped – it can only be redirected to different avenues of violence.

This philosophy doesn’t work as a solution. It can treat the problem, but it can’t cure it. The shooter in Dayton, Ohio was killed by police about a minute after he started shooting – he still managed to kill nine people and injure dozens more. The proverbial “good guy with a gun” was there, and nine people were still murdered. And even if assault weapons were banned people who wanted these destructive tools would still get them. It would take longer, maybe we’d stop a couple people who were seeking them out before they could commit mass murder, but we’d never stop all of them. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat this societal disease, just because I don’t think a treatment is the cure doesn’t mean I don’t think we should treat symptoms. After all, you have to keep the body alive long enough for a cure to take effect.

But folks are so busy shouting at each other about treatment plans, that we end up missing the point. When our passions are aroused by these horrific scenes, we seem to forget there is a disease which needs to be more than managed – it needs to be cured.

Why are we seeing an increase of people who are so disassociated from their fellow human beings that they think mass murder is good?

The problem is not political. It’s societal. And we all need to own it – from card carrying progressives to “I love to hunt, sue me” conservatives. The disease which is emerging as these tumors of naked hatred and violence is part of the air we breathe, lives in the systems through which we work, and resides in our very souls. We stoke it one with little jabs, internet memes, rolled eyes, frightened silence, and the confusion of “loud” with “righteous.”

We need to own this societal infection, because only then can we begin the work of integrating our society. Not just a return to “when things were better,” but a true inclusion of the tapestry of cultures which makes up the United States of America. If we make a decision to move to heal, instead of just treat symptoms, then our culture will have a future where freedom remains celebrated as a good thing. If we do not make this choice, the outcome is not so positive. Disassociated cultures tend to devolve into civil war, which is good soil for true tyranny to take root.

I’d like to hand something better than that to my one year old son.


  1. Kids, if you’re not still hanging on to the hipster thing, ask your parents about records. They were cool back in the day. 

2 Thoughts

  1. Nice post, and though I agree that the societal problem is at the core of these issues, I think there needs to be a serious conversation about guns themselves. There’s an Onion headline that gets shared every time one of these happens that goes something like, “No way to stop this, says the only country where this happens.” I think there’s a weird addiction to guns in this country that’s not present elsewhere around the world. It’s almost like you’re talking to an alcoholic or a drug addict sometimes. There’s this passionate desire to have more and more that just feeds into an unhealthy obsession.

    And don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with guns as a tool. I’ve shot before, and I have a HUGE TON of respect for hunters who help with wildlife management, and hunt to feed their families. Being proficient with a firearm is not easy, and it’s a skill that should be respected. But that doesn’t mean we can’t treat them as a tool, the same way we do other tools. Background checks, licencing, required training, limits on quantity (including ammo) and round load… none of these things detract from the use of guns as a tool. They do limit the obsessive addictive behavior that then seems to feed a certain mentality that appears to rise up in the perpetrators of these shootings.

    1. Oh absolutely. But removing a tool of mass murder is like rehab. It’s necessary, it gives space to breathe (and hopefully grow), but that’s when the hard work really BEGINS. My struggle is with simplistic shouting matches between people who think their goals will end all this.

      We are more fascinated with guns than much of the developed world, but we’re also more disassociated as a culture than much of the developed world. It is a dangerous combination which amplifies both characteristics to extreme instability.

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