Today: Tears and prayers. But what next?

hc-newtown-school-shooting-20121214The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a punch to the gut of an already wobbly America. Can any of us imagine anything more horrifying than a classroom full of dead first graders?

I wonder if we are exhausting our ability to process senseless tragedy. I had a meeting with a friend yesterday. We had an important agenda, but in the wake of breaking news, this brilliant up-and-coming academic could discuss nothing else. My 16 year-old son asked to be tucked in for the first time in 5 years. My 70 year-old father-in-law, posted his shock on facebook. Even the president was reduced to tears. The media is full of information on how to process this with our children. But all over America adults sobbed ourselves to sleep last night.  Our theological frameworks are stretched. Our trust in our fellows diminished. Our numbness increases.

Several things I cannot get out of my head today:

1) The sinking awareness that it is easier for the mentally ill to get a gun than help.

2) The report that since Columbine in 1999, there have been 31 school shootings in the U.S. and 14 in the rest of the entire world. (Source: ABC Nightline)

Newtown, Ct. isn’t even our first mass murder this week. Portland has that distinction. Prior to that, in 2012 alone, there were 41 other murders in 7 other mass-shootings. (Source: Think Progress)

We will say prayers for the victims and for the shooter. We will pray for our country. Our grief will eventually subside. And, if past history repeats itself, do you know what we will do next? We will lock up our schools even more tightly.

Our communities will become a little more paranoid, and our children a little more afraid to venture and roam and try new things. Parents will helicopter more and children risk less. The cost of the Sandy Hook tragedy will be paid by every single elementary school student in America….and our entire society will pay a price for yesterday in lost inventiveness and entrepreneurship. (See Mindset: Carol Dweck)

When something like this happens we tend to “politicize” it in the worst possible way: We retreat into corners and lob partisan platitudes rather than work together to solve our problems. But what if “politicize” meant to “muster the courage to work together to make our nation a better place”? Then what better thing could we do to honor the dead than by working together to see that mass-killings stop? Surely we can meet in the middle and agree on the obvious: Criminals and people with mental illness should not have high capacity semi-automatic guns. It shouldn’t be easier for me to get an assault rifle than a law enforcement officer. We need to become better at identifying potentially dangerous people. We need more accessible help for those with violent tendencies. We need to take seriously the connection between violence in the media and video games and violence in the real world.

People are dying at an accelerating rate at the hands of unhinged people wielding high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons. And we can all agree that a risk-averse, fear-based future is not the right solution for our children. Do we really want to lock up our schools rather than our guns?

This is America. We will never have a country without privately owned guns. It will just never happen. But if we know that humans are sinful and broken, then surely those whose brokenness involves violence should not be in possession of semi-automatic weapons. Unlimited access to high capacity weapons and mental illness have proven to be a disaster: A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined. (Source: Nightline) Google a timeline of shootings since 1982. The number that appeared upon cursory inspection to be committed with hunting weapons: 0

We are not a totalitarian state. No one will come and force a solution upon us at the point of their gun. In our system we have the opportunity and responsibility to work together to solve our problems.

We have the opportunity and responsibility to not allow these children to have died in vain. Pull together. Avoid the all or nothing rhetoric that is coming. Live peaceably. Pray faithfully. Worship in your faith community. Vote dutifully. Speak forcefully. Love relentlessly.

The President is right, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3) But what happens after that is up to you and to me.

12 thoughts on “Today: Tears and prayers. But what next?

  1. …not to mention the murder/suicide committed by Javon Belcher of the Chiefs just 2 weeks ago that left an infant girl parentless.

  2. Matt, this was a great thoughtful, reflective response to this horrific event. The statistics you quote are STAGGERING…the comparisons of school shootings and gun murder rates with rest of the world is so extreme it amazes me that people are satisfied with this kind of life. Sadly, I think you are right, America will never be able to get rid of the guns, but the suggestions you offer are a really good start to bringing the desperately needed, well overdue reform. I really hope that we will see Christians at the front line on this issue.

    • Hi Julie, As an Aussie-nadian you can see our inability to talk sanely about guns in the U.S. We keep giving the angry and dysfunctional a delivery system that is frighteningly effective. Somehow for us, any discussion of trying to make sure semi-auto guns are not in the hands of the unhinged is seen as a constitutional issue.

  3. I don’ know how it will happen, but we must break the culture of gun violence in our country. We must stop glamorizing violence in movies and video games, We must read the opening clause of the 2d Amendment to understand the last clause about gun ownership. We must help people deal with their anger at each other and society in general. We must reinstate the law prohibiting the purchase of assault weapons. The government will have to figure some of this out. The Church will have to preach the gospel of grace in Christ and call Americans to repent of sin..

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