On Friday, Dec 14th, a gunman walked into the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown Connecticut and opened fire, killing 20 children and 6 adults before taking his own life. Why he did this is currently a mystery, and may remain so, unless he left some written glimpse into his thinking prior to going on his killing spree. But even knowing why he acted will never relieve the hurt of those most affected by this, whether students, faculty, parents, law enforcement, or the community of Newtown.
My heart goes out to the parents of those who lost their little ones yesterday. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish of losing a child like that. A quiet neighborhood, a peaceful school, kindergardeners and first graders learning and playing. And then the peace and quiet, the learning and playing are shattered by a blast of gunfire and 20 children, who only a few minutes before had no concerns greater than learning their ABC’s, lie dead, and their classmates potentially scared and traumatized for life. What parent even considered that a possibility when they dressed their children and sent them off to school that morning?
And of course the debate now begins anew concerning how to prevent massacres like this, that seem to be happening with increased regularity, from continuing to disrupt lives and communities. What can a free and open society do to protect itself from those who would seek to do it harm?
And likely the most contentious debate will be over gun control. I see it already boiling over among my Facebook ‘friends’. And it seems like, at least among my friends, for every one that questions the need to have so many guns in our society, there are two more that are adamant that the only way to take any of their guns will be from their cold dead hands. Interestingly enough that appears to be just what happened in Newtown Connecticut yesterday: the shooter first killed his mother, then took her guns to the school and shot 26 more people, before taking his own life.
I must confess that I do not understand the fascination my country seems to have with guns; personally I have little interest in them. And the more accounts I hear of children being killed with their parents guns, or using their parents guns to kill other children, or guns being used to shoot up a mall, a theater or a school, the less interest I have in them. It is indeed true that guns don’t kill people, but they sure do make it easier for people to kill people. And it seems like most of these guns were legally obtained, or stolen from those who had legally obtained them. Our current gun control laws seem to be doing little beyond making more guns available to the public, sometimes with disastrous results.
Another debate that some are sure to have concerns God’s place in all this. I have already addressed this in an earlier blog concerning the theater shooting in Aurora Colorado, and will not revisit it here. But it does appear to me that as the US moves toward becoming a post-Christian society, that the number of shootings like this have been increasing. I don’t know if there is any statistical correlation between the two; but it does at least appear that as the Christian influence in our society wanes, that we find more folks looking to solve whatever troubles them with violence.
One thing I hope does not come out of this is the perceived need to lock down all places of public assembly, adding additional guards and metal detectors. While that might give us more of an illusion of safety, I expect that it would be nothing more than an illusion. And can you imagine the cost of fitting every door of every school with metal detectors and adding armed guards to patrol the halls, not to mention doing the same thing to malls, theaters, church building and other places where the public assembles? What impact would that have on our children who would be attending school in fortresses? I think it would be one more step away from the free and open society that we have enjoyed for so many years; free and open are not too compatible with armed guards and fear of assembly.
Ultimately I don’t know how to solve what is becoming an epidemic of mass shootings in our nation, apart from either making guns harder to come by, or by changing peoples lives with the gospel of Christ. If we could learn to love each other, instead of focusing on the things that divide us, how much better off would we be?