This is my list …
1. It is definitely about guns. But it’s about a specific kind of gun.
Specifically, it’s about semi-automatic weapons. Fully automatic weapons have been banned for personal use/protection for a long time now. This is about the ease of getting semi-automatic weapons into the hands of just about anyone. Regulating and/or limiting sales of both semi-automatic weapons and their ammunition clips should be as automatic as regulating Tylenol, or the food we eat or any of the other things our government does. There are more regulations concerning the production of play ground slides than there are concerning the production and sales of semi-automatic weapons. Why? Because we (as a culture) have decided that safety for children is more important than the rights of slide manufacturers to make a substandard product.
“And don’t say that it won’t make a difference because crazies will always be able to get a gun. We’re not going to eliminate gun deaths, any more than we have eliminated auto accidents. But if we could reduce gun deaths by one-third, that would be 10,000 lives saved annually.” (Kristoff, Do We Have the Courage To Stop This)We have reduced automobile deaths by (hold up) regulating the amount of liquor one may consume and then drive a car. Why? Because we have decided that the rights of other drivers and their safety are more important than the right of a drunk to consume large quantities of alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car.
2. Let’s leave certain aspects of God out of the discussion. A proper focus on theodicy is fine; whether or not children are allowed to say the Lord’s prayer in schools is a red herring. This is not about prayer or the lack thereof.
Theodicy is the study of evil as it relates to God. How can there be a God if S/He allows this sort of evil in the world? What if God intervened in all the evil that goes on in the world? Why do we ask why God didn’t stop this and refuse to ask that same question of ourselves? Why don’t we ask the hard questions about what we have done (as communities and as individuals) to sustain the culture of violence? I don’t have any answers to those questions. But I do know that we’ll get no where until we begin seriously asking them.
Those people (and their voices are shrill) who believe that this kind of thing is a judgement of God on _________ (fill in the blank with the moral objection of the moment). James Dobson made ill-advised comments in this regard just yesterday:
Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.
I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences, too.
And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the scripture and on God almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on
That’s a nice tidy answer, but it’s meaningless. It would be nice to think that going back to some earlier, (and misconstrued as) simpler age would or could ensure that frail human beings would not behave this way.
3. It is definitely NOT about mental illness.
We have a habit of responding to outlandish things that people do by attributing it to mental illness. It’s become a flip reaction to human behavior we don’t understand. The problem is that with the exception of a very small group of people (untreated paranoid schizophrenia) most people who struggle with mental illness are not violent and do not go on the attack like this.
As a group, people with mental health issues are not more violent than any other group in our society. The majority of crimes are not committed by people with psychiatric illness, and multiple studies have proven that there is very little relationship between most of these diseases and violence. The real issue is the fact that people with mental illness are two and a half to four times more likely to be the victims of violence than any other group in our society.
An interesting paradox to consider is this … we do not consider our military leaders to be mentally ill. Indeed, we hail their heroism in battle. Yet how many of them have ordered and/or undertaken mass killing of innocents. We call that collateral damage and absolve ourselves of the deaths. Those women and children, grandpas and grandmas are all loved by a family. Families just like those in Newtown, CT. We wreak havoc on them without pause and call it heroism.
Do we need to have a national conversation about mental health care and how mental illness is perceived in this country? Absolutely. It is a must, linking mental health and gun violence is a bad idea.
We need to consider what our national idols have become and like the abortion debate, we have to decide between competing sets of “rights.” The right of our school children to anticipate safety and the right of gun owners to have what they want. And perhaps that is why this argument, like the abortion argument becomes so volatile and emotional. There are no clear RIGHT answers. There are only shades of grey which cloud the nuances of the situation.