Friday, October 2, 2015

Time To Say "Amen"

Candle Light Prayer Vigil

Yesterday the nation reeled from the news that a gun man had opened fire at a community college killing ten and wounded others. Immediately the "pray for Oregon memes" began to appear on social media. Politicians responded with "our thoughts/prayers/condolences are with the victims and their families..." One prominent evangelist responded with "Lord come quickly" as if the return of Jesus is the only thing that can stop this kind of thing from happening.

Let me be clear, I am a firm believer in prayer. And I have been praying for the community, the families, this nation. But there comes a time when we must do more than pray. There comes a time when we say "Amen" and get up and take action. According to reports, there have been 294 mass shootings in 274 days of 2015. A "mass shooting" is defined as a shooting where there are four or more victims. Another report says there has not been a week in any calendar year of Obama's second term where there has not been a mass shooting. Statistics vary on the number of school shootings because it seems no one can decide what defines a school shooting (more than one fatality, does it count if someone was just injured and no one died, if the gun was found before the shooting, etc) but let's be real...if there is one child in one school injured-or dead-from a shooting at school, it is too many.

And every time the response is the same...horror, hurt, fear, recoil...discussions about how we treat mental illness, a stab at suggesting gun control...finger pointing, shouting matches...and the NRA telling us the real trouble is we need more guns. Then it fades, the media moves on and we talk about something different. The nation collectively compartmentalizes the issue in frustration or the belief there is nothing we can do.

The reality of the issue is it is multi-faceted. We need to take a  look at all the issues because it is true that the we way we as a country and as individuals see, treat and deal with mental illness impacts those who suffer from it and those who commit horrific acts of violence. But we cannot blame mental illness for every mass shooting. While we would love to say that someone who would do such a thing has to be crazy, that simply is not the case. So, we have to look at gun control. I am not saying take every gun...but let's be real, the Founding Fathers had no clue the "right to bear arms" would ever look anything like this. And if they had, what would they have done?
From the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

What does it say about us that we put more effort into determining who can drive a car than who can own a gun? The reality is that the refusal to honestly look at gun control is more lobby driven (looking at you NRA) than because the public is afraid they can't hunt enough meat to feed their family for the winter, or that the British are coming, or that we need to protect our homes from burglars and invasions. Your right to bear arms is not more important than the ten lives lost yesterday. Or the hundreds of others lost in the last decade. I don't know exactly what needs to happen and I don't pretend I do...I do believe that standards should be the same in every state, I do believe that background checks should be mandatory, and-HIPPA be damned-some type of mental health evaluation should be mandatory as well. Routine safety classes, a required safe if children are in the home, and no private sales...or the same system applies in the case of private sales. Whatever it takes.

We also need to look at how the media reports the issues. Journalism has taken a sharp turn and 24 hour cable news shows tend to worry more about ratings than integrity in reporting. The shooter in Oregon (whose name I am deliberately not using) blogged about the glory that shooters receive. The shooter in Virginia who killed a reporter and her camera man filmed the act and uploaded it knowing it would make him famous. It has become a common complaint that the shooter gets more attention than the victims. And we are seeing that it has become an incitement for those who feel marginalized. It is time to change the way the media sensationalizes each and every detail of a shooter's life, personality, etc. And it is time for the public to take a hard look at ourselves to see why we are the ones demanding (or at least watching/reading) those details. 
From the shooter's blog

The problem of gun violence in this country is huge...and sometimes seems insurmountable. I am hardly an expert so please understand that my opinion is that of an extremely frustrated citizen who desperately wants to see something done. However, I am one of many extremely frustrated citizens who desperately want to see something done. It is time for those whose responsibility it is to take action to do so. It is time for us to make them. It is time to say "amen" and get to work. 

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