Mass shootings are becoming too commonplace. Three weeks ago, tragedy struck Benton, Ky.; this past week, Parkland, Fla. Places like Columbine, Colo.; Red Lake, Minn.; Newtown, Conn.; Marysville, Wash.; Townville, S.C.; Virginia Tech; Las Vegas, Nev.; Charleston, S.C.; Southerland Springs, Texas, unfortunately have become ingrained in our social psyche. Gun control, admittedly, is a culturally divisive topic, but it’s part of a conversation the church needs to help lead our society to have constructively … for the sake of our children, for the sake of our congregants, for the sake of our communities.
But before we quickly become derailed in a pro-gun debate or discussion of our Second Amendment rights, and the usual sides begin to coalesce and spew venomous insults, trotting out tired rhetoric of whether guns kill people or people kill people, can we just acknowledge that this is a very complex social issue? It’s hard to escape the horrific reality that people with guns are killing masses of innocent people, including children. Hence, this tough issue must be grappled with, and the solutions offered should entail multi-faceted approaches.
Responsible gun ownership is paramount. One type of weaponry frequently involved in mass shootings is AR-15 style rifles or similar firearms. How can lethal weapons like these be kept out of the wrong hands? Does the common citizen need this much firepower? Is it really needed for personal protection, or is it mostly for sport or one’s recreational enjoyment? Should anyone—other than trained law enforcement and the military—have easy access? If so, what regulations need to be in place to prevent more atrocities?
Increased security measures, such as metal detectors, bag searches, wands, surveillance cameras, locked doors and armed police officers, all have to be considered now. Security equipment is being used to protect our airports, concert venues, sports stadiums and arenas, courthouses and statehouses. Why should they not be available to our schools? Sadly, churches would be advised to consider taking security measures as well.
Mental health issues—identifying troubled individuals, investigating homicidal ideations, and increasing community health resources—are crucial. Making psychological counseling and psychiatric care both accessible and affordable, even in rural settings, has to be a high priority. But, attaching social stigmas to individuals who seek help should be avoided.
Wanton acts of violence, gore and cruelty in movies, television and video games are desensitizing our youth and exposure to young, impressionable and potentially troubled minds must be curtailed. Wouldn’t it be wiser for entertainment media to glorify heroes that stand up for the vulnerable and strive to solve problems in ways other than fist fights, gun battles, explosives, and car chases? Let’s send a signal to movie directors, television producers and game developers that we’ve seen enough.
More importantly, modeling and teaching the biblical values of love of self and love of neighbor are imperative from the time our kids are very young. Bullying, name calling and social ostracizing in any form must not be tolerated or overlooked during childhood and adolescent years. Help our children understand that they are created in the image of God and to feel they are of infinite worth to Him—and so, too, is the other child, even strangers, foreigners and those who look or act differently. Child abuse and domestic violence within broken family systems are related, contributing influencers that also need further addressing.
Mass shootings are indicative of the abysmal spiritual condition of a degenerate human heart. These solutions are only a start, and there are undoubtedly others that will emerge, but they all must be addressed continually … for the sake of our children, and the church needs to lead the way in fostering humane, civil discourse of these difficult issues. Being pro-life should also include protecting the security of our children and the vulnerable among us, and working to ensure the physical health, emotional welfare and social well-being of all God’s children.