doing something about mass shootings

We’ve seen the meme. “Thoughts and prayers” is the top line; “policy and change” is the phrase underneath. “Thoughts and prayers” are then crossed out. Many admit they don’t wish to diminish the peerless power of prayer; however, it’s simply not enough to focus on just prayer. We want this to stop.

We want to do something. So what can we do? The better question is: what can we do that will be effective? Focusing on the “just” is not enough. 

We hear a lot of rhetoric. We hear a lot of passion. We also hear a lot of blame. But what we don’t hear are a lot of specific, comprehensive solutions that we know will be effective. We hear a lot of “just.”

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, was murdered in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, said something similar last week. Pollack passionately opined, “Evidently they didn’t learn anything… They didn’t learn anything from what happened in [Santa Fe] Texas at that school shooting; they didn’t learn anything from what happened in Parkland at that shooting; they didn’t learn anything from what happened at Sandy Hook. When you focus on just gun control, this is what happens. It’s happened again.”

Hear no taking of sides by me, friends. That’s not the point. The point is our continued, narrow focus on the “just.” “When you focus on just gun control” — or on prayer or on mental health or on school security — it happens again.

Yet in effort to avoid a narrowed focus in search of effectiveness, we need to first admit one politically, inconvenient truth:

We all want it to stop, friends… Republicans and Democrats alike. All demographics. Save for the few on the far radical fringes, we all wish to limit gun violence and death. 

Unfortunately, the politicians/pundits/agenda-driven-media aren’t quick to admit such. The politicians, et al. instead examine the articulated “justs” of the other side and declare themselves as the answer to the problem perpetuated by their political opposition. Please. No party has cornered the market on integrity, consistency, nor on comprehensive solution.

I chuckle somewhat sarcastically, no less, when each party attempts to tell me who cares most about children. On gun control, it’s one party; on abortion, it’s another. The parties are trying to score political points. My most liberal and most conservative friends each care deeply about children. With all due respect, I am disgusted with the partisans who attempt to manipulate us to think otherwise. That’s rhetoric. Not truth.

So that said, what do we do? What will actually make a difference? 

Let’s bring together a diverse round table for solution-oriented discussion. Let’s bring together the teachers and preachers, the psychiatrists and psychologists, gun experts and mental health specialists. Here are their instructions…

“We begin with a couple of significant caveats… 

One, you must think the best of the person on the other side of you. That means if they think differently, you ask questions. You seek to understand. You continue seeking. You remember that we all want this to stop. 

And two, you must be committed to more than the ‘justs.’ Everyone has an angle in. Don’t dismiss it. We want a comprehensive, effective solution. We know we can’t eradicate evil, but we can limit the potential for this manifestation to happen again.

Here then are your suggested tasks…

One, examine gun control. What guns are unnecessary? Ammunition? No need to confiscate weapons nor reject our individual right to bear arms. But what weapons were built more for war than for self-defense or sport?

Two, be honest about mental health. These shooters have an undeniable similar mindset; they are not ok. What is negatively influencing them? What destructive aspects of their upbringing have we ignored or unknowingly praised? Also, can you specifically weigh how red flag laws could help in this area? Red flag laws are designed to address gaps in our mental health system and are tied to the pattern of mindsets we’ve seen in mass shootings, unlike some of the other suggested law that fails to have a known tie to mental health. We need experts to study and recommend — again, not politicians, who, yes, with all due respect, are oft compromised because of having potentially other agendas and lobbyist-associations in play. We speak no ill of them. We simply all know the politicians on all sides have other motives in play.

Three, secure the schools. Friends, our banks are protected better than our schools. Let’s change this. On May 18th, the Wall Street Journal reported that 93% of the $122 billion designated for schools via federal pandemic relief money has gone unspent; districts have struggled with how to spend the money. With Covid continuing to wane, let’s take that money to secure our schools over the summer. If we can sends billions to protect what’s inside Ukraine, we can do a far better job protecting the kids inside our schools.

And two more things…  Talk about community. Talk about it a lot. Are there ways we can be more united? Are there ways we can be more involved — more helpful? More encouraging? Or responsive to potentially unhealthy behavior?

And lastly, pray. Humble yourselves and pray. Let us never give up and never be so wise in our own eyes to cross it out. We pray for wisdom and discernment, remembering we all want the same thing.”