It’s a sad irony that I was beginning to write a post about violence and shootings the other week, before I had heard about the tragedies in Connecticut and in China as well. Clearly this issue is a real one and in such a time as this it is near to all of our hearts, though most especially to those involved in the sad and evil day that claimed the lives of so many. I wish to discuss it not out of any sort of political agenda, but simply because occasions of this nature leave us asking the inevitable “why?” We have seen senseless and evil things, and we want to know why. From the outset let me say that we all need to pray for the families and faculty and friends involved in the recent violence, and for those close to them, they need support and shoulders to cry on.
There was a shooting near my home about a month ago. Four people were shot, one badly. I think the badly injured person lived, but I’m not certain. I live in Los Angeles where this sort of thing is sadly not that uncommon. I can tell you plenty of similar stories and I’ve only lived here just over three years. This concerns me. I love my community and I don’t want it to be unsafe. I don’t want people to live in fear, and I certainly don’t want people getting mixed up in this tragic business. Where I live it is almost always gang-related. It’s a terrible shame and a tragedy that this nonsense goes on so frequently.
There are many people who say that guns are the problem. That if a gun is available then crime is sure to be committed and violence is just around the corner. I never really sympathized with this viewpoint. If you were to place a gun in my hand I wouldn’t shoot anybody. In fact, I’ve handled guns on many occasions and fired them in appropriate contexts (the shooting range) and I’ve never shot anyone. Clearly the problem is not so simple.
I want to see my community change, as do many who maintain that guns are to blame for violence, yet as we always seem to do, we forget history. Violence has existed before guns. Violence exists today without guns. I want to see the at-risk members of my community break the cycle and lead healthy, happy, fulfilled lives, but I think that to blame the instrument that they use is simplistic- after all, even if we go around banning guns and every other sort of weapon we can think of, will we not still have knives for cooking? Those are weapons: people have been killing each other with them for years. Will we not still have heavy objects? Those are weapons. Will we not still have hands? For those are most certainly weapons as well.
My intention in this post is not to become overly political; my intention is to explore how often we as humans blame the instrument and not what is more fundamentally problematic. I want to look at how we might bring about lasting change here, for the status quo is not acceptable.
I could go into a lot of different areas at this point in my musings. I could talk about American Prohibition or existing gun laws or the laws we have that already ban the horrible acts that weigh heavily on our minds today. I’m not going to. They are important areas of discussion, but there is something greater to be discussed, for as I said earlier: man has a penchant for blaming the instrument of his actions instead of himself.
People who are loved, who are well-adjusted, who have a sense of purpose and are working towards good goals do not do things like the mad man in Connecticut. Surely ensuring that everyone is loved and on a good path would be much more effective than gun control in ridding our society of these unspeakable acts of violence. But there is a problem. Gun control is easy. Loving your neighbor is hard.
It is a very simple thing to put the blame on guns and to ban them, because we know that something must be done and we would like to believe that we are responsible, good people. Banning guns isn’t too much of an inconvenience for most of us and in doing so we would lazily be able to believe that we did something to make the world a better place.
What if we made an effort to love difficult people instead?
What if kids in high school took the loners under their wing? What if the juvenile delinquents were visited in prison? What if we each took the time to actually learn about our neighbors and make them feel welcome and valued? In my neighborhood, as I mentioned, most violent crimes seem to be gang-related. So why do we not learn to play basketball and spend time on the public courts and try to influence the atmosphere for the better? I think it would help.
There’s an old Dane cook bit where the comedian talks about office shootings and how whenever he (Dane Cook) starts at a new job he finds the loner and gives him a snickers bar every day and compliments him so that the day he snaps the guy spares him and says “thanks for the candy”. This joke seems somewhat crass in light of recent events, but there is some, perhaps unintended, grain of truth in it. What if we paid attention to the weird people? What if we complimented the insecure? What if we invited the socially awkward to our parties?
I don’t intend to say that what that violent man in Connecticut did was not his fault. On the contrary- it was definitely his fault and he is to blame for his horrific actions. All I intend to say is that I think there would be less of this sort of thing happening if we took a few extra steps to love people who we don’t particularly want to love. There will always be tragedies in a fallen world such as ours, but there would be less of them if we took the desperate under our wings before they reached the point where they’re willing to kill.
High school kids, I’m looking at you especially and all of you in college as well. This applies to all of us, however. If you’ve been devastated by these recent tragedies, as we all have, and you find yourself wanting to change things, start with your community. Start with your office, with your neighborhood, with your school. Find the losers. Love on them and don’t be condescending about it. I don’t write from any position of superiority- this is something that I need to do as well. It will be hard and it will be uncomfortable, but if we seek a solution this is it. Let’s do it together. Maybe we’ll save some lives.
Continue to pray for those poor people in Connecticut. I cannot imagine what they must be going through.