We are all heartbroken by the brutal shooting this week in Parkland, Florida. 17 precious souls lost. The story is a depressingly familiar — a lonely, probably mentally ill young man obtains a semi-automatic weapon (in this case, like many others, an AR-15) and enters a school with the intent to kill as many kids as possible.
Almost immediately, the calls begin to “Do Something!” People try to yell the loudest and assign blame the quickest. But nothing ever changes. Everyone knows why — let’s review why the old, tired arguments won’t solve the problem:
- “Let’s Ban all the Guns” — to many, this is the simple, obvious solution. But, it just won’t work. There are more than 300 million guns already in circulation — it would be practically impossible to round them all up. Banning guns won’t stop someone bent on committing murder from obtaining them. Even if you thought you could ban all guns, the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution would stop the government from doing so. And, the American character is built on individual freedom — a massive gun confiscation policy just wouldn’t fly.
- “Let’s Ban the AR-15″ — This one seems good because the AR-15 is used in so many attacks. But, despite what many think, the AR-15 is a fairly normal semi-automatic rifle, and shoots one bullet per trigger pull (as opposed to automatic rifles, which are illegal in most cases). Semi-automatic rifles are commonly used by hunters, target shooters and home defenders. If the AR-15 is banned, would-be mass shooters would have plenty of similar options to choose from. If you want to ban all semi-automatic rifles, you’re right back to previous argument.
- “Let’s Arm the Teachers and/or Bring in Lots of Security” — This might do some good, but it won’t really slow or stop the committed psychopath intent on causing mayhem. The Parkland High School had an armed guard onsite — the shooter just figured out how to avoid that one guard. Unless we want to turn our schools into a war zone, which pretty much none of us want, this solution won’t solve the problem.
- “We Need More Mental Health Services” — I think this one is growing in popularity because it offers a truce in the gun wars. And, while mental health counseling will help some people, what happens when there just aren’t warning signs? What if the shooter isn’t mentally ill, but just evil? Or, like in the Parkland case, what happens when the shooter’s stops going to mental health counseling? And, who is going to bear the cost of all this care? And, what about the many times when it just doesn’t work? In the end, I just don’t trust that therapy is going to reach enough people or be effective enough to stop most mass killers.
- “Better Law Enforcement is the Answer” — Given the apparent bungling of the FBI in the Parkland case (it didn’t follow up on a direct warning), this one would have helped here. But, that’s very rare. Usually, the authorities have little or no warning before a mass shooting. More often, the shooter stays under the radar until he executes his evil plan.
What will work? I know this won’t be universally popular, but I think I know the solution — “the healing grace of Jesus Christ and a loving Christian community.” I think some of you already stopped reading, but hear me out.
I think the root of mass shootings (like most evil in the world) stems from a deep void and pain at the center of the shooter’s life. The profile of the mass shooter is almost always the same — he is estranged from family, has few friends, and retreats into hate-filled websites and social media. He feels alone and hopeless. What the would-be mass
shooter needs is a real reason to hope and a real community to be a part of.
Faith in Christ and a Christian community is the answer to the deep yearning and pain of the shooter. In Christ, the lonely young man can find answers to life’s questions and hope for a meaningful future on earth and after death. He can find a purpose to live for. In a Christian community, he can find people to share life’s joys and struggles. In place of pain and futility, he can discover joy and meaning.
Will this work all the time? Of course not. But, if someone genuinely turns to Christ, and a Christian community steps up to support the person, they won’t commit mass murder. How do I know? Because I’ve experienced the joy and peace that comes from knowing Christ, and I have felt the satisfaction of real community. Christians have a special burden here — they must reach out to and offer real community and support for the marginalized and troubled. This isn’t easy (and I’m far from great at this), but it is an essential part of our Christian calling.
The hard part about this solution is that it takes away the shouting and blame. There won’t be a simple solution you can vote for. If you’re a Christian, it means you have to get out there and reach those who need to hear about Christ, and to offer love and community to everyone you can. If you’re not a Christian, you know the old arguments and solutions won’t work — it might be worth a try.