The focus and debate on the larger implications of Parkland has continued over the past week. In my last post, I contended that spiritual renewal and providing real community to people would be the best ways to prevent future tragedies. While I continue to believe this, I’d like to discuss some other causes and solutions to mass shootings in America.
The first relates to America’s culture. As brilliantly argued by Peggy Noonan (read her whole article here) the 40-year rise in school shootings has coincided with a series of cultural shifts that have had the effect of harming children and cheapening human life. The traditional family has blown up and far too many children grow up with only one parent. Divorce has become
commonplace; in many families, children suffer the consequences. Movies and video games routinely glorify violence and death (often by mass shooting). Helping people kill themselves (euphemistically called “assisted suicide”) is now allowed in six states. And, the killing of our youngest and most helpless children through abortion continues without pause. America even permits the gruesome practice of killing children after 20 weeks in the womb, a point where they are obviously, recognizably human and nearly capable of surviving on their own. We are one of only seven nations to do so.
Through all of this, America has sent a message to children – they are disposable, and violence is acceptable. To quote Ms. Noonan, the message is in the “air we breathe,” and provides the context where the Parkland shootings can take place. We need to take action to reverse this message.
I would also like to more squarely address the question of gun control. A good friend of mine passionately responded to my last article with a plea to ban the AR-15 and similar weapons. I am skeptical that this would do much good. The AR-15 is scary looking, and is apparently quite accurate and lethal, but it and many other similar rifles and pistols are commonly used by hunters, target shooters, and for family protection. Given that there are over 300 million guns in America, I just don’t believe that it will make a significant difference to ban the AR-15 and its close cousins (we didn’t see much impact when it was banned between 1994 and 2004),
However, the AR-15 has become a favorite for mass shooters. The shooters in Parkland, Aurora, and San Bernadino, to name just a few, all used variants of the AR-15. At some point, I can understand why we might say “enough is enough.”
I would, therefore, support Ms. Noonan’s visionary “grand bargain.” Let’s give our children (and the nation at large) a tangible counterweight to the culture of death and despair. Let’s ban abortions (unless the mother’s life is at risk) after 20 weeks and the AR-15 in one piece of legislation. In so doing, we would send a dramatic message to the children of America that they are valuable, life is precious, and that we can unify to achieve something.
Will this solve all our problems? Nope. Not even close. There are other gun-related policies that we should consider. David French, for example, has highlighted the promising idea to expand the concept of “gun violence restraining orders” which would provide judges with more tools to bar violent or mentally ill people from possessing weapons. President Trump and a bipartisan group of Senators have proposed enhanced background checks. Legislators should soberly consider these proposals and others. In so doing, they need to consider public safety, personal liberty, the efficacy of the measures, and the 2nd Amendment’s guarantee of the “right to bear arms,” a right our Founders thought was (and I think still is) an important guarantor of liberty.
In the end, I remain convinced that this crisis is mostly about people not having hope and meaning in their lives, and I would recommend that they seek Jesus Christ to find it. And, we need to offer people, especially troubled people, a place in our hearts and lives. This would have a much bigger impact than a “grand bargain” on abortion and the AR-15 or other policy proposals. But, one is not the enemy of the other, and it would be worth trying all good ideas.
P.S. – I publish this on a night after one of my daughters was on lockdown at a public school for six hours due to a threatened shooting. Thankfully, the police arrested the person allegedly behind the threats, and no one was hurt. But, the scare brings home this issue to my family in a very real way – we desperately need a renewal in our culture to end the culture of death.