Monday, January 7, 2013

When Good Men Do Nothing

*****This post was originally written on Dec 14, and has been edited to hold accurate 'to date' data. There was another shooting this past week, again in Aurora, CO. It's easy to forget, it's easy to become complacent, it's easy to let the past drift comfortably to the recesses of our minds. But change doesn't stem from complacency, and while it's over quoted, I'll quote it again "All it takes for evil men to succeed, is for good men to do nothing."*******

Dec 14

Social media and news media have barraged us with posts, articles, and segments on the elementary school shooting. Those in favor of stronger gun control are calling loudly that now is the time for reform, if there ever was a time. Those not in favor of stronger gun control argue "it's not guns who kill people, it's people who kill people" or "we need stronger enforcement, not new laws" or "it's too soon to talk about such a topic, have some decency".

And so a petition to create a new set of regulations limiting who has access to firearms is created and signed by 135, 608 people to date (update as of 1.6.13 - 197,073), and various forums for gun owners are filled with threads discussing what the impacts of increased gun control could be.

I went for a search for information - to find out what current gun laws are, how they are enforced, and what reform would look like. The simple answer - it's not that simple. There are at least a dozen laws with sub-laws, laws that have been deemed unconstitutional, laws with addendum after addendum trying to re-create the law deemed as unconstitutional, federal laws, state laws, county laws, and city laws. And despite the plethora of laws addressing who can own a gun, what type of gun they can own, where the gun can be concealed, and where guns can be taken there are still articles that illuminate apparent discrepancies in gun control and articles that discuss statistics on mass shootings in the US. Gun control is anything but simple.

Furthermore, from the hours of online digging I've done, and the few conversations I've had with people regarding this issue, there doesn't seem to be any collaboration between those regulating gun accessibility and those working with the mentally ill. I'm not an expert on any topic related to this entire conversation, but it would seem the two parties should be working together. It seems a common argument from the defense after an unexplainable mass shooting that the shooter was mentally ill. If this is the case, the two parties - those responsible for gun control and those working with the mentally ill - should be working together.

I don't know what the solution is moving forward, but I know that now, even though I am only 27 years old, I have within my formed memory distinct recollections of 6 different mass shootings. I did a quick online search to make sure I wasn't mistaken in my recollection of how many shootings have occurred recently. I was wrong, massively wrong. There have been 62 mass shootings in the last 30 years in the US (as of 1.6.13 the number is now 63).

Apathy is dangerous. Ignorant apathy, it appears, has lethal consequences. I saw a lot of conversations and comments on facebook from people struggling with how to respond to the killing of 20 six and seven year olds, several comments on people unable to handle the grief. I sat at my computer and cried, and have felt a burden for the past 2 days that unmistakably is caused by thinking of those children, those teachers, and their families. Grief is the appropriate response, and if we have any hope of continuing to have a safe country and working against these sorts of tragedies, we must allow ourselves (and perhaps even force ourselves) to experience that grief. And after we have absorbed that grief, we must decide if our grief prompts us to act.

I do know this - it is easier to forget than to act. Much, much easier. But in 4 years, Kai will walk into an elementary school on a Friday morning - and I want him to come home that Friday afternoon. So now, I have to decide how to act. Because all the talk in the world cannot stop incidents like Friday from happening again. And all the grief in the world can't stop it either. But talk and grief can fuel a determination, a strong determination to actions.

So, for now, I'll leave my actions at this blog entry, and hope it acts as a reminder to you, my reader,  you have a voice and you have the ability to act. I know, theologically and philosophically, change comes from within and only with the help of Jesus - but I also know, absolutely know, those who say "only Jesus can bring renewal to our world" and don't seek to be that renewal have missed the fact they 'are' Jesus to our world.

I'm interested, incredibly interested, in your thoughts. The least we can do is begin this conversation, and to do so with open minds. Please, for the sake of our own dignity and out of respect for the hundreds of people who have died in the past 30 years in mass shootings, let's refrain from elitism, egocentrism, and hateful wording. Obviously there is no perfect answer. We can only hope for change, in whatever form, if we are dignified. We can only expect our political leaders to hear us if we have a united voice. We cannot stop violence with hatred, and we cannot create unity through force or belittlement.

And in the meantime, we must look at the people around us, look for the lonely people, the families struggling with having a family member who is mentally ill, the children in the foster care system, and the veterans returning from war to nothing and no one. We are remiss to not see these people, and remiss to think the only solutions to our problems are laws. So, if I can be so bold - feel grief, feel sadness, ask "why wasn't it my son or daughter or sister or mom?", don't be afraid to act, and as you consider - search around you for the immediate need. I guarantee it is close by. And I guarantee you can make all the difference.

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