No, please, no. Not again!
Those were my thoughts as I turned on the news yesterday afternoon (February 14, 2018). The news coverage was live from Parkland, Florida where they were covering an active shooter incident at a large high school.
Almost immediately social media lit up with people sending their thoughts and prayers to and on behalf of the affected community and families. Politicians including local leaders, state leaders, national politicians, and President Trump offered similar statements. Soon after these posts began flowing others reacted with, “I want more than thoughts and prayers from people and politicians. I want, we need action.”
I live hundreds of miles from the most recent school shootings. I do live in a community that experienced an gunman holding a Christian School hostage thirty years ago. A community that also experienced a major natural disaster seven years ago when a tornado ripped a path through the area destroying homes, shopping centers, churches, restaurants, injuring many and causing loss of life. We are a community who appreciated the thoughts and prayers offered by people all over the world. We also appreciated the action of many who came with or sent help. We are grateful for the funds, food relief, volunteers, federal aid, and more that is apart of our continued recovery from the storm. We also appreciate the action of first responders that negotiated the release of the school children of West End Christian School in 1988 and detained the suspect without incident.
But what can we do for Mobile, Alabama, Marshall County, Kentucky, and Parkland, Florida and the fifteen other schools or colleges who are dealing with the aftermath of school shootings? What can do when we are so far away?
What can we do?
We can have civil discussions and consider legislation concerning control of certain style weapons or aftermarket modification equipment. Such legislation may or may not have an impact on criminal activity, homicides, and mass shootings. I am a legal gun owner, I don’t want to strip guns away from people, but we need to see if we can do a better job at controlling what guns are available and who has access to those weapons. At the very least we need to have real conversations.
While we are having those discussions, we also need to look at the root causes of such violence. Deadly violence comes in all forms with many different weapons. I recall an incident where a student on a college campus injured multiple people and killed some with a survival knife. (Interestingly, I did not hear anyone call for a ban on knives.) There are also times when fireplace tools, baseball bats, or other instruments were the weapon of choice for a violent offender. We need to ask what is triggering such violence in people? Are there societal issues we need to address? Broken families? Absent fathers? Violence in media (TV, movies, video games)? Abusive homes? Lack of respect for authority? A lack of belief in basic morality? Feelings of hopelessness? A low regard for human life? Parents who let society and media raise their children instead of being actively involved in the lives of their children? Emotional and developmental issues in children because their mothers smoke, drank, used illegal drugs, or were exposed to second hand smoke while pregnant? The list here can go on.
If we are close to the areas affected; We can offer our help. We can offer a shoulder to cry on. We can be someone that will just listen. We can offer our homes, churches, and businesses as a place of safety. We can provide meals to the hurting, to the first responders, and others at the scene of violence. We can send funds to offset the medical expenses of the injured and to help with the costs of funerals.
When we are in school, at churches, in businesses, and in public places we can be vigilant. We can educate ourselves to see potential issues. I recently heard of a few non-shootings at school. I saw news articles buried deep in papers or online where a fellow student or faculty member saw something out of the ordinary and reported it to resource officers or police. On these occasions the actions of others prevented acts of violence from occurring. We must be vigilant.
We can pray. As a Christian, prayer to God is a must and a first response when I hear about events like those in Parkland. I pray to let God know heart is hurting and to express the hurt that His creation is experiencing. I pray to calm my spirit so that I can think clearly and discuss the issues at hand rationally. I pray for His comfort to those impacted; comfort that comes from His people in ways discussed above. And I pray that His people will be a part of the solution and not contributors to the problem.
I will keep praying. I will do what I can, where I can, and when I can to be of assistance to those immediately impacted. Will you join me?