I just finished watching the PBS News Hour where they once again profiled the deceased victims from the latest mass shooting. This time it was ten shot dead in a Boulder, Colorado grocery store. My eyes tear up as I learn about the lives cut short by yet another tragic event like this. Then my soul fills with sorrow, then frustration, and finally anger that we live in a country filled with so many guns, so much violence, so many mentally ill people, and so many cowardly legislators who refuse to act to protect their own constituents and families.
There have already been seven mass shootings in the US in just the first three months of the year. This is on top of the several thousand homicides, suicides, accidents, and other fatalities from guns year to date. Annually, some 30-40,000 people will die in the US from gun violence to make it one of the leading causes of death. The exact number is unknown as the gun lobby was successful at keeping the federal government agencies, like the CDC, from tackling gun fatalities or performing research on gun violence as a national health problem, if not an emergency just like a pandemic.
In St. Louis there were 262 homicides in 2020 and we already have nearly 50% more this year than last year at the same time. It has become a weekly occurrence in our region where there are incidents of road rage with bullets exchanged between drivers. There are rolling gun battles between vehicles speeding down interstate highways and city streets, often killing the innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seven children have been shot and killed so far this year in St. Louis. Firearms are now the leading cause of death in the US for children and teens. Think about that.
Face it, America has become a violent, overly competitive mentally ill substance abusing society that is obsessed with guns as if we have become possessed by demons. How else can we explain decades of mass shootings where time after time we are so dysfunctional and paralyzed from enacting changes to keep our fellow citizens and children safe from gun violence? What insanity.
And we can all remember the images from around the country during the 2020 election cycle when so-called patriots protested outside and paraded inside state capitols proudly displaying their guns in their arms as if they were their well-loved babies.
A week before the latest Boulder shooting that left ten people dead, eight Asian Americans were slain at their work places in the Atlanta area. These two new locations are now join the names of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, Stoneman Douglas High School, El Paso, Charleston, Dayton, Virginia Beach, Aurora, Highlands Ranch, Washington Naval Yard, and the list goes on and on and on. There are so many that mass shootings in the US has its own ever-growing Wikipedia listing.
It is estimated by some organizations that we now have more guns than people in this country, over 425 million. Many people own more than one out of some obscene fascination with instruments whose sole purpose is to harm, injure and kill others. The estate sale of a resident of my rural county advertised over 170 firearms to be sold. What exactly was he preparing for? What motivates someone to collect weapons capable of so much bloodshed when used in a moment of rage that might overcome even the best of “good guys with guns” or those “standing their ground” against a non-lethal threat they could walk away from.
For me, my rights and freedoms in the US are not derived from the right and freedom to have a gun, or as many as I may want. Instead, it is the freedom in my spirit and safety of travel to know I do not need a gun or to worry whether I will be shot. That is the freedom we should be fighting to protect but has become corrupted and hijacked by others as so often happens in an upside down irrational culture.
And yet with every new mass shooting, Republican legislators offer up hollow “prayers and thoughts” to the family of victims. They wrap themselves around the flag and are the first to honor soldiers defending our nation and people from harm, but dishonor these sacrifices with their disregard toward home-grown terrorists and mass murderers. They then get on with defending the NRA, taking money from the gun lobby, and stopping reasonable restrictions with which most Americans agree.
These changes include expanding background checks, restricting private gun show sales, longer waiting periods, requirements for concealed weapon carry, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and making military-style weaponry illegal to own as they once were. How do they sleep at night knowing they are such cowards in failing the very basics of protecting the most important right of Americans, that is to live and do so without fear of being shot dead while at work, shopping, or in a classroom.
Admit it Americans: we live in a mentally ill violent culture that has corrupted the character, history, and trajectory of our nation. Former Democrat primary presidential candidate Marianne Williamson was right when she said that we don’t just have a gun crisis but we have a culture crisis. You don’t allow 330 million adults in such an ill culture, unable to reform and rehabilitate itself, to have access to so many guns. More guns are not making us more safe. The evidence is clear and speaks for itself!
The first step forward to heal our country and reform our laws is to confront the sad truth that the rest of the world sees in us, but to which we remain blinded. International travelers rightfully should be afraid to travel in America, as now are we who live here.
Lord, please help me to avoid becoming numb to our other deadly pandemic of gun violence, or feeling so hopeless that our country, our culture, and ourselves cannot change.