A sad day

I woke up this morning and thought immediately of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. I wanted to cover my head with the sheet and just go back to sleep. I’m sad, I’m grieving, and I’m feeling angry today.

I opened up my e-mail to catch up and immediately found Bishop Rickel’s post from yesterday. He tell us of his sadness, anger, and grief, and urges us to action. I ask you to read his entire post and follow through with me on action steps. He’s asking us to make a list of at least three things that we plan to do about this.

I donated this morning to these two funds set up to assist victims of the El Paso shooting.

I’m writing this piece.

I’m going to be contacting my US Senators. Why?

I’ve seen politicians blame the violence of El Paso and Dayton on violent video games. I hate violent video games. I find no redeeming social value in them. But where is the evidence of the link between video games and the shooters in El Paso or Dayton?

What role does mental illness play in this? I’d need a lot more clarity on this point before I casually laid the blame for these shootings on mental illness. What mental illness? Whose mental illness? By what definition?

In El Paso we have the evidence that the shooter was motivated by racial hatred.

In Dayton we have the evidence that the shooter was motivated by vicious mysogny.

In both cases, we have evidence that these young men obsessed with hatred and with mysogyny were able to obtain weapons designed to kill as many people as possible.

If we want to talk about insanity, then what kind of sane society would tolerate this easy availability of weapons of mass killing?

Why am I contacting my Senators?

Because we have a public health problem on our hands with respect to gun violence, not only in mass shootings, but in incidents of death where people die by two’s or three’s, every week, week in and week out someplace in America.

Because since 1996 our nation has not spent any significant money on any large-scale research into gun violence as a public health issue. There are a number of smaller-scale studies out there like this one from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston which found that “having a mental illness does not necessarily make a person more likely to commit gun violence… a better indicator of gun violence was access to firearms.”

Now there is a bill before the Senate to give the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control $50 million for large-scale research on gun violence. You can read about it here. We need this to discover some more solid answers that could inform our public policy. What is the role of mental illness? What is the role of video games? A sane society, it seems to me, would want to put their best minds to work on finding some answers.

That’s why I’m contacting my US Senators today. I’m going to ask them to support this bill, and not give up until there is a bill.

Have we become numb to the latest news about people dying in a fusillade of bullets? Are we going to let politicians get by without accountability for their part in making sane laws to govern access to weapons designed only for the most efficient killing possible?

I certainly cannot take seriously the politician who suggested that armed shoppers could have prevented the violence at the Walmart in El Paso. I keep hearing about how a good guy with a gun can take out a bad guy with a gun. Were is the evidence of this? Where are the authorities to demonstrate this in a disciplined way? I haven’t heard of any, and I’ve looked.

I saw recently a bumper sticker on a vehicle in our area. “My Family”, read the caption, and the graphic showed lineup of weapons, beginning with the familiar shape of an assault-style weapon and ending in a pistol. It’s an obvious take on this popular stickers you find in rear windows of mini vans and SUV’s in which parents tell you with stick figures that they have their children on board. I was confused by this bumper sticker. I’m still confused. Is this supposed to be a joke? If it is, am I expected to find it funny? I didn’t find it funny. I found it macabre. What is being said about “family values” here?

We as a people have the power to speak up to politicians, to vote politicians into office, to vote them out again. I’ve lived in a town where a school shooting occurred. I’ve been on site with grieving and angry teachers who lost colleagues in that shooting. I’ve seen the youth who lost classmates. It can. happen here.

Let’s not allow numbness to take over. We need to pray, but we need to follow the lead of our bishop and do something.

Please read the bishop’s post. Please do at least three things today to act on your concern. He’s given us some good places to start.