Thoughts on Oregon shooting and subsequent gun debate

This week has been really sad.  I heard heart-breaking news from people I care about who have been hurt in terrible ways.  Students at JMU being victimized sexually by other students, and the mass shooting on a college campus in Oregon. What’s perhaps most saddening – it’s not surprising.  It is horrifying, but not surprising, and that is most horrifying of all.

What happened in Oregon is depressing.  Unfortunately, this event is situated in a landscape of violence from Oregon to Sandy Hook, Syria to Burma. We are surrounded by violence. We are horrified but no longer surprised when these tragedies occur. It is clear, we must do something about the violence in this country: physical, mental, emotional, sexual, gun, and otherwise. It will require work, not armchair pandering, divisive pointing, and not just legislation about guns. It is systemic and will require our commitment to solutions on multiple fronts including, but not limited to: public policy about guns, background checks, education, mental health resources and destigmatization, more connection with friends and neighbors, more care for those struggling in our midst, more commitment to honest conversation that starts with listening, a reevaluation of masculinity in our culture, and more connection to purposes above our selfish desire.

I’m a hunter and a gun owner. I sleep with a 9mm beside my bed each night. Recently a friend challenged me on why I do so and the inconsistency between that behavior and my Christian faith and commitment to peace in the world. I’m trying to work through what makes sense given this challenge. He challenged me in a loving and meaningful way. There was no judgment or condemnation, but a call for self-reflection. It is an example of the very nature of friendship and civil society. We have to be able to have conversations with each that ask tough questions and galvanize our commonality toward meaningful solutions. My intention with this post is to do just that. To challenge you and any assumptions or preconceived notions you might have be they anti or pro gun access. I write this without judgment or condemnation, but from a place of love for humanity and sadness at our collective fall. Most of all, though, from a place of hope for our collective ability to get better, for me that improvement comes from my faith – both in my savior and in humankind.

It’s time we get serious about access to guns and the proliferation of mass violence. Politicizing tragedy is always a dangerous path to tread, but thinking, intently and passionately, about how to reduce violence is important. Sometimes events force us to have honest conversations.

Conservatives yell about the 2nd amendment, liberals yell about getting rid of all guns. This is, of course, distraction, from both sides, and is a big part of the problem with our society. We must focus our attention on what matters and what unifies us, not be distracted by the loudest, most absurd voices on either side. The constitution is a flawed document, if we kept to original intent black Americans and women would not be able to vote. Selective application of “original intent” is dishonest and disingenuous. If we take all the guns away many Americans won’t be able to hunt and provide healthy and economical food for their families. Not ok. However, wake up, nobody honestly participating in this debate is trying to take your guns away. Couching our ability to have a gun that can fire 40 bullets or access to a kit that can convert a semi-automatic to an automatic in the 2nd amendment is a stretch. If we go with original intent then folks would have black powder muskets and be melting down your silver pieces.

Mass violence isn’t caused by guns. Nobody truly argues that it is, again, that argument is only advanced by dishonest voices trying to distract us. And, passing gun legislation that outlaws all guns won’t prevent EVERY person from getting them somewhere. These are both distractions. We must focus our attention on sensible legislation that tries to ameliorate the proliferation of this type of violence. Access to certain types of guns should be regulated and most people agree with this. How we get there and what types of guns are, perhaps, more nuanced positions. But, we must start with areas of convergence.

We must also recognize that the fall of humankind has landed us where we are now. I am a part of this violence as are you. We must work together in the spirit of community and commonality to try and prevent these atrocities from proliferating. We must and can do better. I hope and pray that we never have to see events like those in Oregon again. As President Obama said, we are called to do more than just hope and pray, though I certainly urge each of us to hope and pray as we come together.