Almost everyone I know in Virginia owns a gun or has a permit to carry one. These are upstanding, law-abiding citizens, church goers who love people and America. There is no doubt in my mind, if gun control laws should be changed in the USA to try to prevent the terrible tragedies we have seen recently and throughout the years, they would stand their ground to maintain their “Constitutional Right” of the 2nd Amendment. Yet, each time the mentally ill or a person with evil intent goes on a rampage, harming innocent children and adults in our country, the debate over guns begins again. The reason, of course, is that everyone wants an answer to what may be unanswerable.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FACTS ABOUT GUN VIOLENCE IN AMERICA?
Mass shootings are considered any shooting where more than 3 people are shot. This does not include the injured whose lives are often forever changed. Neither does it account for the emotional harm or fear that Americans experience. After mass shootings, most Americans try to go on with their everyday lives. To change what they do in attending a movie, club, or sporting event because of the fear of terrorism or criminal activity, would be giving in to the perpetrator. That would not be the American way.
Here are a few examples of mass shootings from the 1980’s to the present:
- McDonalds 22 died
- Columbine High School 59 died
- Virginia Tech 32 died
- Sandy Hook Elementary 28 died …very small children and teachers
- Orlando nightclub 49 died
- Church Shootings: Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. 9 dead and 1st Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX 26 dead
- Las Vegas 58 died
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Fla., 17 died…children and teachers
In the 1990’s 159 people died and in 1994, there was an assault weapons ban. During the 2000’s, there were 20 incidents of mass shootings taking the lives of 170 people.
Many cities in the USA, like Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia experience single shootings every day…sometimes every hour. Gangs are armed and the Assault Weapons Ban has done little good when criminal elements are at work. As far as mass shootings, since 2010, the U.S. has experienced at least 40 incidents, killing over 350 innocent people.
Law enforcers who try to control areas and situations are also victims. The number of deaths of law enforcers has also increased because of gangs, border crimes, and local offenders. Their job of trying to keep our communities safe is a most difficult one. Their weapons are essential in apprehensions…and hopefully, do not have to be used. One can take a look at the listings on memorials and see the terrible effect on those who serve and their families.
Slides of Some Memorials to our Police who have died in the line of duty by a violent offender.
GANG VIOLENCE and Drugs
When little children are involved, it is even harder to understand the motivation for violence. Gang members, who shoot from their cars at random, aim at little children walking to or from school. Adults take a chance with their own lives as they often accompany the children. We know for certain that there will be a great judgment for those who harm children. (Mark 9:42 in the Holy Scriptures “And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone was hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”) See memorial to Sandy Hook children and victims at end of the video.)
The law enforcers, FBI, and even parents cannot be everywhere at all times. Schools, theaters, concert halls, sports events and even churches are having to up their security. This is not only about the fear of terrorist attacks but for the insane or criminal element who would plan to do something terrible to average citizens. Unfortunately, it was not enough for the Florida High School even though teachers were told to not allow the shooter on campus with a backpack and the FBI had been notified of his social media postings with no real results.
I was a teacher for years in Florida and we were trained on lockdown situations, but how in the world is a teacher suppose to confront a perpetrator bent on killing as many as possible, and ask him/her to “take your backpack off campus”. Throughout the nation, most school employees have taken training courses on what to do if attacked. Others have called for the arming of teachers.
After the church massacre in South Carolina of an African American congregation, some citizens who keep their eye on odd behavior have armed themselves. Others opposed carrying weapons into the house of worship. If so, some states require a sign outside stating their opposition to bringing weapons inside the church.
Here is a quote around this issue: “Before the Sutherland Springs shooting, several major church groups in Texas, including leaders of the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, had advised their membership to ban weapons from services. Citing the Catholic doctrine that the real presence of Jesus Christ exists inside the sanctuary,… dioceses in major cities, including Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, banned guns. But in the aftermath of Sutherland Springs, church leaders of various denominations have faced pressure to reconsider their positions on weapons. In November, just a day after the shooting in South Texas, the Diocese of Dallas said it would not formally lift its ban on the open or concealed carry of firearms inside its churches, but it advised its parishes to consider removing outdoor signs that advertised the prohibition on guns out of fear it would make the churches more vulnerable to attack. But the move effectively allowed the carry of weapons, since state law requires any business banning guns to install a public sign formally stating that policy…” (taken from article by Holly Bailey)
How tragic is it that one can’t feel safe in their place of worship or at school!
One article that I read in my research said that there are so many guns in America, both criminal elements and the law-abiding, that no decision on gun control will help the situation. The criminals are fully armed. The insane usually can find a way to get a gun, which may be within the home of people with good mental health.
Various organizations have opposed labeling anyone as a “mental risk”. We ask people to get psychological help if depressed or have other concerns, but some may be hesitant to go to a psychiatrist for treatment. Why? The fear is that government may eventually require names of patients who are seeing the physician…just to determine if John Doe is a security risk to the community or nation. What about HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability andAccountability Act) which is an act to protect your privacy? It may be a good thing to read who HIPPA allows having information on you.
Do the mentally ill have rights under the HIPPA laws? According to Mental Health America is the following statement: “While providers generally follow their clients’ wishes, there are emergency situations when a provider may disclose relevant, protected health information to an outside party, including family members or law enforcement. These special circumstances include times when a provider believes there is an imminent threat of harm to self or others, or where an individual is deemed “incapacitated,” lacking the ability to make one’s health decisions, and sharing information is in the best interest of the client’s care”. (Mental Health America link)
Parents may not look at their minor teens as a public security risk, but feel that their odd behaviors are “going through a phase” which they expect will eventually be outgrown. In the Sandy Hook incident, the mother allowed her son to have weapons, which was used to kill her and the children of Sandy Hook Elementary. Some feel that even beefed up mental health improvements could have some problems. Others wonder if they can trust the government to guarantee their Constitutional rights. It is all most complicated.
Police recommend over and over “Say Something if You See Something”. Our hat is off to the young man who photographed the threat made as a comment about “being a professional school shooting” online and talked to the FBI. This young man had no connections and lived in another state from Florida. Yet he spoke up, saying “I just couldn’t let that go by.” Teens communicate almost exclusively through social media. They are aware many times of who is sending out signals of desperation, hatred, and intents. Parents also need to keep an open conversation and awareness with their children.
Another call is for a renewed effort on mental health. It will also take people beyond government or medical intervention to change the mental attitudes in American. The clergy can bring faith and understanding. Parents should get off their phones and get involved in real, everyday conversation with their children. All people in communities should keep their eyes open and be unafraid to speak out when needed. We are all in this together. Nevertheless, the debate goes on about gun control and mental health because the grief is real and most Americans hope that there can be an answer to the insanity.
VIDEO ON THE HISTORY OF GUNS IN AMERICA (Turn up sound)