Saturday, December 15, 2012

Armed and dangerous

The fact we're not surprised that a deranged gunman killed 26, then himself, in Connecticut on Friday may not be the principal horror, but one worth considering. Such occurrances seem inevitable now; not a question of "if," but of "when." Even in bucholic Iowa, where we've been relatively lucky so far.

Iowa seems to specialize in armed sons, brothers and other male kinfolk who gun down family members at the dinner table or while abed because of greed or imagined offenses.

It is necessary to go back to 1991, when University of Iowa graduate student Gang Lu shot five to death in Iowa City allegedly because of his own academic disappointments to find something comparable. Or to look next door to Omaha, where a gunman killed eight at Westroads Mall during 2007. We may have time to deflect what increasingly seems unavoidable.


My Facebook feed and e-mail box have been filled with calls for prayer --- for the victims, their families and the community where the shootings occurred. That's fine. But it's useful to remember that if we have the courage of our convictions, we also believe that a loving God does not need to be nudged by our prayers into comforting the afflicted.

Nor that, if we pray for peace and an end to violence, God will impose it. We are the instruments. A substantial percentage of those prayers should be for ourselves, petitioning for the wisdom, courage and the fortitude needed to become instruments of peace. Then for support as we go out and become.


As others have pointed out, understanding and offering care to the mentally ill is a part of that "becoming." Those who argue that "guns don't kill, people do," are half right. People do, and in the majority of instances, perhaps universally when mass shootings are involved, the shooters are deranged.

But mental health remains one of the most neglected areas of comprehensive care. Too many still believe mental illness is more of a personal weakness than a biological affliction, that it can be willed or prayed away. Or are so shamed by their own degree of madness, or that of those they know and love, they are unwilling to ask for help.

The mental health safety net in Iowa, and elsewhere, is a disgrace.


And we certainly live in a shoot-em-up gun culture, something perhaps more evident to outsiders than it is to ourselves. Random acts of violence occur in all cultures, but we specialize in them, in part because we view guns as solutions, rather than as tools and dangerous toys, elevating firearms in some circles to iconic status.

Part of the blame rests on organizations like the National Rifle Association, which dissipates its usefulness as an advocate for sportspeople and an educator in the field of responsible gun ownership and use by playing the power game and elevating the mythic right to bear arms to near-religious status among the fearful, angry and/or misinformed.

Relatively few want to disarm hunters and, at the moment, insufficient numbers want to take advanced weapons away from those who enjoy playing with or fondling them in a responsible manner. That most likely will change as it has in nearly all other Western nations. If it does, the excesses of the NRA and its band of true believers will bear primary responsibility.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this thoughtful and lucid post.

Another disturbing notion that I've seen floating around Facebook and elsewhere seems to imply that this horrific event has taken place because (apparently) God has been removed from public schools.

Here's an examples:

"Until our culture and society, as a whole, starts believing in Someone greater than themselves, these tragedies will continue..."

Maybe I just understand God differently than most folks...

Ben Mackey said...

First off, I want to say that I'm not perfect or am saying that you are right or wrong.... here it comes.... BUT a few things disturbed me about your article.

I think a lot of US are still surprised when a gunman goes off either in a movie theater, mall, or school. A majority, I'd love to think, are not numb to this horror yet.

As I read through your blog, it surprised me that you stated that we believe in a God that 'doesn't need nudged into comforting the afflicted.' WOW... that's kinda bold really. No, He does not need us to tell Him what needs to be done; He knew before we did. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are asked to pray for those in need and those who are hurt... so, YES, we DO need to pray to Our Father for the forgiveness of such acts like this and for the families affected.

It also sounds as though you oppose those who have them recreational weapons and the NRA. Why? People are gonna have the artillery whether it's legal or through the black market. Most the people I know that own them, use them for hunting purposes. Many others have ranges built in their yards for the other guns; practicing and having fun shooting bowling pins and what-not. They haven't threatened to shoot or kill anyone that I know of. It's kinda like your guilty by association and it's really not fair.

I don't hunt nor do I own a gun. Doesn't mean I think nobody else should. Same goes for alcohol. I don't drink yet do I push the issue of drunks wandering outta the bars or getting sloshed for other various reasons, nope.

I realize this is YOUR blog, but it seemed hateful and you're blaming Iowa gun owners and the rest of American gun owners for the most part, for what happened there in Connecticut.

I enjoy what the Anonymous said about their understanding of how God is... hits home.

I do think things would be better if people didn't fight God, example: No prayer in schools - taking God out, wanting to change the pledge because it had 'God' in it. We talk about the importance of our founding fathers and what they did for the country. Many were believers and their faith drove them.

Anyway.... just a few things I noticed. I think it was a little off based as far as "we" are concerned. Maybe replace all the "we" with "me" and "I" and it would be more fitting.

Frank D. Myers said...

A useful critique --- thanks for taking the time to make it in such a thoughtful manner.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the issue goes much deeper than the pros and cons re guns. Our society seems to have accepted, even gloried in some cases, a culture of violence. Children now grow up "enjoying" TV, as well as video games, where slaughter of humans is the norm. The producers of such are excercising their freedom of expression but, if society, didn't watch and/or purchase it, it would not be profitable and we would not be inundated with as much trash. The horrific would not seem as commonplace or acceptable -- and, just perhaps, there would be less stimulas toward planting ideas or filling already sick minds with the unthinkable. It may sound trite but we are back to family values and parental influence. A little religious influence and belief in a Higher Power wouldn't hurt either!

Frank D. Myers said...

It would be difficult to dispute the mindless violence we've become accustomed to in the entertainment media. I watched episodes of a post-2000 series starring Tom Selleck as a small-town police chief recently. Golly, that was fun I thought. Then it occurred to me that my hero had shot a substantial percentage of his co-stars to death in very graphic fashion.