I remember in 1999, when I first heard about the shooting at Columbine High School, how shocked the world was that such a massacre could happen. Of course, there have been things like it in the past, but it seems like Columbine was the event that set off a stream of similar shootings that have happened way more frequently than ever before. It seems to happen so regularly now that we hardly cringe at the news report. What is the problem?
I don’t think there is one answer to why our country has become this way. But I do see some contributing factors. Let’s talk about them.
Guns are definitely a contributing factor. Without guns, this problem would immediately go away. Some countries have gone the route of banning either all guns or some guns. And, in all honesty, it has worked. You never hear about gun violence in Cuba. Why? Because no one has guns. Japan is a similar case. Australia has banned guns capable of mass shootings and they have fared well with that. So is that the answer for us?
Well, theoretically, it could be. However, in all practicality, it may not be feasible.
First of all, the amount of guns in the hands of citizens in the United States is staggering. There are 120 privately owned guns per 100 people in America. Yes, more guns than our entire population! There are almost 400 million firearms in the United States. No other country comes close to this amount. Not in ratio or volume. This puts us in a different scenario than other countries. It would take quite a feat to just cut that number in half, let alone be rid of them all.
Another factor to consider is how emotionally attached many Americans are to their firearms. To many Americans, firearms aren’t just for hunting or protecting their family, but a symbol of freedom. Only in a free country does the government allow citizens to have weapons. Since the United States is a government by the people and for the people, it stands to reason that the people should be the ones with the power. Firearms in the hands of the people is a symbol of that power for many. This is the idea behind the second amendment.
But, what if, besides these hurdles, there was an effort to either confiscate all the guns or at least the type of guns that can result in mass deaths. Would that work? Well, I’m sure it would work some. But the problem is that of the almost 400 million guns in the United States, only one million are registered. That is, we don’t know who owns what. And while I’m sure some law abiding citizens would be willing to part with their guns, it can be reasonably inferred that the type of people prone to commit mass murder would not be willing to disclose their ownership. And besides that, I know there would be many law-abiding citizens that would cease to be so if commanded to give up their guns. The emotional attachment is strong. So even if we banned all gun sales and conducted a mandatory gun buy-back, it’s likely that this country would still have more guns than citizens.
So what can we do?
One question we need to answer is WHY. Why are these mass shootings happening? They didn’t happen anywhere near as much before 1999. Why is it different now? We had all the same guns in the 20th century that we have now. Why is the 21st century so much bloodier?
I have some ideas. Below are some of the major contributing factors that I think set the stage for a mind to commit such evil. (Other factors indeed exist, but I think they stem from these three).
1. Lack of the fear of God.
2. Breakdown of families.
3. Violence in media and video games.
Lack of the fear of God
The United States has undoubtedly become less and less Christian and more and more secular. In my experience with public education, I heard very little about God and a whole lot about how I was no different than a chimpanzee. On TV, I watched a whole lot of programs that never mentioned God, but instead showed me a pretty amazing world without God. I did go to church growing up, but it never meant much to any of us. We pretty much lived in a world without God. We were not taught to fear Him.
Now what do I mean be that? What do I mean by fearing God? Fearing God refers to respecting God as the judge of the world. Fearing God means that you act in a way that respects who He is, much in the same way that you slow down when a police officer is in view. You know the power is in the officer to give you a ticket. We should also know that the power is in God to condemn our souls. A man that fears God would not dare hate or destroy that which is made in God’s image. His mind would be fully aware of the awful judgment of God. But now we see many people killing and hating each other. We also see murder-suicides on a frequent basis. This is sure evidence that fear of God is less than ever before.
What can we do?
We must return to God. It’s that simple. We need to take our spiritual lives seriously. We need to stop playing sports on Sundays and go to church every week. We need to read the Bible with our families. We need to pray together. The more you lead your family and friends away from God by your example, the more godlessness will permeate our society. We must set the example and not think that we will be guiltless before God if we do not.
The breakdown of the family
One thing leads to another, does it not? As our country has left her God, so has the family fallen apart. I don’t need to give any statistics because you are well enough aware of how rampant divorce is in our society. And not just divorce! The number of children born into single parent or unmarried households is staggering. In fact, I bet that divorce rates will fall as time goes by, because people aren’t getting married!
There are so many people that do not have the privilege of growing up with a both a mom and dad in the same house. Some are without a dad, period. Many without mom or dad, but who are raised by grandparents or foster care. The emotional trauma of not having a mom to care for you or a dad to discipline you can be severe. Of course, many single moms and dads do a fantastic job. I don’t want to belittle that. And many children of single parents turn out great. However, the point I want to make is that the core family unit that is designed to provide emotional stability to young lives is falling apart all around us. There are many cases of broken people because of parents who skipped out on them when they were children or just simply didn’t provide the emotional support that they should have. And the more broken families we have, the more broken people there will be.
What can we do?
First of all, we need to get married and stay married. And not have kids before we are married. We also need to understand that our personal happiness is not more important than our children’s well-being. We need to stop being so selfish. Too many marriages are broken up with very little effort to fix them. We need to throw out the word ‘divorce,’ except for extreme cases. We need to be faithful to our wedding vows. We need to be committed to our spouses. We need to love our children.
We also need to provide as much support to single parents as we can. Single parents can indeed raise a child to be a successful and productive citizen. It happens all the time. But it is much harder. They need our support.
Now think of the child who has fallen victim to a godless society and a broken family. He’s taught in school that he’s nothing more than an animal that dies and goes to the dirt. He’s emotionally damaged because of the brokenness of his family. He’s left alone for hours with unsupervised access to every kind of violent and filthy thing that can be viewed. He plays games that depict realistic violence, including extremely popular first person games that puts a virtual rifle in his hands and rewards him for a high body count. Can you see where I’m going with this?
I have a question to ask. How in the world can a young man go into a public place and watch himself blast away an innocent human being and not be shocked at his own actions? How can he go from one person to another without being repulsed by the horror and bloodshed? For most people, even killing an animal is shocking. How much more a human being? Could it be that these men have seen such realistic gore so often that it is nothing new to them? I think common sense answers that question in the affirmative.
I remember in the mid-nineties when I first laid hands on the Mortal Kombat video game. It was a big controversy in those days. What kind of impact would a graphically violent video game have upon the mind? Could it turn a young mind violent? Many people balked at the idea that it could. Well, now we have mass shootings every week. Perhaps we shouldn’t have shouted down the old fuddy-duddies that warned us about these things. Now we are burying bullet ridden bodies on the regular.
What can we do?
This should be the easiest of all solutions. We should quit making graphically violent movies and video games. Of course, this will never happen. Why? Because money. Because people care more about making money than saving a few lives. That’s why. Violent movies and video games are immensely popular. They are also absolutely unnecessary. But Hollywood will keep making them because of money. And video game makers will keep making them because of money. And the consumers will fight for their lust for violence. They will holler and yell that there’s no connection between media violence and actual violence. They are wrong, of course. But their lusts will urge them on.
You can keep yourself and your children from violent media and you should. You can also fear God and keep your family together. But that doesn’t help the young man from a broken and abusive home, raised in godlessness and saturated in graphic violence. What can we do about him? The guy that is likely to become a mass killer?
I have two solutions.
First of all we all need to do a better job at reaching out to broken people. If we all would take time to reach out and mentor a hurting child, it would make all the difference in the world. You can never replace a father or a mother, but you could be the emotional stability that someone needs to help them get through.
Secondly, and I hate to say this, but I think more law abiding citizens need to start carrying guns. I know it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a solution that can save lives. If even one person shoots back at a mass shooter, it would very likely thwart the attack. Most often these mass shooters enter an establishment brazenly, not expecting any resistance. If even one in every one hundred citizens were armed and trained, many lives could potentially be saved.
This also must be accompanied by a ban on gun-free zones. The only gun-free zones that make any sense are ones that have armed guards with metal detectors at every entrance. Otherwise, a gun-free zone is a perfect target for a mass killer. This is common sense.
Of course, it’s not for everyone to carry a gun. But if you are a competent person, and you have the means to be armed properly and trained, I would say do it.
But this is all said in concession. In a perfect world, this would not be necessary. We don’t have this perfect world yet. However, there is a promise that we will one day beat our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks. That will be a good day. I’m looking forward to it.