America's Dysfunctional Amnesia Continues to Cost Innocent Lives
The Covenant School shooting needs to be a wakeup call - before it happens again.
“Mass shootings were once so shocking they were impossible to forget. Now they've become so frequent it's hard to remember them all.” – Scott Pelley, CBS News
When a shooter mercilessly guns down six innocent people (including three children), the world ought to stop turning, at least until we can ensure it never happens again.
But the sad truth is that in today’s polarized and desensitized culture, when something unthinkable like this occurs, we mourn, we hug our babies close – and then we move on. Nothing changes, except for the lives of those immediately touched by this tragedy. Those lives are irreparably torn to shreds.
For how much longer will we allow – perhaps even enable – these shootings to take place?
I’ve decided to write about this one since it hits uncomfortably close to home. Our kids attend a school that’s a mirror image of The Covenant School in Nashville: a suburban, pre-k – 6th grade Presbyterian school, and also a ministry of an adjoining PCA church. Our school has several personal ties: before coming here, our Head of School served as Assistant Head of School at Covenant. Our church pastor is friends with the pastor of theirs…who now carries the unthinkable burden of losing a child.
The connections don’t stop there – but the violence needs to. What are we waiting for? So far this year, there have been 128 mass shootings (defined as four or more fatalities) in just 86 days.
Will one of these shootings ever serve as an inflection point that will change the course of this unnecessary, hellish trend?
Perhaps naively, I thought this one might have what it takes. Reports say the mentally unstable shooter owned seven guns, all bought legally. The causes behind mass shootings are certainly complex. But why can’t we simplify the problem by making particularly dangerous rapid-fire weapons less readily available – particularly to those with documented mental health issues?
Unfortunately, so far it seems the massacre at The Covenant School has not been the wakeup call America so desperately needs. Instead uniting over of the loss of innocent lives, Americans are sinking to new lows of divisiveness and disrespect towards one another.
Is this what the victims’ families would want?
Here’s my meager attempt to bridge the divide, because as they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something to change.
The NRA says it's a mainstream media myth that AR-15’s are the weapon of choice for mass shootings, but statistics can be as pliable as Play-Doh. In the 17 most deadly shootings since 2012, AR-15’s were used in 11 of them, including at Covenant.
This particular semi-automatic weapon is the #1 selling gun in America. Industry figures show that roughly 1 in 20 US adults own at least one of them. But even Former President Donald Trump questioned their necessity: “I don’t know why anyone needs an AR-15,” he told aides in August 2019. Of course he quickly reigned in those sentiments due to pressure from the NRA and his conservative base, to whom the AR-15 has become a popular hunting rifle as well as a symbol of freedom, masculine strength and patriotism.
After the shooting, conservative Christian podcast host Allie Beth Stuckey wrote on social media: “There is no use reasoning with people who have more concern for transphobia than for the lives of the little children murdered by a terrorist.” She’s referring, in part, to the trans activists who seem more preoccupied with potential attacks on the transgender community than the tragedy of the mass shooting itself. Less than 24 hours after the massacre, one activist stated: “I didn’t sleep at all last night. I’m worried after reading all these hateful comments.”
Sweeping generalizations aside, it’s a valid point. But here’s what I’d add:
There’s also little use reasoning with people who have more concern for their own recreational right to own AR-15 guns than for the lives of the little children murdered by a terrorist.
I use the word ‘recreational’ because there are plenty of other firearms that can be used for self-defense and hunting.
Unfortunately, plenty of research shows that efforts to tighten gun control laws in a piecemeal manner doesn’t really make a difference. But here’s some food for thought: when our Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, the world was a completely different place. Since the United States had just achieved independence, it made sense to codify Americans’ right to defend themselves against the government and any other imminent threats.
Our Constitution has held up incredibly well throughout the history of our young nation, but our Founding Fathers couldn't have possibly predicted that in the future we’d be bombarded with desensitizing depictions of violence, whether it be from TV shows, movies, or social media. And perhaps worst, civilians now experience this adrenaline firsthand thanks to popular video games like Call of Duty. Its digital weaponry is exceedingly accurate, since AR-15 manufacturers literally helped video game creators replicate every aspect of the firearm.
Imagine if, in the 1700s, the concept of crazed individuals shooting up parades, concerts and schools were as commonplace as it is today. Would the Second Amendment have been written any differently, or include any caveats?
Something has to change – while keeping our fundamental right to protect ourselves intact.
Perhaps a mom who narrowly escaped death during the Highland Park parade shooting and interrupted the Nashville press conference said it best: “Only in America can you survive a mass shooting and go and make a friend who is the victim of a mass shooting and then go to meet that friend for lunch … and end up in the middle of another mass shooting event.” She says her once happy seven year-old became angry and sullen after the Highland Park tragedy: “He said to me, ‘I didn’t realize I could just die at any time.’”
It's mind-blowing that the richest, freest nation in the world has this blemish; one that’s becoming more like a cancer with each new mass shooting. How can we consider ourselves truly free when we fear for the lives of our kids as they go to school every day? School should be a place where we drop them off and then breathe a sigh of relief knowing they’re in good hands – and in a safe place. That’s what I naively thought until the Nashville shooting occurred at a school so similar to ours.
Many Americans have forgotten or refuse to believe that there are people on both sides of the aisle who truly want what’s best for our country – and that bad people don’t solely exist behind enemy lines. So for the sake of these six victims and all the others, both in the past and those who might be next…let's set aside our stubbornness and work together to come up with real solutions. Let’s change social media algorithms so that extreme, divisive voices aren’t the loudest and most influential. Sure, headlines and posts about “cooperation” sounds far less exciting than the incendiary ones. But we need to value and pay attention to non-polarizing voices of reason, because coming together is the only way to end this horrific epidemic.
This opinion piece is also featured on AllSides News.
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