Responding to the Murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Several posts on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings have come out, and I just want to share some here.

Why do teachers protect their students during a shooting? Because they care deeply about their students.

We see it again at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and we stand in awe of this courage and commitment to young lives. What is it that compelled principal Dawn Hochsprung to charge the shooter who threatened her school and kids? What prompted teacher Victoria Soto to position herself before a huddle of students, making herself the shooter’s target?

During the Virginia Tech massacre, Holocaust survivor and engineering professor Liviu Librescu gave his life while his students escaped, blocking the door with his body, while he was shot through the door. Many Sandy Hook teachers acted similarly. Let their heroism be remembered.

Gun control is a pro-life issue, by the way. I have heard people claim otherwise. Fr. James Martin:

Gun control is a religious issue. It is just as much of what many religious people call a “life issue” or a “pro-life issue,” as is abortion, euthanasia or the death penalty (all of which I oppose), and programs that provide the poor with the same access to basic human needs as the wealthy (which I am for). There is a “consistent ethic of life” that views all these issues as linked, because they are.

More on the idolatry of guns:

BACK IN 1990, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) issued this warning: “The religious community must … take seriously the risk of idolatry that could result from an unwarranted fascination with guns, which overlooks or ignores the social consequences of their misuse.” Two decades later, about 660,000 more Americans have been killed by guns, with a million more injured.

Yes, 660,000 dead in 22 years. That’s a Civil War scale death toll, and we call it normal. One million since 1968. The British paper The Telegraph comments:

The statistics are even more heart-breaking when applied to the young. The slaughter of children by gunfire in the United States is 25 times the rate of the 20 next largest industrial countries in the world combined. If you add them all up, since the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968, well over a million Americans, children and adults, have been shot to death, and even now 80 people die in this manner every day. The terrible slaughter on Friday is not as unusual as it should be.

And what about other nations without firearms, are they not plagued by illegal guns with no-one able to stop them? How about Japan? In 2006, they had only two firearms deaths. Two. In 2008 the US had 12,000.

Of the world’s 23 “rich” countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America’s ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of America’s.

But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world’s least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

But what price freedom? Don’t we need all these guns to protect us from government tyranny? If one is that paranoid, one should consider that perhaps widespread gun ownership is exactly what the tyrannical powers want right now. A population in fear. A population without trust, fragmented. No Second-Amendment-mandated militias organized to “save” you. Yes, if you are one of those types, you have already been had.

Gun rights advocates also argue that guns provide the ultimate insurance of our freedom, in so far as they are the final deterrent against encroaching centralized government, and an executive branch run amok with power… I have often suspected, however, that contrary to holding centralized authority in check, broad individual gun ownership gives the powers-that-be exactly what they want.

After all, a population of privately armed citizens is one that is increasingly fragmented, and vulnerable as a result. Private gun ownership invites retreat into extreme individualism — I heard numerous calls for homeschooling in the wake of the Newtown shootings — and nourishes the illusion that I can be my own police, or military, as the case may be. The N.R.A. would have each of us steeled for impending government aggression, but it goes without saying that individually armed citizens are no match for government force. The N.R.A. argues against that interpretation of the Second Amendment that privileges armed militias over individuals, and yet it seems clear that armed militias, at least in theory, would provide a superior check on autocratic government.

But ultimately, this is about some kind of freedom, right? People want guns.

“How could we have let this happen?”

It is a horrible question because the answer is so simple. Make it easy for people to get guns and things like this will happen.

Children will continue to pay for a freedom their elders enjoy.

This matter is our choice.  We have unwittingly, collectively, chosen something horrible.  But we can choose again and choose better. We do not have to live like this.

I pray that we as a nation find the strength to make a better choice. Deuteronomy 30:19:

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Amen.

If you contributed one of the links, thank you.


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