Friday, December 21, 2012

All of the Above

Having read and listened to lots of commentary this past weekend, our response to this tragic event should probably be a complicated “all of the above.”

The Connecticut killer allegedly used automatic weapons, which allowed him to fire more rounds than he might have otherwise. No one expects the U.S. to accept European-style gun control, but do our citizens really need military-style assault weapons? Even an armed security person would be challenged trying to intervene in that situation. At some point, we have to draw a line or risk a domestic arms race. Do we all really want to become fully-equipped soldiers?

Obviously, more access to better mental health care is also part of the answer. There seem to be many parents across our nation struggling with children and teenagers who may very well be capable of similar acts. Can we do more to help them? Can we intervene earlier? We’re using prisons to isolate mentally ill people more than ever before. Is that the best we can do?

And what about violence in movies, computer games, etc.? Can we tone that down, at least for children? Can we do so without violating free speech? Obviously, it starts with parents, but when they fail, we all pay a price. Regulation always cuts into somebody’s profit, but sometimes it’s worth it.

Are there other more subtle issues involved, such as diet, environment, etc.? Many doctors claim the long-term use and cumulative effect of toxic chemicals in our food and environment cause mental health changes in many children. After subjecting an entire generation to such chemicals, are we seeing some evidence?

Finally, where is God in all this? Many claim we’ve removed God from our public schools. Personally, I don’t think God is that easily removed. We disagree about particular ideas and images of God, but God is always present. In fact, I hope and trust these children were fully in God’s loving presence and embrace long before the bullets struck them.

Perhaps our entire culture needs to slow down, simplify our lives and ponder the big picture. All of society shares some responsibility in what our children become. Unfortunately, our laws, actions and priorities form our children more than our words do.

We will never cut the risk of mass killings to zero, but surely we can do a variety of things to reduce it. I pray we will at least have the conversation.
Alan Shope

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