Falling Short

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

February, 2018

I know guns. I know they can be owned responsibly and believe the vast majority of gun owners are very responsible.

But the easy availability of military-style automatic rifles is anything but responsible. I’m no bleeding heart, and I’m no enemy of the Second Amendment, but it’s high time to put an end to our bleeding.

The tragedy in Parkland, Florida is only the latest in a sickening string of horrors plaguing our country. I don’t believe we’re so callous to have grown complacent or desensitized to this cultural disease. But we’re sorely lacking the will to develop a rational strategy of prevention.

When it comes to guns, rationality escapes us.

A sin can be defined as a transgression against divine or moral law, or falling short of upholding justice. For our social well-being, we follow established norms of behavior. We share a compact with each other to promote everyone’s safety. Allowing any type of grievous act on our children and neighbors to recur with heartbreaking regularity means we’ve broken faith with each other. It’s an injustice. Collectively, we’ve sinned; fallen short.

Some people behave abhorrently, and we shouldn’t be held individually responsible for the bad actions of another person. We can’t personally prevent every jerk from speeding dangerously down the street, but we know traffic signals and speed humps make that crime less likely to occur. We share the same road and impose limits on ourselves for the mutual good. It doesn’t mean anyone is taking away our right to drive.

When a mass shooting occurs, the loss of life and physical and emotional trauma is bad enough. Even one such instance should be sufficient to awaken a national moral imperative to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

But one of the most distressing aspects of this phenomenon is our collective failure to find common-sense solutions. We predictably hear entrenched, fear-based arguments that solve nothing. The fear of losing personal rights – stoked by those who profit from the sale of assault rifles – results in yelling right past each other instead of engaging in rational dialogue.

We behave as if our social compact to reasonably care for one other and ensure justice plays second fiddle to our anxious need to protect rights that are truly not in jeopardy. If instead we faced an arson epidemic, where houses filled with children were being torched using flamethrowers, would prohibiting the sale of flamethrowers diminish anyone’s right to purchase a barbecue lighter?

Since we’re talking guns however, we keep arguing about rights as carnage erupts again and again. We pause to offer “thoughts and prayers” as the faces of more victims scroll across our TV screens. We’re shocked, horrified, and grieved, but never so much that we summon the nerve to demand that our lawmakers protect the rights of everyone to live, work, and learn in safety. We’ve fallen short, again.

Surely, we’re smarter, saner, and more faithful to one other and to God than this. Thoughts and prayers matter, but thus far they haven’t prevented mass murder with an AR-15. Loving and protecting our neighbors and doing justice requires common sense, moral courage, and action.

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