Compassion, Grief, Gun Control, Prayer, Understanding

To El Paso and Dayton:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalm 23:1-6)

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates and congregations of those lost in this weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

I am outraged.

And heartbroken.

Another 31 precious lives have been lost. Lives with promise. Lives whose light has been extinguished all too soon. Lives that ended in fear and hatred and the violence both breed. I’ve been silent of late, an act of cowardice, as I’ve tried to avoid becoming too political, or entering into the media-driven hype that typically surrounds politics–no matter what side of the aisle you sit on.

But I cannot be silent anymore. This has got to STOP.

These 31 people, and the dozens more that were wounded in the shootings, should’ve enjoyed an evening of dancing and socializing with friends, or finished their grocery, home and/or school shopping without fear that this would be their last stop on earth. It has gotten so that many of us–most of us–search every public place for the nearest exits. We study each face carefully. We consider what we would do if a local terrorist walked into our school, our church, synagogue, temple or mosque, our place of employment, the movie theater, restaurant or night club, and now, even the local Walmart with a semi-automatic weapon…just in case. We preach about our freedoms. In this case, as with every other shooting–I believe the number is 251 mass shootings this year alone (but don’t quote me on that)–our second amendment rights are thrown out like a badge. Somehow, I don’t think mass shootings in places of worship, recreation or education was what our forefathers had in mind when they drafted the Bill of Rights.

How free are we if we are living in terror? How free are we if a deranged killer can wreak havoc, killing 31 bright beings in a matter of seconds?

Yes, seconds.

Every news report I have watched on YouTube in the last couple of days says that the Dayton, Ohio police were already on the scene and took out the gunman in less than 30 seconds. He still managed to kill 9 people in those 30 seconds. And traumatize our nation yet again.

So this is not the fault of our men and women in blue.

I don’t remember which shooting it was in 2018 but I do remember one young lady saying in an interview that she had anticipated that it was only a matter of time before a shooter came to her school!!??! That’s the most heart-wrenching statement I have ever heard. Our school children EXPECT to be caught in a shooting before their academic careers are finished.

That’s the kind of freedom we’re defending.

Now before everyone stands up and says, “Oh, gee, another liberal Democrat trying to take away our guns” I say, NO!
As a former gun owner, and once an NRA supporter, I know there are millions of responsible gun owners in our nation who will never wind up on the evening news for killing someone. However, for what purpose does any gun owner, outside of our military forces, need a firearm that can kill 9 people in under 30 seconds? I don’t want to take away anyone’s right to bear arms but I do think it’s time we put a stronger definition as to what sort of firearms can be owned by the general population. We need tighter background checks. And a ban on anyone with a history of mental illness or violence owning one.

I know I am preaching to the choir; many of our politicians won’t–or can’t–get the laws passed that might make a difference. But my heart is breaking, along with every man, woman and child in the USA, every time I hear another death toll quoted on the nightly news. It should’ve stopped long ago, long before we reached 251 this year…or every year before.

To the citizens of El Paso and Dayton, and all across the country, if I could, I would wrap you in a warm hug right now and never let go. The best I can do, in lieu of that hug, is pray, cry along with you, and stop being a coward about speaking out, speaking up, on what matters most. It may not bring your loved ones back, but at least they won’t have died in vain. And maybe, just maybe, if my words here can convince others to do the same, then maybe we can re-focus on what really matters most: life..and all its beauty and forms.

May God bless you & keep you!

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