Monday, July 28, 2008

Avoiding Tragedies like Knoxville

Two are dead and 5 critically injured after a man fired on the UU's of Knoxville yesterday. One of the dead apparently heroically stepped in front of the shooter. Two brave congregants tackled him while he was re-loading his gun. The Presbyterians across the street took in the shocked apparently during their own worship service and has opened their building to the congregation for a de-briefing/vigil this evening.

The perpetrator apparently planned and practiced this attack for reasons not yet made public. How anybody can be so evil as to shoot innocent people in a church is one question of the day. How people can risk their lives for others and offer their love and their building to grieving victims is the questions of goodness.

There's another question that is not being asked, which is, why we are putting up with all this gun violence in our society. As the minister of a Knoxville Baptist church mused in his blog, "The last place you'd expect gun violence is in the peace-loving Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church." There's no escape.

Of all the comments I read in news blogs yesterday, 98% were offering prayer and sympathy, 1% had been deleted as crass and hateful, and one...exactly one, suggested we ought to do something about guns. One minute later someone flashed back, "no law would ever prevent a man like this from getting a gun." In other words, all control is completely hopeless.

I don't think so. It would take time and effort to buy back guns in our society, but if a person had to go underground to get a gun, fewer people would do it...fewer and fewer with passing years. Just as there are far more people who use (legal) alcohol to get high than there are who use illegal drugs, so, as guns got harder and harder to find, maintain, and but annumition for, fewer and fewer people would shoot their fellow human beings.

The TVUUC perpetrator was observed by his neighbors in target practice. If that was an unusual enough and fraught enough activity that someone had alerted the police, this tragedy might have been averted. Or at least, without practice, his aim wouldn't have been so good.

This is the 5th church shooting in the past year or so; there have been more shootings like that in schools. Churches and Schools are the open places of our society. If we must close them down, disallow backpacks and guitar cases, be suspicious of the stranger or the angry...we will all lose far more than if we just start cracking down on guns.

Praying for the People of Knoxville, and for us all....


Anonymous said...

I do agree with you that decreased access to guns would lower the gun violence both premeditated or that of opportunity.

Historically when people are living in hard situations they often resort to violence. Just look at Haiti and the recent food riots. In America these situations are less frequent so when they occur a greater outrage is expressed. It is reported that this individual who attacked TVUU mentioned that he was angry that he could not get a job. With the current economic problems in this country we may see more signs of desperation acted out in violence.

As a society we need to address these social problems and take care of our neighbors when they are down or we may find ourselves victims of their frustrations.

Bill Baar said...

If we must close them down, disallow backpacks and guitar cases, be suspicious of the stranger or the angry...we will all lose far more than if we just start cracking down on guns.

I think we have a duty to our kids to be suspicious. An angry stranger is usually a red flag to be on guard.

Rellis said...

This is such a tragic and unwelcome reminder of the pain and brokenness in our sinful world. Our prayers go out to our brothers and sisters in Tennessee as they mourn in this time of loss. I pray that, though difficult, events like this will help unify the church in the hope of the Gospel.

I was thinking about this today and found that Christianity Today is offering a free resource called “Confronting Gun Violence.” I’ll include the link below for any of you who are interested. While we can never predict when an act of violence might occur, this download offers some precautionary measures churches can take to safeguard their people and facilities.

Again, my deepest sympathies go out to our friends in Knoxville and I pray that we can learn to prevent such tragedies in the days to come.

Anonymous said...

You are right that GUN violence might possibly be reduced over the course of...oh...say...100 years or so (remember, there are some 270 MILLION guns in the US that would have to be ferreted out and disposed of...not to mention the fact that anyone with some mechanical skills and basic machine tools can make a functional firearm in their garage if they wanted to)...but what about other kinds of violence?

Do you think evil in the world will be defeated by simply removing a tool from society? A tool that can be used just as easily to defend the innocent as to harm them?

Britain virtually banned guns several years ago and are now enmeshed in a battle against knife violence. Mexico has strictly regulated firearms for many years yet has a MUCH higher rate of violent crime than the US.

The problem isn't guns and never has been. The problem is basic violent nature of humankind. Violence has been a fact of human existence since the time of Caine and Abel and our culture and society reinforces that tendency in many ways.

In other words, you're barking up the wrong tree. Unsuccessfully attempting to take away a tool is not going to have the slightest effect on the violence in our culture.

You've also not put much thought into the implications of your proposal. Rights are not granted by law, they are granted by God. No law in the world can eliminate a right. Laws can only proffer consequences for exercising that right. Some people will be expressly willing to face and suffer those consequences rather than surrender their rights.

Would you stop worshiping God if it were outlawed tomorrow? Would you stop speaking out against gun violence if you were threatened with legal sanctions for doing so? Or would you continue exercising your rights and risk the consequences?

Some of us feel just as strongly about the right to keep and bear arms. You assume that the 80 million law abiding gun owners in the US will just dutifully surrender their rights just because you say so?

Remember the phrase "from my cold dead hands"? Some of us mean it. So, you're left with the question of how your new policy will be implemented.

Are YOU going to be the one to come knocking on our doors to forcibly confiscate our firearms? Or are you going to expect someone else to risk (and some to lose) their lives to enact your misguided policies?

Finally, one more point. Why does this single incident "prove" that guns should be banned, when the incident at the church in Colorado where an armed member of the congregation used a gun to end a violent attack and defend innocent lives didn't "prove" that gun ownership should be encouraged?

You're being a bit selective in your anecdotal evidence here. There is a term for this practice; term is "dancing in the blood of victims". That's what you're doing. This wasn't a "wake up call" for you. You are callously capitalizing on the misfortune of innocent victims to forward a pre-existing political agenda. And you call yourself a Christian? You should be ashamed.

I'll be praying for the victims of this tragedy and thanking God for the brave souls who, even though unarmed themselves, had the courage to put an end to the attack. In my humble opinion, that is the proper response to this incident...not exploiting the pain of others to score cheap political points.