Turmoil in our world is nothing new, but it seems these days we’re swirling faster and faster into chaotic times. In Europe, Syrians are fleeing from life-threatening situations daily; in Israel, it’s more of the same: Palestinians and Jews attacking each other with the same result — everybody loses. Here, headlines of police misconduct are replaced by college shootings. It certainly looks like chaos to me.
And we are nothing if not reactionary. I heard one report that said fewer students would have been killed if others had been armed as well. While some call for tighter gun laws, more restrictions on permits, and on and on, nothing of substance happens. Talk, as they say, is cheap, and has proved in the past to lead to no real or substantial change on any level. The only constant here is that the same scenario will repeat itself, maybe in a different location with a different number of casualties, but it will repeat unless we make systemic changes in the way we look at these situations and respond differently.
We live in a different world from the one that we remember from childhood. Then, the people being killed were on television programs, and we knew our neighbors and their children. While it wasn’t all “pie in the sky” with June Cleaver adjusting her pearls before she opened her door, it felt safer. Now, gunfights are playing out on city streets and road rage can lead to someone pointing a gun through a window to settle a dispute. It seems like some people are living in a poor excuse for a television movie, but they’re not. We’re reading about these realities ever day if we’re lucky and living them if we’re not.
We need to take luck out of the equation and put our Christian values and our faith into it. This is not a question of joining a march for a week or two; it’s a question of how much we care about our families and our neighbors and our parish communities. It means we have to stand up for systemic change or we may not be able to do anything but lock ourselves up and hope somebody does something about the terrible, traumatic or dangerous situation we find ourselves in. If we don’t do something soon, those are the only descriptive terms we’ll be using for the foreseeable future.
So, when people start lobbying for changes in gun laws, don’t just tune out automatically. Find out what those changes would actually mean if they somehow were made into laws. If tighter gun controls would screen applicants for emotional or mental instability, it has to be a step in the right direction. Politicians keep telling us that criminals don’t follow gun laws, but often the shooters at schools have followed the rules, and except for their emotional or mental instability, they are model citizens. Somehow, we need to address this issue of unstable but law-abiding citizens buying guns.
We have to begin someplace, and that seems to be one starting point. Knowing, responding and supporting families who struggle with emotional or mental disabilities is also a starting point. Unless we start someplace, we’ll never get anyplace at all.