Why Gun Control and Mental Illness are Not The Main Issues

It happened while my youngest daughter was in surgery. Another school shooting. As a result, I couldn’t cry and mourn the loss of 17 lives until today. I needed to stay strong for my baby girl.

But I was able to bring her home from the hospital. I was able to laugh at her sweet and funny comments, to squeeze her, to have bedtime prayers. The privilege of this is not lost on me.

And so today, I mourn. The increase in school shootings just this year cannot be ignored. Our country is facing an internal terrorism that keeps growing. But it strikes me as odd that we are surprised by this. When will we wake up to the fact that something needs to change?

I usually don’t add my voice to the cacophony of voices that arise after a tragedy. But my focus this year is on being a light in dark places and being willing to shine the light of Christ when difficulties arise. And so, I am compelled to say something.

The issue of violence against another human being is as old as time. The story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis 4 shows the result of pride and jealousy in the heart of one brother and how that resulted in the murder of the other.

While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. ~Genesis 4:8

Just the verse before, the Lord had warned Cain that if he did not do what was right then sin was crouching at his door. If Cain did not rule over that sin, it would get the best of him. We know that it got the best of him, since he killed Abel because he was angry that his brother was rewarded and he wasn’t.

Tale as old as time.

The true issue behind school shootings starts in the heart of humanity. We all have sin crouching at our door, but our society glorifies sin instead of seeing it for the ugly thing that it is. We like to believe that everyone is basically good, until a tragedy occurs and we are confronted with the results of sin growing and ruling over a young kid, allowing him to commit murder of innocent lives. Since we are unable to admit that we are all desperate sinners in need of saving grace, we have to come up with excuses for why this tragedy happened. We blame gun control laws. We examine the shooters mental instability. We blame the authorities for not catching the signs. We blame the teachers, the parents, the school, social media, whoever and whatever we can to make sense of something that cannot be made sense of.

What it boils down to is this. We need Jesus. We are sinners who but for the grace of God will be ruled by our sin and do horrible things.

The message we keep feeding kids is that they are enough, they should do what makes them happy, that they should have it their way, and they should fight for their rights. Diet Coke’s newest advertisement, “Because I can” falls flat in light of a school shooting when the shooter could legitimately use that phrase to defend his rampage.

Do you see the insidious nature of sin? We are raising entitled kids who believe they can have it all and do whatever they want and then we are shocked when a tragedy like this occurs.

When I was in 6th grade, my class sang the song, “The Greatest Love of All” as part of an assembly. I remember my parents struggling with allowing me to perform with my class because they did not believe this song was proclaiming truth. In the end, they let me sing with my class, but they sat me down and we had a long conversation about how loving ourselves will never be enough. The message they shared was from Jeremiah 17:9…

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

Learning to love ourselves and trust our own instincts can be a dangerous thing, because we don’t always want the right things. In fact, without the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are incapable of any good. We might be kind to others because we believe that is the right thing to do, but what happens when someone isn’t kind to us? If we genuinely examine our hearts, we will see selfishness and pride crouching at our door.

If this message isn’t settling right with you, it’s because we have a warped view of ourselves. We believe that if we admit we aren’t enough, then everything will crumble. We desperately need to believe we are good enough because if we’re not, what are we? What do we have? But the grace and the freedom, the hope and the joy that is found in admitting that we cannot save ourselves, that we are sinners in need of a Savior is the best news! We don’t have to rule over our sin in our own strength. We can instead accept that in our inadequacies, Christ is sufficient. He paid the price for our sins, so that we could have his strength at work in us ruling over our sin and allowing us to love others in the way He intended.

If you’ve made it this far, it’s probably because you agree with me that Jesus is the only answer for the horrors and the tragedies of life. But I want to be clear that I do believe that we need to take a much harder look at gun control laws. Should a semi-automatic gun be sold to anyone just because they can pass a background check? WHY are guns being sold anyway? What are the penalties for adults who own the guns that are used in school shootings? How can a young adult whose brain isn’t fully formed be able to purchase a gun without checking school and mental health records? These questions need to be answered.

I have read many opinions of people who believe the family of offenders need to be held responsible and I agree with this- to a certain degree. The problem is that usually by the time a person gets to the point of murder, the parents have not had any control for some time. In the case of the recent Florida shooting, it sounds like the authorities were aware of issues with the offender as multiple issues had arisen in the previous decade. It sounds like the adoptive mom tried to help her son over and over and over again. Which brings us to a different issue. Parents of struggling kids generally feel helpless. Many have tried to help their kids in whatever way they can. But if a teenage boy who is stronger than his mother decides not to take his medicine that will keep him stable, what can a mom do? Rather than labeling children and writing them off when they become too difficult, we need to have a shift in our society. We need to stop fighting against kids who exhibit irrational behaviors and start fighting for them. We need to provide support to parents who feel completely incapable of helping their children and we need to pour love on kids especially when we don’t understand their behavior.

I know these are not simple questions and there is no easy answer. But I do know with absolute certainty that if we keep putting bandaids on this gushing wound, there will never be any resolution to this issue. We will continue to see these tragedies occur and we will continue to mourn the loss of life.

We need Jesus.