In the early moments following the news of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the reactions throughout social media varied along the lines of shock, expressions of prayer, grief, sadness, and even hand-wringing about current government policy. Both celebrities and my friends voiced their feelings, grasping for a way to make sense out of the madness of such an indescribable tragedy.
When situations like Newtown occur, the discussion invariably turns to gun control. At face value, this doesn’t seem unreasonable. After all, firearms were involved. But a closer examination of the facts simply doesn’t bear out a justification for addressing a symptom instead of the greater illness.
Consider some similar tragedies:
9/11: The greatest terrorist act in our lifetimes was committed without a single gun.
Oklahoma City Bombing: Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building using fertilizer and diesel fuel.
Bath Township, Michigan: The deadliest mass murder in a school in American history involved dynamite and pyrotol. Although the perpetrator did use a firearm, the majority of the deaths occurred as a result of bombs that were set in the school building.
On the same day as the shooting in Newtown, 22 children were attacked with a knife at an elementary school in China. The point of all this is to say that the choice of weapon is immaterial. No restrictions on guns, knives, fertilizer, or box-cutters will eliminate the dangerous potential of the human mind.
Corresponding to that, some have pointed out that instead of guns, more needs to be done to help those with mental illness, and rightly so. There is certainly a great deal of validity to that perspective. However, I think the thrust of both approaches, while well-intentioned, is to use policy to address a much more basic problem.
Government policy or funding cannot and will not solve this ongoing human crisis. When a person conceives an idea with the determination to commit an act so heinous and so evil in their mind and concludes that such an option is not only viable, but acceptable, no law will inevitably restrain them. Even in Newtown itself, the shooter obtained the weapons by theft; one report indicated that when he attempted to purchase a gun himself, he was denied.
One of the most common threads in these situations is a troubled home life. Certainly, there are many individuals who grow up in broken homes, suffer abuse, or experience great pain in their family, who rise above their hardships to live happy, healthy, and relatively normal lives. But the common denominator for the individuals who perpetrate these disasters remains difficult to ignore.
As a Christian and a person of faith, it’s very easy for me to say that the message of Christ is the solution to this epidemic. But for those who may not share my faith, I believe most of us can agree to conclude that those who commit these horrific acts are individuals who have experienced an absence of love in their lives. That absence could have been in the form of abuse, from family or even a bully. It could have simply been a lack of affection or demonstration of love.
And while I believe that love, in reflection of God’s own love toward humanity in sending His Son to Earth, is the ultimate solution, we will never be able to wipe evil from the face of this planet. But we can certainly try by doing even the smallest of things. A word of encouragement, an act of kindness, or even just a simple pat on the back might send someone on an altogether different course in life.
We each have an opportunity, with arguably less effort than passing a new law, to prevent these crises. But if we continue to look to government to solve a problem that love was meant to repair, we will find ourselves asking the same questions again and again. I hope and pray that we will search our own hearts to find real solutions and answers to tragedies like the one in Newtown.