After the mass killing in Aurora last week, I got on my high horse. I was sure we needed tougher gun laws. When people threw up their hands and said, “Who in the world needs assault rifles!” I agreed. When people expressed outrage that someone could buy 6,000 rounds of ammo online, I said, “Duh!”
I still think it’s crazy to flood this country with 200 million guns. Assault rifles for average citizens is still pretty stupid policy. And clicking a mouse to buy a truck full of bullets remains manifestly insane.
But today I climbed off my high horse. I happened to read in the paper about the profiles of these spree killers. Most of them have an exaggerated sense of their own importance—and they’re wounded when others don’t share their self-estimation. Most of them have suffered some serious setback. They’ve been rejected at school, cashiered at work, or told to get packing at home. They typically lead solitary lives. They’ve usually been depressed. Many develop more severe psychological disorders.
In other words, the root problem is psychological, social, spiritual. Sure, it’s hideous when desperate people have access to Rambo’s arsenal, but that’s secondary. And short of writing my congressman and senator, there’s not much I can do about it. Which may be why I immediately go there when mayhem like this happen. I can rant and pontificate and sound really progressive. But I don’t have to do anything.
Tragedies like Aurora ought to make us look around. Who in my family, my neighborhood, my school is cut off? Who’s suffered a set-back, been rejected, turned away? Who’s showing signs of depression, anger, bitterness? Who looks lonely? Those are the people who need someone to notice. Someone to care. Call professionals who can advise and help.
There are lots of tragedies short of killing sprees that capture the world’s attention. Every day people recede further and further from friends and community and we look the other way. Every day teenagers teeter on the edge. We can’t save everybody, but we can show love and compassion to those God has put in our path today.
I’d much rather pose as some policy know-it-all at a dinner party, but if I actually want to do something that makes a difference, brings healing and blessing and restores people to family and community, I will get off my high horse and put my arm around someone who looks lonely today.