Three years ago I wrote an article for the Dominican Sisters of Peace entitled, “Children Killing Children Must End Now.” It was written days after the shooting in Chardon, OH, in a high school cafeteria in which one child killed three children and wounded three more. He did it with his grandparents’ 22-caliber handgun, which he took from their home on a visit.
When I was asked a few weeks ago to write again, I said “yes.” Since then I have sat down three times to write and came up empty. What can I say? What can any of us say?
Since Daniel Parmertor, Russell King Jr., and Demetrius Hewlin were killed in a small town, thousands of shootings have taken place and hundreds of them have involved children killing other children. In a sense, every senseless act of gun violence is one of a child killing a child. It is one child of God murdering another child of God. Each time this happens God weeps. God weeps as God wept when Cain killed Abel and set the murderous cycle of the human family in motion.
The media and politicians – even religious leaders – focus too often on the mental health of the shooters. While it is true each attacker is suffering a psychic break of some sort, it is still the gun fired from their fingertips that shatters the world of everyone around them. Recently, a young man struggling with mental illness told me on a pastoral visit that he and others in his in-patient unit are troubled that the world sees them as violent simply because they struggle with mental illness. “We feel as though the world blames us and fears us for these mass shootings. We are here trying to get better. We don’t want to hurt anyone. That’s all.” Mental illness is not the trigger for the gun. The gun has its own trigger.
As my son Daniel has said, “How do NRA advocates live with themselves by saying, ‘guns don’t kill people. People kill people?'” Daniel continues, “It really is the guns, dad! Don’t people see through this rhetoric?”
We are facing an epidemic. If this were Ebola, AIDS, lung cancer, caused by children smoking or Legionnaires disease affecting our children and families, we would be doing everything in our power to eradicate the disease. But, we seem to worship guns instead of seeing their deadly power and influence over us.
Currently, there is a ratio of one gun for every American. Again, if the ratio of any disease was one-to-one our facing the crisis of such illness would be the major health initiative for the United States. We would do everything in our power to end such a disease.
By doing nothing, our nation’s hospital emergency rooms will continue to fill with the blood of our children; nursing homes will fill with young survivors of gun violence, weeping in funeral homes and churches will continue; our schools will become more and more militarized; teachers from kindergarten through college will become armed; the strain on our prison population will rise and our medical, legal and insurance costs will continue to skyrocket. Most significantly, the death toll among our children will rise. By doing nothing, we allow gun violence terror to continue to reign supreme in our land.
As Christians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. As Dominicans, we are an order of preachers called to preach the Gospel with Holy Fire. God’s Holy Fire in our lives must pray against, stand against, preach against and march against firearms out of control. Perhaps we should call the movement Holy Fire vs. Fire Arms.
So let us follow Jesus and preach and act with a Holy Fire against the carrying and firing of guns all around us. When Jesus’ disciple, Peter, struck Malchus with a sword slicing off his ear in self-defense, Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its sheath” (John 18:10-11a). Let us join with our Lord, and say together, “Sheath your weapons.”
As we do this, let us remember that the only group of people that benefit from guns being purchased and used with few restrictions are those associated with the gun industry.
To end gun violence we need to begin immediately. Wherever there are legislators making it easier to buy and sell guns, we must oppose these efforts. We must offer legislation which ends the easy purchase, sale and use of handguns and automatic weapons.
Our children and the children of our churches are watching us and hoping and praying that they are safe to enter our churches and our schools and grow in faith, wisdom and understanding of God and life. Their future peace depends on our efforts now.
We all agree that children killing children must end. Let’s do our part to see that this happens. By the way, some of my words are exactly the same as those shared three years ago. May God’s Holy Fire fill us with new resolve for action.