How Can Darkness Cast Out Darkness?

We live in a time of darkness. That darkness is rooted in evil. The darkness seems overwhelming and feeds fear and breeds distrust.

Besides the epidemics of opioids and COVID, we are also experiencing the epidemics of un-democracy, denial, ignorance, and assault weapons – all are rooted in darkness and fed by fear and distrust. The desire to overcome this darkness is thwarted by Einstein’s definition of insanity – “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

On April 22, 1999, I flew out to Littleton, CO for business. Not far from my business dealing was the scene of, at that time, the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history at Columbine, H.S. The whole Denver area was a sea of grief and disbelief that this mass killing could come to be. Like the recent Uvalde, TX mass killing, police were criticized for their response. That mass killing lead to rapid action deployment against active shooters. School security increased dramatically nationwide. Conversations focused on parenting and violence in video games and movies. Debates began on gun laws, gun control, gun locks, gun owner background checks, and better-policing methods. Editorials spoke of making efforts to get a grip on this violence growing in our country.

Here we are 23 years later with no change, just more “thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families.” Since Columbine, over 311,000 children at 311 schools have been exposed to gun violence at their schools. We have failed to learn that “thoughts and prayers” are useless to dead children and the families left in grief. We are numb from the heartache. For those of us practicing Christianity and asking WWJD, we continue life as spiritual zombies. Commonsensical, holistic, modest, minimally coercive measures still have not gained traction. The secular gun lobby and the second amendment still hold us hostage to escalating mass killings.

Some facts to consider about the gun culture of the United States:

  • 123 people die each day due to bullets according to Pew Research.
  • Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 18 according to CDC.
  • The NRA is the #1 lobby group in the U.S. GOP members of Congress receive the lion’s share of the NRA funding.
  • There are three times more federally licensed gun dealers than there are Starbucks in the United States.
  • According to Pew Research, more guns have not equated to more security. Escalation of gun ownership has made U.S. society less safe. When guns are easy for good people to get, they also become easy for bad people to get.
  • After the Clinton Administration banned assault weapons in 1994, mass shooting deaths dropped by 43%. When the ban expired in 2004, mass shooting deaths shot up 239%.
  • The United States has just under 5% of the world’s population but owns 35% of civilian handguns which are estimated to be close to 400 million. It’s estimated over 20 million of those guns are AR15 types according to American Gun Facts.
  • The AR15 like the U.S. military M16 is a killing machine. Its sole purpose is to destroy a human life. If you want evidence of the destructive power of these weapons, watch CBS 60 Minutes – Why do mass shooters choose the AR-15 style rifle?

“Americans do not understand what these weapons (AR15) do to children’s bodies. They destroy them. That’s not hyperbole.” – John Woodrow Cox

Can you call yourself “pro-life” if you want to ban abortion but don’t want to ban assault rifles that have killed children?

This is what it has come down to:

“Dying in mass shootings is the price of freedom.” – Bill O’Reilly.

Switzerland, Canada, Japan, and over 150 other countries have freedom. They have citizens with mental illnesses. To pin the epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S. on mental illness when Switzerland, Canada, and Japan don’t have mass shootings is illogical and warped thinking.

“It’s impossible to reverse assault weapons in the United States.” – Anonymous

The United States has taken up impossible tasks before. Lewis and Clark didn’t know where they were going when they went exploring for the Northwest passage back in 1803, but they took up the challenge, fortified by courage and faith. It was thought to be impossible to put a man on the moon, but we came together and put a man on the moon in 1969. Could we not come together and do a “moon shot” against our gun culture?

I challenge each of us to look in the mirror and ask what each of us can do. Some suggestions:

Fear and distrust are at the heart of our gun culture. We use the 2nd amendment to hide our fear and distrust. Work on your fear and distrust. Study it. Seek support. Lean into your discomfort. Get out of your comfort zone.

If you own a gun, lock it up and keep it separate from the ammunition. If you know someone who owns a gun, ask them to do the same.

Let’s have some thoughtful conversations. Let’s be curious. Let’s explore. What about gun registration, gun insurance, and testing like we have automobiles?

How about higher taxes on guns and ammunition to help curb gun violence just like what the cigarette tax did for smoking?

When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, it didn’t end racism, but it was a beginning to making the United States a more perfect union. It began to help overcome the darkness …

“For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”                                                                                                                                                   – Amanda Gorman