Pearls & Vodka

Mass Shootings; Thoughts and Prayers and Gun Control

Around 11:30 a.m., Sunday morning, November 5, 2017, a gunman dressed in all black, wearing tactical gear opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; during Sunday morning service.

At least 26 people were killed, ranging from ages 17 months to 77 years old.

Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, was found dead after a brief car chase. Reports say that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Stephen Willeford shot and chased Kelley out of fear for his own life and the congregation’s safety. He said, “The people in that church, they’re friends of mine, they’re family. And every time I heard a shot, I knew that that probably represented a life.” He went on to say, “I am no hero.” Though I think everyone would disagree with that last part.

Investigators found hundreds of shell casings, and 15 magazines at the sight of the shooting.

One family lost eight members of their extended family; three generations, plus an unborn child, all killed within minutes. The patriarch of that family, Joe Holcombe, will now bury some of his children, his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. [2]

Devin Patrick Kelley began shooting outside the church house with an assault-type rifle and then continued shooting inside. There is some speculation that Mr. Kelley was looking for his mother-in-law when he arrived at the church.

This shooting was neither racially, or religiously, motivated. Please stop making this about color; it’s about lives, their shade has no bearing here.

As with every time that a tragedy like this occurs, social media seems to be bombarded by faux legislators and highly opinionated citizens. We barely have time to read the breaking news messages on our phones before our Twitter feeds are blowing up with damning statements about the Republican Party and the Conservative legislators that frequently campaign on 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms.

Yesterday was no exception.

There was a deafening tone of disgust with Christians who were posting “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and survivors of Sutherland Springs yesterday. I had one friend on social media ask when Christians will admit that “thoughts and prayers” aren’t cutting it anymore? She made a good point when she asked, “Don’t we have a responsibility to actually try and save people’s lives, and not just “pray” when their lives are over?”

She and I differ politically on a lot of issues, and this is one where we might disagree as well, but we have the same heart of wanting to help people, and protect our families.

I completely agree we need to do more. Now, what does that look like?
I’m not entirely sure. I’m not completely versed on all the nuances of gun control.

But there are a few things I do know:

1) It’s been proven time and time again, when someone with a conceal and carry is in the location of a shooting, the shooting ends a lot quicker than when there is not.
2) Studies show that around 55 million Americans own guns. That’s around 22% of Americans. [3]

Here are some more statistics for you, according to the “Every Town Research Organization” [4]:

• On an average day, 93 Americans are killed with guns.
• On average, there are nearly 12,000 gun homicides a year in the United States.
• 62% of firearm deaths in the US are suicides
• Seven children, under 18, are killed with guns in the US on an average day.
• In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by intimate partners in the United States.
• The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of the woman being shot and killed by five times.
• America’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other developed countries.
• Background checks have blocked nearly 3 million gun sales to prohibited people.

We have gotten into a horrible habit as a nation of politicizing everything. Heck, we can’t even watch football nowadays without politics entering the picture. But the reality is, gun control is a political topic.

Republicans believe that Government regulation over firearms is unconstitutional and an infringement on an individual’s basic rights. Republicans believe that guns are the right of every citizen to protect himself, his family and his property. Honestly, a lot of cultural upbringing comes in to play as well. Most of the “red” states are located in the Midwest or the Bible Belt, or the Deep South. The ground is fertile for hunting in these areas. Republicans argue that it is more about the fundamental principles this nation was founded on and not just a fondness for firearms.

Democrats believe that homicides and crimes will severely lessen with more stringent gun laws. Democrats helped to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968 in response to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. This bill altered federal laws to help more broadly regulate the firearm industry. Democrats also sponsored the Brady Bill of 1993 that instituted mandatory federal background checks on all firearm purchases in the US. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban was part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that prohibited the sale of assault rifles and certain semi-automatic machine guns in the US. [5]

Bruce Willis once said, “If you take guns away from legal gun owners, then the only people who would have guns would be the bad guys. Even a pacifist would get violent if someone were trying to kill him or her. You would fight for your life, whatever your beliefs.” And that really is the crux of the matter. We can ban guns all day long, and people will still have them. It’s just like drugs, heroin isn’t legal, but people still take it and sale it, all day every day. When abortions were illegal, people still got them; but instead of getting them in a healthy, safe way; they got them in back alleys with clothes hangers. People will do whatever they want to do, by any means necessary.

You may say it is apples to oranges, but I guarantee you speed from time to time, I assure you the police officers will tell you that’s against the law, that those speed limits are there to protect you and the others on the roads; and yet you still choose to disobey.

A deranged human being will find a gun, no matter what it takes.

The truth is, we shouldn’t sit idly by and let this tragedy just be another marker in history without taking action to improve the world we are building for our children.

Earlier today the Air Force admitted that they had failed to enter Devin P. Kelley’s domestic violence court-martial into a federal database that could have blocked him from buying the rifle he used to kill the innocent people of First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs. He was convicted of domestic violence against his wife, and toddler stepson-he had cracked the child’s skull. That conviction should have prevented his purchase of a weapon. [6]

But truth be told, no matter how much we improve our background check processes, people will still get guns. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though.

Our legislators do need to draft legislation that closes the loopholes that are so blatantly permitting people to purchase guns without undergoing background checks from private entities, gun shows, and websites.

Chelsea Handler said on Twitter today, “Mental health issues without guns are people with mental health issues. With guns, they become murderers.” It’s obviously a very wide-spread, blanketed statement. But the fact that we fight more about gun laws than funding for mental health issues shows that we have become a nation of band-aid appliers and not fixers and healers.

It’s hard to look a grieving family in the face and not agree that something should be done.

Our problem as a nation is agreeing on what that “something” is.

Sure, I can easily look at the shootings in Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Umpqua CC, San Bernardino, and Sutherland Springs and see that an AR-15 was used each time, and so clearly, a ban on military-style assault weapons might save a number of lives.

But the crazy reality in our nation is that mass shootings (3 or more people) actually only represent a tiny percentage of the overall toll of gun murders each year.

The issue isn’t a lack of training or faulty equipment. Those would be easy fixes. The problem really is dangerous people who know how to effectively use a gun.

Universal background checks are a no-brainer for me.

But what about more funding at the local level to combat gang violence? What about limiting ammunition capacity, rather than banning guns? What about finally coming around to the reality that mental health is a serious factor in gun violence and should be treated in the same regards as physical health and should be garnering more funding, not less? What about banning gun access for people under domestic violence restraining orders? We have always said, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” So why would we not say, “friends don’t let depressed friends hold on to their guns?” Often times, perpetrators fit a common profile-alienated, disturbed, angry, mentally ill-so why not enact a threat assessment that gives more chances to intervene before a mass shooting? Why not empower our mental health professionals, educators and law enforcement officers instead of bankrupting, under paying and demeaning them? [7]

There’s always “something” that can be done. Sitting idly by and doing nothing can no longer be an option. On the flip side of that, sitting around pointing fingers and acting like banning all guns would solve the problem has to end as well.

This country has GOT to find a way to gracefully communicate and compromise.

We have to find a way to compromise for the 26 lives lost yesterday in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

We’ve argued for years, upon years. The Democrats first passed a gun law in 1934. And here we are, 83 years later, having the same disagreements. That’s the definition of insanity.

After the Las Vegas attack, Aaron Blake of the Washington Post wrote, “There is arguably no issue on which the two sides of the American political debate simply don’t understand or empathize with one another more than guns. Democrats see the latest mass shooting and simply cannot understand how Republicans wouldn’t want to pass a bill. Republicans see Democrats as demonizing the weapon rather than the perpetrator and trying to exploit tragedy to roll back a constitutional freedom that they don’t like.” [8]

I’m really not sure what it will take to break the fundamental disconnect we suffer from in this country. Honestly, if Sandy Hook didn’t do it, I’m not sure there is something that will.

The truth of the matter is Devin Patrick Kelley abused animals, cracked a baby’s skull and stalked underage girls; to assume he would have obeyed gun laws almost seems ludicrous.

If our leaders are going to blame mental illness for the tragedy in Texas yesterday, then they sure as hell better start pouring funding into bettering our community health systems and stop relaxing the regulations on the mentally ill obtaining weapons.

If you were to ask me if it is more important for us as a country to address mental illness or gun control with legislation, I’d probably say mental illness.

I’m all for protecting your life, your home, your family and your land. I’m all for hunting. I love deer chili. I’m from the south. I grew up with guns. I can still shoot the hell out of some cans with a BB gun in the backyard. But I was raised to respect guns, and to use them safely, to keep them locked up and out of the reach of little hands.

Please don’t accuse me of caring more about gun rights than the loss of so many innocent people. That’s inaccurate, and it’s bastardizing the reality. I am not an “apologist” for a “gun-wielding, child-killer.” I just simply have a different viewpoint and different ideology and approach to the crisis. And I agree, it is a crisis that needs addressing.

I’ve seen constant attacks on social media about the “thoughts and prayers” sentiments. And you know what, I’ll think about those victims and pray for their families as much as I want. And I’ll encourage as many friends as I can to do the same. And I’ll also encourage them to think of ways to better their communities and to pray for their leaders and for God to use them to help make this world a better place.

You don’t have to separate “thoughts and prayers” and “policy and change.” They can walk hand and hand. And they should.

And while we are at it, no one on this blog is making an excuse for Devin Patrick Kelley. He committed a heinous crime. I am not excusing his actions while clinging to my guns. I sleep next to a Louisville Slugger and my husband, not a rifle. Guns don’t cause shootings, people do. People need help. Let’s help the people. Let’s find ways to fix the communities.

Maybe, just maybe, we should start pouring money into our local neighborhoods, and into our community mental health systems, and things like that instead of pouring so much money into investigations on Russia (and yes, I believe we need to know the truth about Russia). Maybe we should spend a little more time on our social media accounts reaching out to those who seem distant or angry or hurt, instead of spewing hate and playing cyber bullies with keyboards as weapons.

And if it’s not too much trouble, can we spend just 24 full hours letting the families in Sutherland Springs grieve? Seriously people. Quit using their names, their faces, their ages, and their stories to fit your narrative. Let their families tell their stories. Let their loved ones represent them. And yes, think of their lives and how to prevent more life loss. And most definitely pray for their families.

May God bless the families in Sutherland Springs and all those around the country who are grieving tonight.

#thoughtsANDprayersANDpoliciesANDchange

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/05/us/texas-church-shooting-latest/index.html
[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/texas-church-shooting/about-half-victims-texas-church-shooting-were-children-n817896
[3] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/09/22/study-guns-owners-violence/90858752/
[4] https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/
[5] https://gun.laws.com/gun-rights/democratic-platform
[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/06/us/texas-shooting-church.html
[7] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/23/gun-control-violence-what-works-what-doesnt
[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/10/02/why-congress-still-wont-do-something-about-gun-laws-after-las-vegas/?utm_term=.24fb417dbc45

Photo Credit: First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas Facebook Page