Two days ago, an 18-year-old murdered nineteen children and three adults in Texas – just ten days after another 18-year-old shot thirteen people, ten fatally, in Buffalo, NY. The New York shooter was a known racist, while the Texas shooter had no record of violence and no known ideological agenda. But the two shared one chilling trait:
Ecclesiastes 9:3 says, “There is a malevolence that infects the human race, and the same destiny awaits them all. For their hearts are full of evil — madness is in their hearts while they live, and then they die.” When we fail to find what we’re meant to live for, the festering madness Ecclesiastes speaks of can emerge, offering something to kill for.
Every time there’s a mass shooting, the gun-control debate is revived. “Guns kill!” “Guns don’t kill, people kill!” Versions of the latter will, no doubt, echo at the National Rifle Association convention in Texas tomorrow (just four hours’ drive away from the mass murder site). And while it’s true that no gun ever killed anyone without a human pulling the trigger, it’s also true that no human ever killed anyone by pointing their finger. Nevertheless, both statements are half-correct:
And so do people.
Therefore, any real solution must address both issues.
Guns kill. The U. S. Constitution was written at a time when rural self-protection, hunting, and citizen’s militias were central to society. But the Founders clearly did not envision the culture—or weapons—of today. Will vastly improved gun control stop people from killing? No. But it will diminish it. And diminishing human chaos is the best any law can hope for.
People kill. It has always come down to Self vs. Other. Cain slew Able because Able had something Cain wanted. The highest moral codes have always striven to check this madness, to promote selflessness over selfishness. But when accession to moral codes erodes, anarchy ensues. When the ethics-driven Roman Republic became the power-driven Roman Empire, truth faded: Sports and arts devolved into spectacles in which human beings were raped, tortured and murdered for entertainment. The masses believed in everything, and the cognoscente believed in nothing.
“Madness is in our hearts.” Modern culture is undergoing a sea change like that of ancient Rome, only it’s happening far more quickly. Former civic values—duty to God, family, country and community—have become outmoded, replaced by duty to Self alone. Can the trend be reversed before we dissolve, like Rome did, into chaos? I honestly don’t know. But I do know this:
For it to happen, families, schools and communities would have to recommit—deeply—to teaching civility, character and selflessness, to modelling not what to kill for…
But what to live for.
“Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do.”