Another week in America. Another massacre.
(File that in the category of things I never – in my wildest and worst nightmares – imagined saying/thinking/writing.)
A deranged gunman opens fire in a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks.
And the attacker pauses to post on social media before killing himself. (More on that later.)
Our reactions are wide-ranging… and telling. From unmoved to outraged, heartsick to dumbstruck.
Here we go again.
Sudden death. And then a tidal wave of emotions: apathy (another mass shooting today… and… by the way, did you pick up the dry cleaning?) to anger… to anguish.
Who can answer the locked-and-loaded questions? Who can make sense of the senseless?
Who can stop the hell-bent?
Immediately following the bloodshed, the same refrain. Pundits pontificate. Politicians posture. Parents press for solutions… and scramble to protect their young.
Praying desperate prayers…
Deliver us from evil.
Taking necessary precautions…
How on God’s green earth did we get here?
There’s no denying that danger lurks… darkness lingers. In malls and movie theaters, neighborhoods and nightclubs.
We aren’t safe anywhere. Even in school. Even in synagogue. (Homeland security? Is there even such a thing?)
Maybe I’m an idealist (or a loon), but I think there’s a lot we can/should/must do.
I’m no policy expert, but it seems fairly obvious that these things should top our “to do” list:
- Ban manufacture and sale of assault weapons, bump stocks and extended magazines. Stat.
- Require a waiting period prior to all gun purchases. Thirty days seems reasonable. Enough time for law enforcement to do background checks, hotheads to cool off, and suicidal/homicidal impulses to pass. (If it takes 6-8 weeks to get a passport, why should anybody complain about waiting 4 weeks for a weapon?)
- Impose a minimum age requirement of 21 for gun ownership and possession (with exceptions for active duty military personnel).
- Implement a more effective red-flagging system. Mental health professionals, physicians and educators – who are already “mandatory reporters” anyway – submit critical information directly to law enforcement when they suspect someone may have violent impulses or intent to harm. Immediate risk assessment follows.
- Create a database to compile these and other “at-risk” reports. If someone appears to be mentally unstable and potentially violent, a concerned family member/ friend/neighbor can call a hotline or file an online report. (Similar to a DCFS report for child abuse.) If three such reports are received, law enforcement responds (computer search, mental-health assessment, weapons inventory, etc.).
- Bolster investigative units specializing in online/social media threats. Develop algorithms for identifying cases of cyber-radicalization and home-grown terrorism.
- Provide active shooter training for every professional currently required to be first aid/CPR certified. (School administrators, health care workers, etc.)
In this latest attack, the shooter (described by acquaintances as a “hothead” with an “explosive temper”) had been reported to police during a domestic disturbance last April. Finding him “somewhat irate” and “irrational,” law enforcement officials called in a crisis intervention team and mental health specialist. Despite concerns about his agitated behavior (and possible PTSD related to prior military service – including deployment to Afghanistan in 2011), the young man was cleared.
If he had been held on a 5150 order, he would have been taken into custody for 72 hours and – under California law – would have been prohibited from owning or possessing firearms thereafter.
And maybe, just maybe, a dozen people who were alive and well on Wednesday afternoon would still be living and breathing. At least a little longer.
I doubt any of the folks in the Borderline Bar and Grill Wednesday night thought it might be their last. Most of the victims were young, their whole lives ahead of them.
But the truth is – even with a vest, shield and tactical gear – the only part of us that’s bulletproof is our soul.
For man is but a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. ~ Psalm 144:4
Our bodies break. Our minds fail. Our hearts stop. But our souls, they endure. Even when wildfires ravage and storms batter and bullets rain, our souls survive.
My great comfort in these trying and troubled times is this:
It is well with my soul.
And my desperate prayer is that it be well with yours too. Because every SOS is ultimately… a plea to God.
Save Our Souls.
I don’t know when or where terror will strike next. Or whether I might soon be “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” unaware of someone armed-and-dangerous nearby. (Because as the gunman so eerily wrote in his mid-massacre social media post: “Yeah… I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’ or ‘keep you in my thoughts…’ Every time… and wonder why these keep happening.”)
I understand the sheer exasperation and disgust of those who keep hearing “thoughts and prayers” but not a single solution.
(Or more importantly, action… protection… prevention.)
So to all the victims’ families and everyone who’s shell-shocked, grief-stricken, frightened or furious tonight, I offer not only my thoughts and prayers… but action points.
… With faith… If it doesn’t cause us to do something, it’s dead. ~ James 2:17
Please keep praying. (Frankly, I’m stunned by anyone – talking to you, Cuomo – who suggests prayer makes no difference. Without prayer Chris, things would be a HELL of a lot worse.)
And yes, let’s take action too.
Don’t let evil overcome you. Overcome evil by doing good. ~ Romans 12:21
For God’s sake, let’s do something.
Call your elected officials, thank a first-responder, donate blood, hug your kid.
And never ever forget…
Love. Will. Win.
P.S. On this Veteran’s Day (as we ponder how to best protect our people and our nation), a simple and sincere “thanks” to our vets seems woefully insufficient. But today and every day, I’m grateful to the brave men and women who’ve served in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. May God bless you and keep you. And may it be well with your soul.