What Could Be Done?

dearchildrenInevitably, my thoughts as a father ruminate on what, if anything, could be done to stop another Newtown tragedy.

One of the dear children who died was named Josephine, the same name as my own daughter. How can I keep my children safe from such evil, which can strike at any time, anywhere.

Is the problem that a twisted young man got access to several guns?

Is the problem that he didn’t get the mental health services he needed?

Is the problem that there’s a crisis of manhood in our country?

Is the problem ultimately that sin and evil are realities in our world?

It’s not just one failure point, or one cause. Many failures contributed to this horrible act. And here follows some thoughts, humbly shared from someone who does not claim to know what the answer is to such horrors.

Regarding guns, it seems the main failure was on the prudence and judgment of the killer’s mother, who allowed him (whether intentionally or not), access to her guns. Even if we banned the rifle he used, the two handguns would have been deadly enough against defenseless innocents. And we would not only need to ban disturbed people like him from buying guns (assuming that gun sellers would even be able to know that he was disturbed), but also ban them from close relatives and housemates who might buy them.

So while I don’t doubt that, riding the momentum of public sentiment that “Something Must be Done,” Obama and Co. will pass some kind of law. And that law will have very little effect, if any, on such crimes.

Instead, we have to realize that demented people, people who have given themselves wholly to evil, are going to get access to weapons and try to kill people. We cannot defend everyone at every moment from such attacks, but we can start with places like schools, where our most cherished children spend much of their time each week.

“But you’re batty if you want to arm all the teachers!” And gun-rights people will point to Israeli schools and teachers; and anti-gun people will make counter arguments to that. I don’t think arming every teacher or even most of them is feasible. But what about arming a few of them?

If a teacher or administrator, of known upright character and wisdom, volunteers to be an armed teacher, let them carry a concealed weapon. They will endeavor to go through rigorous and continuing training and practice to do so, above and beyond what other people have to do.

Perhaps in most schools, you will have one to five teachers who would carry. This has two benefits: evil people will have no idea whether a school has teachers that are armed or, if so, who those teachers are. This would act as a deterrent. And also, most obviously, if an evil man did start attacking people at a school, these teachers would have a more level playing field.

“But, teachers aren’t trained in returning fire while being shot at like soldiers are! And the shooters often have bulletproof vests and such!” Maybe so, but keep in mind that these evil men are also not soldiers. In fact, they have little to no training, and often either give themselves up immediately when confronted by authorities or take their own lives at the first sign of emergency responders. In other words, they are curious kind of coward, evidenced by the fact that they also go for the weakest, most defenseless people.

And the goal would not necessarily be to go dueling with a shooter, but simply to distract him, to possibly injure him, to slow him down, to block his evil. While he may get shot and killed, even buying a few minutes for police to arrive and confront him would save many lives.

So we 1) admit the reality that, despite whatever gun laws we may pass, evil men will find a way to get at least some kind of guns, and 2) see how we can mitigate the evil they intend to perpetrate.

Mental health care? Sure, we need more of it and better. But as someone who has suffered from mental health problems in the past, “mental health” care is not a panacea. It’s a nebulous field, with varying degrees of quality in its practitioners (and medicines). Read some of the warnings on any psychotropic drug, and prepare to be disturbed. The side-effects are often almost as bad as the symptoms they try to cure. In many cases doctors only have guesses as to how they actually work.

And many people with these problems refuse treatment, or resist it, or try to thwart it. You can’t force someone to want to get help.

Manhood? Yes this is a great failing of our entire culture. We have a fatherhood crisis, a masculinity crisis, a virtue crisis, a faith crisis.

I noticed from the news that the killer’s fathers was well-off. Yet money did not buy prevention from the complete and total disaster that was this son’s life. Most fathers don’t become that successful from spending lots of time at home, but by working long hours. I grant you that this is a pure conjecture on my part, and if it is off-base then I apologize in advance, but the men I know who make this kind of money are men devoted primarily to their work. They don’t put in 40 hour weeks and achieve such success. In our country, we reward that sort of fatherly fiduciary “success” as “reaching the American Dream,” but the consequences on our children are seen everywhere.

No easy solutions exist to this crisis of masculinity.

Ultimately the problem is sin. And no amount of mental health care or gun control or work on fatherhood will eliminate that problem. Only Jesus Christ can, and only fully will we see sin’s demise when He returns in glory. So we do not put our trust in human measures for reining in evil, even though it is good to do whatever we can to limit its deleterious effects. Instead we long for the shores of Tolkien’s Valinor, of the Undying Lands.

We prayed and prayed for the families of the children whose lives were so brutally cut short by this evil man. We trust that our merciful Lord has embraced all of them and that one day, they will see their families again. This is the hope that Christ our Hope gives us.

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13 thoughts on “What Could Be Done?”

  1. Devin, it will take more than an act of congress to get teachers to pack heat. The vast majority of us are in Education because we believe that we can inspire future generations towards peace. Having a gun strapped to our waists sends the wrong message visually. I can’t imagine kneeling over to help a child with their math who can’t even focus because they are so conscious of a firearm in the room.

    1. TJ,

      People would not necessarily know that you have a hand gun. It would be small, and concealed, for instance in a holster in the small of your back.

      However, I think you are right that a large majority of teachers would not want to carry one. That’s why this would be voluntary. The small minority that was willing to carry one and do all that it would require to be safe, responsible, and prepared to use it, would be enough.

      We all want to inspire future generations toward peace. The message a gun would send is that, while you hope all choose to act in love and in peace with their fellow-men, you know that some people will not. And if so, you are willing to stop them from harming children.

  2. On that same tragic day, a man armed with a knife stormed an elementary school and slashed over 20 people, mostly children. In China. There have been several such attacks with knife in China, seemingly having become an epidemic. Why, it’s a mystery that measuring human behavior will not help.

    Schools already are gun-free zones, but only sane and well-meaning people follow abide by laws. I’m afraid that the loonies and the evil ones will always be among us. We just cannot allow them to rise to power and try to treat all of us as suspect of being loonies and evil. We are not demiurges and any attempt to avert such outlier tragedies have more often than not done more damage than good. We can only hope for healing of all those hurt by it.

  3. On a side-note, I find it encouraging that the country got outraged when children were so brutally murdered. With a million children being murdered every year in even more gruesome ways before being born, I was afraid that callousness against children was irreversible.

    Deo gratias!

  4. Devin, like you I struggled with what we can do to keep our kids and teachers safe. The teachers that died willingly gave their lives to protect their children as any educator would. And like our school, theirs had state of the art security systems with electronic lockdown and background checks on all visitors. But these shootings happen very quickly and in a school of any reasonable size, the response time would be limited with teachers attention likely focused on getting their students to safety, not taking down a shooter.
    Putting guns in schools is the quick and seemingly obvious answer. However as a teacher in a large school, I have to disagree. No amount of training, levelheadnesses, and preparation can account for all the variables a day in a large public school can throw at you. Having the responsibility of a weapon on top of everything else is not something any sane teacher would want. Kids get in to everything and the possibility of an accident or a disgruntled student gaining access makes this idea a bad one on all fronts.
    I would not work in a school where I knew weapons were present in any capacity and would not allow my children to attend such a school either. There is not a clear, easy answer, but guns won’t make schools safer.

    1. Courtney, thanks for sharing your opinion, and I think you present the counter-arguments well. I do however disagree that a teacher would have to be insane to volunteer to carry a concealed handgun.

      Sure, kids can get into lots of stuff, but they aren’t taking off teacher’s clothing and grabbing in personal places (at least, without the teacher stopping them). And young adult students who would do such things (say, attacking a teacher), well, such teachers would not carry guns due to that risk.

      In any case, another option is armed security personnel. The downside there is that they are known quantities, in the sense that a potential attacker knows where they are, how many, how they patrol, etc.

      All that said, I don’t think that anyone knows that having some armed faculty members would not make schools safer. There is certainly an added risk of a gun accident or a disgruntled teacher becoming an attacker. But there is also the upside of the potential to stop an attacker.

  5. Armed (at least some) teachers would have saved many lives.

    Keep the media from making these “people” into celebrities. No photos. No names. Just murderers. Right now the next nutty kid who wants to go out with a bang is thinking about how to outdo the last one.

  6. Hmm…

    Armed teachers.


    Armed guards; paid for by taking it out of the teachers’ pay (they make too much).


    A Hummer with a couple soldiers at each school; resources provided by not policing the world.

  7. Please read and actually think about the following article.
    Many of you will not agree with the author, but he is a subject matter expert on shootings, with a lot of experience working with authorities. He also sites the facts from a hard-nosed realist point of view.
    We really need to be wise as serpents as well as gentle as doves on this issue. My prayers are going out for the children, the families and especially for the marriages of the parents. A tragedy like this is very hard on marriages and they need our prayers.

  8. Devin, you ask, “What could be done?”

    Guns won’t do it. In the hands of fallen man, the more guns we carry around, the more likelihood that these things will happen again.

    Laws won’t do it. Lawless people do these things, they could care less about the laws.

    Only a complete change of heart and surrender to God almighty will do it. All of us who believe in God must turn to Him for our refuge and salvation.

    Psalm 57:1
    Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.

    In the meantime, I believe we must look upon these incidents as forewarnings to us, like that of Jonah to the Ninevites. They are clarion calls which we must heed. Obama is aware that in his four years of office there have been four such incidents. But he does not see the connection between these incidents and his stance on contraception and abortion.

    In my opinion, until the President and the Democrats and the Protestants and fallen away Catholics in this country, change their position on the life of a person from conception to natural death, we are doomed to see more of these foreshadowings of our own demise.


    De Maria

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