Another Day Another Terrorist With A Gun

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I can’t remember the last time I have gone a day without reading about the tragedy that is gun violence or a month without hearing of a mass shooting. This morning I woke to reports of a mass shooting only to realize it wasn’t El Paso, but Dayton. Each time social media is filled with hateful people that cannot, or will not, have a civil conversation about a serious topic. Respectful disagreements can help move people to common ground, but what is most often reflected in society is matched in Congress and the result is more dead bodies and more grieving families. The policy changes that are needed will not be easy, but they are doable without changing the 2nd Amendment. More importantly, we are capable as individuals of changing our neighborhoods and ourselves. We cannot let fear be the enemy of reason. The House of Representatives has taken the first step, but the Senate refuses to do anything, but pray. Clearly, God has answered them with legislation from the House, but they do not have ears to hear.freed-heart-understanding-mind.jpg

For those of us that have lost someone, we love to senseless gun violence each new incident is a reminder that brings the pain rushing back. If you love your guns and the 2nd Amendment more than your neighbors then it will be impossible for you to understand my pain and the pain of every other person who has ever been impacted by gun violence. Each year on September 30 I remember my twin brother who was shot four times (two in the chest, one in the side, and one in the back) and died on my parent’s living room floor.  The bloodstain on the carpet is forever etched into my memory. He was not killed by an intruder, but rather in an argument with our brother. They had fought many times before resulting in typical injuries from fistfights. The problem was that a gun was lying on the table.  Without the gun, he would probably be alive. The police called it a “family matter” and did nothing. In fact, because my other brother was never charged with a crime he legally purchased many more guns.

The argument that the 2nd Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means.  In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. Not all gun deaths come from People with guns do kill people.

This year alone there have been:

  • 33,028 incidents
  • 8,734  deaths
  • 17,308 injuries
  • 251 mass shootings
  • Of those, 390 were children and 1,796 were adolescents (http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/)
  • And how many thousands of grieving families, lost incomes, children without parents, wives without husbands, and parents without children?

Additionally,

In the civilian population deaths from firearms are believed to be a good indicator of firearms violence. The rate of nonfatal gunshot wounds is estimated to be 2.6 times the rate of fatal gunshot wounds. You can find the death rates from firearms by state at http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=113&cat=2.

The 2nd Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun.  I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.

It is true that it takes a person to pull the trigger, but without a gun, it is much harder to kill. People do kill people, but people with guns are more likely to do so either intentionally or accidentally. “The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence.  My wish is for a day that no American chooses to avail themselves of the 2nd Amendment right. Peace is an amazing feeling and it begins in our own homes and hearts. Put fear aside, love your neighbor, and choose life. Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win.


I Won’t be a Prayer Hitman

I’m a horrible Catholic. It isn’t intentional it just seems to come naturally to me. I don’t have it in my nature to blindly believe nonsense just because it comes out of the mouth of a Priest or Bishop. Don’t misunderstand I believe without question the Crede and I’m mesmerized by the miracle of the Mass. As much as there are things that I object to about the institutional Church I am drawn to it.

When I first came to Knoxville I joined a parish. It was a beautiful church with classic Catholic architecture. The priest was friendly and the parish was welcoming. After a few months, I was added to a prayer list. At first, it seemed normal enough. Then the prayer list stated naming people for whom to pray and the list was always of politicians that were Democrats. It was a prayer of those they hated. I don’t hate.

I may disapprove of an action, but I do not have it in my heart to hate people. I will not pray for people in a manner that says dear God I’m superior to that person whose views repulse me. I’m more likely to pray that I will understand them, be open to a conversation with the person, and strive to see what is good in the person. I prefer my prayer to focus on my failings rather the perceived failings of others because I absolutely do have it in my heart to judge people and to find their actions immoral and repulsive. I even have it in my heart to think I’m intellectually and morally superior at times. Fortunately, I recognize those as personal flaws. 

Prayer to end abortion

I will not pray to end abortion. I think abortion is often a bad decision made under difficult circumstances that are out of the control of the woman and other times it is the only decision to save the life of the mother. When we pray to end abortion we are saying that we have all the answers and at the same time we are using it to avoid painful conversations with women who are suffering. Do any of us doubt that a woman who chooses abortion is not suffering? I’m willing to pray with her that God answers her prayers and grants her peace, but I’m not willing to pray in a way that says I think I’m morally superior to you.

Prayer for victims of gun violence

There is not a single day in America that multiple people are not killed with guns. People send prayers but then do nothing. They have no intention of doing anything. The prayers are only a way of publicly saying I’m a good person despite the fact I have no intention to act to end gun violence and I may even fight against any action that limits access to guns even for those with serious mental illness. When my brother was murdered I didn’t need you to pray, I needed you to do something to get the guns out of the hands of people that should have never owned one. I needed you to write a letter to your representative to require gun locks, gun safes, safety classes, and mental health assessments. I needed action. Prayer should not stand alone and they should not be used with false intent.

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. – St. ThéRèse of Lisieux

If the heart is the dwelling place where God lives I don’t want anyone to ask me to put hate in the dwelling place of God. I left the parish that sent out the prayer list I perceived as a prayer hit list. I didn’t want to turn my relationship with God into something filled with animosity. I may be a bad Catholic because I won’t pray to end abortion or for people who disagree with me to agree with me, but I don’t think it makes me any less a Catholic.

I think I will pray for the insight to understand others, for the skills to make meaningful change in the world, and for the drive to work hard even when I’m not seeing progress. Prayer, meditations, and silence are too important to one’s spirit to use it as a political club. Twitter and the pen are my political clubs.

Prayer and meditation are my communion with God. I refuse to be a prayer hitman.

 

 

 


Gun Ownership is a Moral Issue

Gun ownership is a choice and a moral decision that has a significant consequence to the entire community. I can choose to own a gun or I can make the moral decision to decline the right to bear arms. This is not to say that all people have a choice to make. Some, by virtue of their professions, must own or carry a gun – police and military. Others may need one for a legitimate reason – ranchers. However, most of us do have a choice. Choosing not to bear arms does not impact anyone else’s Second Amendment right.

Can you remember the last time we have had a day without reading about gun violence or even a few days without hearing about a mass shooting? We average over 9 deaths a day from guns and a mass shooting almost every day. We ask ourselves what is the cause and we hear guns, mental illness, inadequate laws, immigration, gangs, terrorism, and a culture addicted to violence. We look at other similar countries and ask why they don’t have the same problem and the only differences are easy to access guns and/or culture.

In our culture we let fear overrule reason. The argument that the Second Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means.  In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. People with guns do kill people and are more successful at doing so from a distance than by any other means.

This year alone the Gun Violence Archive has documented 52,436 incidents, 13,164 deaths, and 307 mass shootings. This doesn’t even begin to address the actual impact of wives that lost husbands, parents that lost children, children that lost parents, and the countless friends and neighbors that feel the loss.

 

gun violence

Make a Moral Decision

The Second Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun.  I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow [wo]men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

I frequently wonder if we give enough thought to what it means to make a moral decision. I worry that we are so stuck in ideology and bound with fear that keeps us from a rational contemplation of the very serious issue of gun violence and violence in our culture. I am certainly not the sole arbiter of truth, but I have an opinion I hope you will hear and consider

Six-Steps in Considering the Morality of Gun Ownership

  1. Gather the information on injuries and deaths related to firearms.

People will give various reasons for wanting a gun. They list the least benign as a desire to kill Bambi or Thumper. Some genuinely believe they need to defend self or family and a gun is the only mechanism. Others have a false belief that a rifle will protect from an abusive government that has nuclear bombs, tanks, and other massive munitions. Whatever the stated reason one must consider whether the purchase of the gun to achieve the end is morally right? Do the circumstances (living in a dangerous neighborhood, traveling alone in an unsafe neighborhood, going to school) affect the action? Do the risks outweigh the danger of a gun in the home? This year alone defensive use is barely higher than unintentional shootings. In other words for every person that uses a gun in self-defense, another is accidentally shot.

The more I deliberated the more I reflected on Matthew 5:21-26:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

I came to the conclusion that I could not live with a primal instinct to defend my home or self by the use of lethal force over a possession. Nor could I live with accidentally harming another.

  1. I identified the ethical problem. The ethical dilemma was between the individual rights or good versus that of the rights and the good of the community.

It is certainly true that guns are sometimes used for self-defense. This year there have been 1,724 times guns have been used for defensive purposes. Of course, that pales when compared to 54,436 gun incidents in the same time period of which 1,699 were accidental shootings. Is the fear one person has for his or her safety more important than the safety of those around who are by all evidence at greater risk due to the presence of the gun? We are one of the nations with the greatest number of guns per capita and we are one of the nations with the greatest gun violence. People can cite urban vs. rural, and this city or that, but in the end, we are one nation with one shared problem that is violence committed using a gun.

  1. What approaches can I use to analyze the problem?

I first approached the problem from a veil of ignorance, which is to say if I were the person who was the least powerful and the most vulnerable what would I want? I concluded that while I wanted to live and be safe, but for that to happen it would be best for no one to have a gun. I also wanted all those around me to live and be safe. The risk to others from a gun in the house was greater than the risk to others and me without one.

I then used a disaster framework to consider what actions I could take to avoid risks that didn’t involve owning a gun. When considered within a framework it is easier to see that there are actions that can be taken, provided the public or individual has the will to do so, to keep oneself safer. For example, self-defense class, active shooter training, non-lethal force, security systems, and even owning a dog.

  1. After gathering the information, determining the moral dilemma, and using a framework to logically examine the problem it was time to make a judgment to determine which means are best under the current circumstances.

There really are only a few practical alternatives: 1) accept the status quo, 2) actively advocate for a rational change in gun laws, and 3) decline the right to bear arms and encourage others to do the same. I do not see repealing the Second Amendment as a practical alternative and thus it is not included. There are those that disagree with me including the editors of America Magazine. The Second Amendment is too ingrained in the culture, has too big of a lobby supporting it, and would not be supported by the majority.

  1. Act

Once I made the decision to decline the right to bear arms it was time to act. A moral decision occurs when the intellect and the will come together, but without action serves little purpose. First, I am acting for myself in pledging never to own a gun. I decline the right to bear arms. Second, like many other pledges, people may take I encourage others to also take the pledge and to share that they have. Third, I will never be silent.

  1. Evaluate the process and outcomes

The final step is always to determine if the choice and the action was effective. Only time will tell.

I pledge that I will never own a firearm of any kind. My heart will be guided by love and there will be no door opened for fear. When that door of fear is cracked it lets in evil and blots out reason. Not just the reason that comes from a well-developed human conscience, but the reason imparted through faith. When fear enters evil works to darken our souls to the inherent value of all life. That evil convinces us that property is of such great value that we can ignore the commandment not to kill and choose things over people. Fear causes us to listen to evil telling us that there are good guys with guns and that no harm will come from this instrument of death. Arm yourself with reason and faith and there will be no need for a gun.

“The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence.  Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win. Decline the Right.

 


Stop the Bleed

As nurses, we must be prepared for mass casualty incidents and know how to respond. It was good to see the people trained in first aid (firemen, prior military, nurses, and others) respond and help even as the shooter was still firing. Would you be prepared to stop the bleed of a person with a gunshot wound?

You can follow these easy steps, but it important to practice in advance. While there are videos online they do not replace hands-on training. If you want to be trained you can contact your local school of nursing, EMS, or Red Cross. You can purchase a stop the bleed kit on Amazon.com or through the American Red Cross. Just search “Stop the Bleed”.  If you are in the Knoxville area feel free to reach me at the University of Tennessee, College of Nursing and I will be happy to help arrange training for you.  Get involved, get trained, buy a kit and keep one at home and one in your car.

stop the bleed

Learn more about how to Stop the Bleed by watching this video prepared by the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health.


Another Mass Shooting, More Prayers

Sunday I wrote about it being 15 years since my twin brothers murder and today I wake up to the news covering yet another mass shooting. This one occurred in Las Vegas with more than 200 injured and 50 dead. It is the worst mass shooting in United States history. I also woke to the empty rhetoric of politicians who say they are praying for the victims. Pray, if they actually do, is all they do. In fact, they do nothing or worse block those that try.

What motivated a 64 year old man to kill so many? How did he get an automatic weapon? Can you remember the last time we have had a day without reading about the tragedy that is gun violence or a month without hearing about a mass shooting. We average over 9 deaths a day from guns and a mass shooting every day. Each time social media is filled with hateful people that cannot, or will not, have a civil conversation about a serious topic. Respectful disagreements can help move people to common ground, but what is most often reflected in society is matched in Congress and the result is more dead bodies and more grieving families. The policy changes that are needed will not be easy, but they are doable without changing the 2nd Amendment. We cannot be silent in the face violence. We cannot let fear over rule reason.

Embed from Getty Images

For those of us that have lost someone we love to senseless gun violence each new incident is a reminder that brings the pain rushing back. If you love your guns and the 2nd Amendment more than your neighbors then it will be impossible for you to understand my pain and the pain of every other person who has ever been impacted by a gun violence. Each year on September 30 I remember my twin brother who was shot four times (two in the chest, one in the side, and one in the back) fell at my mother’s feet where he died on my parent’s living room floor.  The bloodstain on the carpet is forever etched into my memory. He was not killed by an intruder, but rather in an argument with our brother. Without the gun, he would probably be alive. The police called it a “family matter” and did nothing. In fact, because my other brother was never charged with a crime he legally purchased many more guns.

The argument that the 2nd Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means.  In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. People with guns do kill people.

This year alone there have been:

In the civilian population deaths from firearms are believed to be a good indicator of firearms violence. The rate of nonfatal gunshot wounds is estimated to be 2.6 times the rate of fatal gunshot wounds. You can find the death rates from firearms by state at http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=113&cat=2.

The 2nd Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun.  I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.

It is true that it takes a person to pull the trigger, but without a gun it is much harder to kill. You can’t kill over 50 people with a knife from the 32nd floor of a building and injure over 200 more. People do kill people, but people with guns are more likely to do so either intentionally or accidentally. “The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence.  My wish is for a day that no American chooses to avail him or herself of the 2nd Amendment right. Peace is an amazing feeling and it begins in our own homes and hearts. Put fear aside, love your neighbor, and choose life. Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win. Don’t allow politicians to continue to say they will pray, but never act. There works are lacking any evidence of faith.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

 


Love Your Brother, Decline the Right

The better the society the less law ther will be. In Heaven, there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. In Hell, there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observe. – Grant Gilmore

On September 30, 2002, each year I still mourn the loss of my twin brother who was shot four times (two in the chest, one in the side, and one in the back) and fell at my mother’s feet where he died. The bloodstain on the carpet is forever etched into my memory, maybe on my soul. I confess I knew my brothers and their faults. I worry about what I failed to do.

My brother was not killed by an intruder, but rather in an argument with our brother. It is hard to believe it has been fifteen years since. From then until now there have been 177,311 additional homicides. There are 177,311 families that have felt the same pain. Yet, we do nothing to address gun safety. The lack of action by Congress is shocking not just because of the alarming number of homicides, but also suicides and accidental deaths. While the majority of American believe there should be sensible gun safety law the militant minority has managed to intimidate our elected officials or bribe them through campaign contributions.

The militant minority that says it takes a person to pull the trigger misses the fact that it is much harder to kill without a gun. People do kill people, but people with guns are more likely to do so either intentionally or accidentally.  The technology exists to reduce the risk of accidental death and even someone using a gun that doesn’t belong to them and yet these technologies are too rarely used and in some places not even available. The law could require greater gun safety.

Christianity teaches that human life is sacred and “the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB).  I often what moral vision one finds in a gun. The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot just be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence.  My wish is for a day that in acting on our own judgment we make use of responsible freedom.  I hope for a day that no American is driven by coercion, but rather through a sense of duty declines the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

The 2nd Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that most people should avail themselves of the right.  I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life. I have the right to have an abortion, but would not have one.  Some states still have a death penalty despite the growing evidence that we frequently convict the innocent and are more likely to do so based on race and social status.  If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is morally right.

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 8.54.12 PM

Gun Violence by the Numbers from https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/#DailyDeaths

 


Compassion, Civility, and Ending the Violence

I woke up this morning to yet another shooting. So far this year there have been 27,797 incidents with 6,875 deaths and 154 mass shootings (www.gunviolencearchive.org). Today alone there were two mass shootings, one in Alexandria, VA and one in San Francisco, CA. As a country, we are awash with guns and there are too many people lacking both self-control and a moral compass with them. We must either work to have gun laws that prevent those who should not have weapons of violence from easy access to them or we must address the lack of morality and self-control or we could be radical and do both.

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow [wo]men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

I often wonder when our fall began and the answer always leads me back to the same place – our leaders. We have all manner of leaders and they are failing us. We have professional athletes that cheat and commit violence, actors that engage in all manner of moral failure and make huge money glamorizing immorality, and politicians that engage in discourse that incites the public to incivility. And then there is me. What am I doing to change things or worse support them?

I can’t take away your hate of your neighbor, or a politician, or even your brother. I can only let love take all the space in my own heart leaving no room for hate. I can’t force you not speak in ways that infuriate others or to listeMask by B. Brechtn to the views of those that are “different”. I can only speak with compassion and have ears to hear. I can’t take away your guns, but I can decline the right to bear arms and walk among my neighbors without fear. In the end, the only morality I can control is my one, but I can be an example to others of compassion and civility.

We need to change the way we see ourselves and our expectations of our society. Compassion and civility begin with me and with you. I’m choosing to practice radical compassion.

May all the victims of gun violence, hateful speech, intolerance be embraced with love. May all of those that feel the need to respond with such speech or violence be embraced with even greater love until they are able to let go.

May God grant us compassionate heart and a peaceful society.