Guns.

I’m a Thinker Outlouder. It’s a dangerous title, because if I forget to write/say, “I’m just thinking out loud here,” people assume what I’m writing/saying is my actual opinion. (Which, I’ll admit is a fair conclusion to draw.) With me, though, it’s likely that I’m processing aloud what my potential opinion could possibly be. I can’t remember from whom I learned this idea, but it’s so spot-on with how my brain works: Let me hear what I say so I know what I mean.

So with that disclaimer—which, I’ll confess, may be just a way for me to avoid responsibility for what I’m writing—I’m going to talk about guns.

I don’t like them. I don’t like knowing people are carrying them around where I can’t see them, and I don’t think I’d feel much better if they were visible. I equate guns neither with sport nor self-defense; to me, they symbolize violence. I know lots of good people who have and use guns. I like those people. I don’t like their guns. I’m the mom who, when my girls were invited to friends’ homes, would call to ask their parents two questions: “Will you be home to supervise?” and “Do you keep weapons in your house?” (And later, “Do you provide or permit teenagers to drink alcohol?”) I didn’t allow water guns or Nerf guns in our house. Jack is bummed—to this day—that I asked him to get rid of his Super Soakers when we got married.

And yet, despite my far Left leanings, I don’t think we should take away everyone’s guns. Rather, we ought to be more mindful of the type of weapons available, we ought to make them more difficult to obtain, we ought to require training and licensing, and we ought to impose renewal periods–just like with driver licenses. I don’t think a mental health history should automatically disqualify someone from owning a firearm, but it doesn’t seem completely unreasonable to require some type of physician’s release in certain cases, although I’m concerned about adding additional stigma to an already unfairly stigmatized group of people—a group that includes me. I also wonder if it could be helpful to impose stiff penalties on people whose weapons are used in a crime; if the possibility of their three-year-old shooting himself through the eye isn’t enough incentive to keep their guns locked up, maybe the threat of a $25,000 fine and five-year jail sentence would be. (Maybe these sorts of laws already exist?)

But I don’t think we can stop there. While those measures would likely decrease the number of gun-related tragedies, they aren’t going to completely eliminate gun-related crime. I can’t help but wonder why people are picking up weapons and using them to intimidate, wound, and kill other human beings. There must be preventive measures we can take other than ones related to the guns themselves. Education. Economic opportunity. Accessible mental health services. Before- and after-school activities. Mentoring programs. Affordable housing. All of it and more.

Hmmm… I had an “I wonder” just now: It’s been suggested that if guns had been legal on Umpqua Community College’s (UCC) campus, the loss of life would’ve been minimized—because someone would’ve taken that guy out. But if someone else had drawn a weapon, how would the police have known which one was the actual threat? And, not to complicate the issue (except let’s do), what if, in that situation, the real perpetrator is white and the hero is a Person of Color? Would certain assumptions be made? (Just in case you thought it, that’s not “pulling the race card.” It’s a legitimate concern.)

On Thursday, within half an hour of seeing the reports of the shooting at UCC, I was horrified to read the “Told ya so” and “Oh shit, here come the Liberals to take away my gun” status updates. In response, I wrote that tragedy should not be a notch in the belt of our political agendas, and I stand by that statement today. However, I did not at all mean to suggest that we don’t have some policies (or lack thereof) to address. We absolutely need to be having these conversations, but we need to be having them not as people who are smug about being proven “right,” but as fellow human beings who are not okay with people losing their lives. We may even need to have them as people who are more concerned with the well-being of other people than we are about our own personal rights. And we may need to decide that we’re not going to let money make policy decisions. And Christ-followers—we better be asking ourselves what Jesus would have to say about all of this.

No matter what, we have work to do. Now. Before it’s too late.

For those families in Oregon, it already is.

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