Gun control laws alone won’t solve problem of mass shootings

Elizabeth Sallie discusses how gun control is an inappropriate topic to discuss in the face of grief and tragedy.



Courtesy | Brett Weinstein [Creative Commons]

Elizabeth Sallie, Writer

During April 2007, the community gathers together at a Virginia Tech vigil. | Courtesy of Brett Weinstein [Creative Commons]


The horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary happened the day after the last Chimes of the semester was published. It was the Friday before finals week. Even so, people pitched articles about gun control. Unlike much of the mainstream media and nearly every politician, I declared it was too soon after the tragedy to politicize it.

Many people argued otherwise, particularly online. “It’s never too soon to take actions that could save lives!” proclaimed political bloggers. It’s a 24-hour news cycle; time for grief is a luxury we can’t afford. Many of the progressive Christian bloggers I follow “felt a burden” for gun control.

However, I stand by my call. It was too soon. In times of unspeakable tragedy, we must allow space for grief — space to struggle with the overwhelming sorrow of so many lives lost far too soon due to one evil man’s actions.

Such space for grief is hard to come by. And five and a half years later, that grief still sometimes crushes your heart with the horror that it only took one evil person to wreck families, desecrate a safe town and leave thousands looking for God in the midst of apparent hopelessness. 

On a cold spring day five years ago, I stepped onto the Virginia Tech Drillfield a week after 32 innocent students and professors lost their lives there. Within seconds, a pushy journalist shoved his microphone in my dad’s face. The cameras were incongruous with the deep reverence resonating throughout the temporary memorial. 

We were there to mourn.

We were there to read notes on plywood boards scrawled in Sharpie by survivors. We were there to deal with the too-soon death of my brother’s lacrosse coach, who left behind a sweet family because he protected his students. We were there to claim that ground — to stand proud in the face of the Evil One and claim this tiny town as our own, to say that we would never let fear rule in our hearts. We were there to pray that Jesus would somehow redeem even this heart-wrenching evil.

It was holy.

It was not a place for talks about gun control.

Do those talks matter? Absolutely. Could we avoid the topic? To do so would be foolish. Should we take deeply traumatic moments and trivialize them by immediately proclaiming that laws could have prevented this? Never.

Change gun control policies as you will. Discuss liberties and safety and the Second Amendment until you’re blue in the face.

The ready availability of a gun is not at the root of mass shootings. The roots go so much deeper: evil hidden in the heart of humanity, the mysterious power of sin, one person’s decision that he matters more than the lives of the innocent.

Laws won’t change deep depravity, my friends. There is not a single thing that could preempt it.

So, stop lobbing statistics at me when I tell you how Jesus has been faithful to redeem hopelessness in a tiny town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Stop thinking man alone can redeem senseless evils in Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., and many more places. Stop trying to solve the deep problems of sin with man-made laws that scratch at the surface.

Obviously, laws regarding gun control are necessary. As a publication, we’re seizing our opportunity to spark that conversation among you — that you may prayerfully consider your stance. It’s time to engage this difficult issue respectfully and wisely, but not merely on a political or legal level.

In a world filled with startling moments of our depravity, the Church needs people dedicated to prayer. We need people deeply committed to cultivating a rich appreciation of the intrinsic value of human life throughout culture. We need people who deeply grieve the loss of innocent life whenever it happens — whether in crime-ridden neighborhoods, war torn nations or an elementary school. We need people who live vibrantly, carrying with them the weight of the knowledge it could end at any time. 

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