There is something that we must accept, as hard as it may sound; unless there is a massive change in our culture, mass shootings are here to stay. All politicians claim that their plans or theories are the best way to alleviate the problem, but sad to say to unless we change our moral compass, we are doomed to continue to see these acts of violence across our country. I am not going to talk about gun control or lack of gun control here, this is the not the proper format. This is to talk about what smarter people than me are saying that we need to start looking at how to prevent the next mass shooting coming to a school, mall or church near you.
While working on this blog, I found two very interesting articles on the issue. Jillian Peterson and James Densley “Here’s what we know about mass shooters” and Tony Perkins on “Solution to gun violence isn’t what you think says former police officer”. One tells us what we should be looking for and the second really hits what we should be doing as the church. If we are going to stop these shootings we have to get involved. Yes I said that right, we the church need to step out of our comfort zone again and get busy.
In the Jillian Peterson and James Densley article “Here’s what we know about mass shooters” They did an extensive two-year study of mass shootings going back as far as 1966, interviewing shooter’s families, survivors, first responders and even the shooter themselves. Peterson and Densley came up with four commonalities in almost all studied mass shootings.
Peterson and Densley found most of the shooters “experienced trauma or exposure to violence at a young age”. This could be anything from physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, severe bullying and parental suicide. Often these were linked to mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, thoughts disorders or suicidality.
The next thing Peterson and Densley described was something in the shooters life they could point to as an “identifiable crisis point in weeks or months leading up to the shooting”. This causes the shooter to become angry and feeling hopeless in their situation. Workplace shooters losing a job, students who experience a breakup, bullying or disappointment in not getting what they wanted at school. Most of the times their change in behavior is a noticeable change or they voiced their disappointment in the situation by talking about suicidal thoughts or acts of violence. Almost always there is some type of red flag on the dramatic change in their lives.
Peterson and Densley continue with most of the shooters had a fascination of other shooters. When we look at the recent El Paso shooter, in his manifesto he discusses the New Zealand Christchurch shooter writing “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto.” With constant 24/7 news, social media, hate filled website and violent games, shooters seek not only the notoriety but want to outdo other shooters in this horrific crime against humanity. In this area Peterson and Densley also noticed that other acts of violence validate their actions, and this causes mass shootings to happen in clusters. We see this with El Pasco, Dayton and four mass shooting attempts foiled by law enforcement over the past few weeks.
Peterson and Densley close with the shooters must have “the means to carry out their plan”. When the shooter decides that it is time to act and that life is over for them, they must have the means to commit the act. Most school shootings the shooter obtains their guns from a family member and we have seen that most adult shooters have obtained their weapons legally. There is nothing in the criminal history check to show that a person has had mental health issues or has attempted to commit suicide and in the case of juveniles, most criminal records are not included in the adult record check so crimes against person by a person under 18 is not found when someone does a criminal history check with National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
And just to add a personal note on the mental health issue. When I worked for the Town of Belleair we had a person that attempted suicide multiple times. Every time we received a call that this person was threatening to kill them self, we would remove all weapons from that person’s home. Every time that person got out of the hospital they would go down and retrieve their firearms only to have them available when they committed the next attempt. We were in constant fear that this person would eventually try suicide by cop; shooting at us with the weapons that were given back to them after every suicide effort. One time the weapon was destroyed only to have that person go out and purchase another weapon. The law would not allow us to put those suicide attempts in NCIC.
So, where does the church come into play. Looking at the first three reasons a person may become a mass shooter we have to understand several things. Christ has been removed from the schools, homes and sometimes even in churches. In Tony Perkins article “Solution to gun violence isn’t what you think says former police officer” he states “As Jesus observed in Matthew 15:19, from the human heart comes murder. To talk about the "why" and not just the "how," requires we go beyond external, environmental factors to focus on the internal aspect of morality. And we can't have an honest discussion about morality without including religion.” Man, I wish I would have said this, “we can’t have an honest discussion about morality without including religion”.
The first reason Peterson and Densley talked about were the issues within the home. We have seen the value of the home decay over the last 50 years. Broken families, domestic violence and bullying at the schools is a major cause of the “nature of their exposures” as Peterson and Densley write. Since we have been taking God out of our schools, our homes and just about every where else how can we expect anything different coming from our children. Where is their support right now? Do they get their validation from outside sources like social media, the shows they watch or hearing it on the streets, or do they get it from the parents, church members and church staff? Who are the people raising and influencing our kids?
Who do they talk to in times of crisis? Do we listen? Are you looking for those warning signs? The last three mass shootings that were foiled by local law enforcement were because of information received from friends, family members or social media where the shooter made threats or statements that alerted those close to that person that this person really needed help. When you get that low that you are thinking of killing innocent people and possibly yourself that is a diffident cry for help. Let’s be realistic people; that is not in most people’s DNA so to get to that point something has gone terribly wrong in that person’s life. Where are we when those that are hurting need us?
A good friend of mine, Phil Chalmers, who has interview over 200 teen killers and school shooters list as one of his “The Ten Causes of Teen Murder” the “lack of spiritual guidance and proper discipline”. In Phil’s seminars he talks at length about the social media, music and games children who murder watch. A lot of the games, music video and movies glorify death and killing. Parents wake up! What video games are your kids playing? What videos are they watching on YouTube? What music are they listening to? A disturbing trend we are now seeing in our kids is the sharing of nude pictures of themselves to each other over programs like Snapchat or Instagram. And every time we approach a parent about these issues, they tell us that is just growing up or their child would never do anything like that. Unless that child has a strong family value system to support them, one day you will see something that will break your heart.
So, where do we go from here? We must become more involved in our children’s lives. We have to look for the warning signs, and if we see something, we have to say something, this is no longer an option. We must become proactive and not re-active. We need to bring Christ back into our homes, our families, our schools and our country. Tony Perkins said it best (still wish I would have said it) “To achieve security for our families and communities while preserving the freedom that has made America great, we have only one option: Restore morality by renewing our commitment to the free exercise of religion. In other words, we should protect, not prevent, religious freedom.”
Who is with me?
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.