At a vigil to honor the victims of Sandy Hook, I read aloud the piece that Rabbi Lerner wrote on December 14th, 2012, entitled: “Banning All Guns is Necessary but Not Sufficient”, that we also need a fundamental transformation of consciousness both inner and societal. An article in Tikkun‘s spring issue, 2014 entitled, ‘Loving-Kindness to the Thousandth Generation’ by Ana Levy-Lyons mentioned a school administrator, Antoinette Tuff, who persuaded an armed twenty year old who came to her school with an AK-47 to put down his gun by expressing empathy for him. “That’s all?” I thought. Yes, simply empathy. It seems that we have lost that sense of compassion and that we suffer from a collective lack of empathy toward the other. I concur with Rabbi Lerner’s article, I applaud Ms. Tuff, and I believe that we still need to look deeper for, and at, the root causes of this mass gun violence.
In the aftermath of some of the most recent and shocking shootings, the one where the shooter’s intent in Virginia was to have his murders documented on TV and particularly the one at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, we are again appalled that this sort of thing can happen, and at a place of worship or now recorded on live tv. Or are we? Are we surprised anymore when we hear about someone pulling out a gun and shooting people en masse at point blank range, even children, at their schools or has this become commonplace? We have witnessed so much of this violence in our nation alone. In fact, our nation, more than any other advanced country on this planet has been the place of these shootings, they are now just another normalized news story. How can this be?
And, how do we understand the silence, the lack of our country’s response to these shootings? Not one 2016 presidential candidate has even mentioned these shootings. And, absolutely nothing has changed, not a thing has been done to address this pandemic of mass violence. No, excuse me, I learned that one thing was done: Congress’ first vote on guns after the mass shooting in Charleston has been to block federal funding for gun violence research. This is how we respond to violence in this country? That is, ‘let’s just pretend that this never happened and cut funding to find out why’.
I have been involved in fighting for gun control ever since a friend of mine was shot in 1999, in Miami, Fl. He was a physician and a patient of his shot him. Apparently this patient thought that the doctor had not done enough to heal him and he was stalking the man until he snuck into his office one day with a gun. The ninth bullet was the one that killed him.
Since that time and with the slew of mass shootings that have followed, I began to wonder who this shooter is and what makes so many people turn to this kind of violent theater, particularly committed en masse. The largely ineffectual solutions we have sought have been just that: they don’t really address the underlying cause of this phenomenon.