Last Thursday saw yet another frightening act of gun violence, this time in Lafayette, La., as a man shot off 20 rounds during an evening showing of “Trainwreck,” killing two and injuring nine others.
Since then the country has pretty much followed its scripted cycle of reactions. People on the right—in this case former Texas Governor and current Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry—saying the issue is not the accessibility of guns, but rather—in Perry’s case—the ‘hazard’ of gun-free zones; others on the left, such as Australian actress Rebel Wilson—calling the U.S. to finally enact gun control laws. “I just want people to be safe,” she tweeted Friday (from a holiday in Ibiza), “especially people that are doing one of my favorite things in the WORLD—going out to the movies 2 have fun.”
And we the public have greeted both sides with another social media avalanche of “Hell yeahs" and “Shut ups."
Both individually and as a group, the editors of America have already written thoughtfully about the crisis our country faces regarding gun-related violence. And for those who favor some form of gun control, there really is nothing new to say. But nor does there seem to be any progress. We find ourselves in a philosophical stalemate.
But whether we’re infuriated at the idea of the government taking away our guns/rights, or with the fact that we continue to live in a country where somewhat regularly American citizens walk into public places, shoot our parents, grandparents and our children and nothing changes, most of us do agree on one thing, namely that our current system is broken and needs to change.
Given the urgency that we feel in the wake of each new Lafayette, generally we don’t take much time to acknowledge that shared understanding. We leap right into offering solutions, and the shouting at each other immediately sets in.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, maybe as a society we need to stop pushing our own individual agendas and solutions to gun violence, and instead create opportunities for our citizens simply to give voice and bear witness to our shared sense of frustration and grief. And hope that in that place of community the solutions we need will find us.
Given what is at stake and what has been lost, such a measure may seem horribly small and naive. Certainly I have my own opinions on what needs to be done. But so do (hundreds of) millions of others, and all it’s amounted to is a lot of division, spent emotion and, paradoxically, the increased sales of guns.
And as our Gospel today notes, the Kingdom of God begins not with trumpets but with something as small and inconsequential as a mustard seed.