Another school shooting. Do I need to repeat the details? Parkland Florida and 17 students killed. I was attending a weekend retreat with our 8th graders that weekend. When I asked our sons and daughters about school safety they said they are conflicted. Some days they are afraid to go to school but most of the time they feel safe because our town is small and our school doesn’t have “that many” students. Statically they are correct, these incidents occur mostly in larger schools. But shootings in small schools are not unprecedented. According to credible sources, in America there are 150,000 high school students who have experienced a school shooting since Columbine in 1999. Add in another 300,000 parents and countless teachers and school workers and pretty soon we realize over ½ million Americans have experienced first hand a shooting in their school. These are no longer isolated incidents or rare and unusual.
Most of you know I don’t “do” politics but as your pastor I feel I have an obligation to call this atrocity out for the sin it is. The actions of the shooter are horrific but the sin of our society, as I see it, is our inability to address the problem. I know it’s difficult balancing the safety of a human life against the debate over gun control and the rights of a citizen. But it is a sin that since 1999 no legislation or program has been put into effect to address this issue. All we do is argue and call each other names. And while this shooter didn’t use a “bump stock”, still today they can be purchased to make a semi-automatic rifle act like a fully automatic machinegun. In fact, the stock price of companies making these devices have soared since President Trump indicated he might want to ban them. No compressive mental health program has been introduced. Schools are understaffed and under resourced but there has been no national or state program to increase school funding. Instead of working together to address this American problem we draw lines and divide into factions, driven by fear. We really don’t know what might work because we have not done anything.
Please join me in my prayer for lent that we all might come together: Republicans, Democrats, Independents, victims, parents, students, mental health professionals, gun rights groups and those who want all guns confiscated, all of us, for the safety of our children and the sake of our future.