It is impossible not to be aware of the murderous events in Uvalde, Texas, last week. The senseless deaths of a classroom full of children and their teachers breaks the hearts of even the most jaded among us. And yet, the deaths at Robb Elementary School are not the first to result from an active shooter in a school and, sadly, they will not be the last. As a nation, we have become wearily accustomed to the pathetic routine: shooter appears at school, people die, shooter either lives or dies, nation mourns with thought sand prayers and calls for more a) gun control, b) waiting periods before the purchase of guns, and/or c) more attention to people with mental health issues. Nothing happens and we forget. Until the next time when we do the same futile dance of remorse over again.
Here is the problem as I see it—we are all waiting. Waiting for “someone” to do “something.” Whether that someone is the legislature, the president, the police, or the schools is immaterial—we depend on them to see the problem and fix it so that it doesn’t happen again.
The local police in Uvalde waited, too. They heard false information and waited too long to respond. Steve McCraw, Texas Department of Public Safety Director, admitted as much: “From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision,” he said.1
But what happens when we wait? As in Uvalde, people die. CHILDREN die. The time for waiting has come and gone. The time for action has arrived with a vengeance and we cannot wait anymore to protect those who cannot protect themselves. The question, as always, is how?
I have friends on both sides of this issue: Good people who believe the greater control of the legal purchase and use of firearms is the answer, and equally good people who believe that arming guards, teachers, and staff is the best response. I will admit that there are things about both opinions seem reasonable—yet they cannot both be true. What do we do about the shooters who acquire their weapons through illegal means? What about those with no previous mental health issues to monitor? How do we handle the potential risks of lots of armed people in close proximity to one another and the children? The list is issues is enormous and the means for resolving them inadequate.
I will admit that I do not know the answer, either. What I do know is that I, like the prophet, cry out, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2, NRSVue). I will continue my prayers for victims and shooters alike and their hurting families, and for wisdom, common sense, and an end to this useless waiting that accomplishes nothing but more death.