Tuesday, March 28, 2006

This Elephant is Too Big for Me!

Since Saturday, my heart has been heavy and the synapses in my brain have been firing like never before. I cannot wrap my head around this one. I like logical consequences and sometimes tragedies simply do not make sense. On this one, I am letting my fingers type my thoughts and feelings because I have to say something.

Saturday morning at 7 AM, a 28 year old young man returned to an after-Rave party that he had attended on Capitol Hill in Seattle, armed with a Winchester pistol grip 12-gauge shotgun and a Ruger .40-caliber handgun. Blasting away with both weapons, he killed six young men and women including a 14 and 15 year old girl. Upon being confronted by police, he placed one of his weapons in his mouth and pulled the trigger, destroying himself. More weapons and ammunition were found in his truck.

My daughter's choir teacher lives near the crime scene and saw the bodies being hauled away. My daughter's good friend has been complaining about her little sister attending these Raves. In fact, she complained about the issue in my presence a week ago. Luckily, her sister was not there on Friday night but three of her friends were and they are now dead. Violence touches all of us when this happens.


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So what does this all mean? What do we do? The young man who did this was from Montana. It was there where he obtained the guns. At one point these very same weapons were taken from him because he was accused of felony mischief for blasting apart moose sculptures in Whitefish, Montana. When he plead guilty to a misdemeanor, by law, the judge had no choice but to return his guns to him. The Seattle Police Chief stated very clearly after this happened, that the pistol grip shot gun was by no means a weapon used to hunt animals--it was designed to hunt humans.

Violence such as this in Seattle with so many victims involved is unusual. The Rave scene, though involving drugs, does not have a violent reputation. But America does. America has a violent violent culture. Ironically, two weeks ago, my priest had written an article for our local newspaper, the Mukilteo Beacon. He titled it "Homeland Security?" and here are some quotes and I agreed with absolutely everything he said--two weeks ago. And I especially agree with him today.

"During this year, 2006, some 28,000 people in the United States will die of gunshot wounds, even if Mr. Cheney gives up hunting. Every two years more people die by firearms than died in 8 years of war in Vietnam.

More than half of that number will be suicides, some 800 will die as a reult of being accidentally shot. About 10,000 people will be murdered with guns......

....These figures are projections based on previous years numbers. For example during 2001 there were 29,571 deaths by firearms....2002 there were 30,242 deaths from gunfire, during 2003 and 2004, the figure was closer to 29,000......roughly 75 people a day, everyday.

Can you imagine what we would do if some 28,000 people were killed in Iraq or by Al Qaeda each year?.....

No, I am not going to advance arguments about gun control or rationalize the need of defense of the individual. Rather I would invite you to comtemplate the reality of these numbers. Suicides, murders, accidents and a tiny amount of justified shootings represent monumental human suffering.

How can these numbers hold up year after year in a nation with a very high percentage of people who profess religious conviction? Why is not every person of faith and goodwill appalled at this violence? If we cannot come to grips with this terrible violence in our midst how can we preach peace to the rest of the world? Where is our moral supremecy?.....

.....[W]e as a people need to study the violence that mars our lives. We need to learn about its causes and manifestations. We need to know the statistics and allow ourselves to be appalled at this horrendous elephant in the middle of our living rooms......"
Reverend Peter Snow, St. Hilda St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, March 15, 2006 Worship Column, Mukilteo Beacon

To give this perspective, about 40,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents in the United States each year. And about 14,000 Americans die of HIV (Aids). America loves guns and I do not believe there will ever be any realistic restrictions that will curb this type of violence. Other western countries do not have this problem; it is uniquely American. For example, Canada and France have about 4 or 5 gun deaths per 100,000 people and the U.S. has triple that amount at over 14 per 100,000. Actually, the United States has the highest in the world and Japan is the lowest at .05. This is outrageous.

I do not have a solution; I do not have an answer. My own son likes guns and enjoys shooting at targets. There is no reason he shouldn't be allowed to continue with this activity. But, if he started to build an arsenal of unusual weapons designed to kill human beings, we, as his parents---yes, his PARENTS would be concerned and we would do something about it.