Thursday, October 5, 2017

Start with Ourselves

During weeks like this, when the news is covering mainly one horrible event, it can wear on a person.

One response is, as Mr. Rogers’ mother advised, to look for the helpers. And there have been many. Stories of heroes, in Las Vegas, who acted instinctively to do what would help others—those are the stories that really tell who we are as a people. Here’s one.

Johnathan Smith, hero
image from CNN

The less helpful response is to insist that anyone who doesn’t believe in taking all the guns from all the law-abiding citizens lacks compassion. And I feel the urge to respond. If pinned down, these gun haters aren’t against all guns; they’re against anyone but the government having them. Because they won’t be against police and military having them—unless they’re in favor of dying defenseless. So, they’re really just against non-government citizens having weapons to defend themselves. I’d like to know why they suddenly trust the government so much.

There’s talk of outlawing the bump stock, apparently used in the Las Vegas shooting to make a semi-automatic rifle fire almost like an automatic rifle. Fully automatic weapons are already outlawed. The NRA is not against outlawing the bump stock. Most shooting ranges already forbid them. If a person isn’t trained in rapid fire—the kind of training you might get in the military—it’s easy to lose control and shoot the ceiling or anything (or possibly anyone) within range.

So there’s a good chance there will be some agreement on this. At the very least there may be some control over where such items can be owned or used, since they make a legal weapon into what is essentially an illegal weapon.

I don’t know how the debate will go. What I expect, though, is that when a murderer doesn’t have access to one way of killing, he will find another.

What we really need is a better way to identify the kind of mind and heart willing to mass murder. I don’t know if that’s possible. Isn’t that the idea of the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report? I don’t think things went well when interventions pre-empted actions.

Even better would be creating minds and hearts that don’t go so far awry.

Scarlett Lewis, the mom of one of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, says that gun control isn’t the answer; misuse of guns is a symptom of a larger societal problem. She suggests teaching young people social and emotional learning. A program she promotes focuses on five points: how to have positive and healthy relationships, deep connections, coping skills, resilience and compassion.

Lewis believes we can see the end of these killings, if we teach every child how to cope with anger, how to be compassionate, and how to love.

Getting out of savagery and up to civilization is a simple but not easy process. We live in a fallen world, with too much evil. A lot will still go wrong. But we can start with ourselves, and with helping and encouraging those around us. The basics include those things that get us beyond our selfishness, the things we get from the Ten Commandments: honor God, life, family, property, and truth. A person who follows this path doesn’t plan and carry out savage atrocities.

During the LDS General Conference last weekend, Elder M.Russell Ballard said this:

We need to embrace God’s children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism. Let it be said that we truly believe the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are for every child of God.
I testify that “the trek continues,” and I invite you to stay on the gospel path as you continue pressing forward by reaching out to all of God’s children in love and compassion, that we may unitedly make our hearts pure and our hands clean to receive the “multiplicity of blessings” awaiting all who truly love our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.

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