Americans are stunned and saddened by the mass shooting incidents in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend.
Although still the greatest nation in the world, the United States in the 21st century appears to have lost its way, if not its very soul.
Over the next few days, our nation’s leaders undoubtedly will renew their calls for enacting gun legislation, expanding background checks and passing red flag laws to take away guns from someone who is suicidal or an imminent threat.
Many steps already have been taken to prevent these indiscriminate acts of violence at the local level, including forming police departments in public schools and at the college and some congregations have armed officers/members at church services.
Jillian Peterson, a psychologist and professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University, and James Densley, a sociologist and professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University, have studied the life histories of modern mass killers. In an article in the Los Angeles Times this week, they offer some insight from studies of past mass shooters:
“First, the vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying. The trauma was often a precursor to mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.
“Second, practically every mass shooter we studied had reached an identifiable crisis point in the weeks or months leading up to the shooting. They often had become angry and despondent because of a specific grievance. For workplace shooters, a change in job status was frequently the trigger. For shooters in other contexts, relationship rejection or loss often played a role. Such crises were, in many cases, communicated to others through a marked change in behavior, an expression of suicidal thoughts or plans, or specific threats of violence.
“Third, most of the shooters had studied the actions of other shooters and sought validation for their motives. People in crisis have always existed. But in the age of 24-hour rolling news and social media, there are scripts to follow that promise notoriety in death. Societal fear and fascination with mass shootings partly drives the motivation to commit them. Hence, as we have seen in the last week, mass shootings tend to come in clusters. They are socially contagious. Perpetrators study other perpetrators and model their acts after previous shootings. Many are radicalized online in their search for validation from others that their will to murder is justified.
“Fourth, the shooters all had the means to carry out their plans. Once someone decides life is no longer worth living and that murdering others would be a proper revenge, only means and opportunity stand in the way of another mass shooting. Is an appropriate shooting site accessible? Can the would-be shooter obtain firearms? In 80% of school shootings, perpetrators got their weapons from family members, according to our data. Workplace shooters tended to use handguns they legally owned. Other public shooters were more likely to acquire them illegally...
“We also need to, as a society, be more proactive. Most mass public shooters are suicidal, and their crises are often well known to others before the shooting occurs. The vast majority of mass shooters leak their plans ahead of time. People who see or sense something is wrong, however, may not always say something to someone owing to the absence of clear reporting protocols or fear of overreaction and unduly labeling a person as a potential threat. Proactive violence prevention starts with schools, colleges, churches and employers initiating conversations about mental health and establishing systems for identifying individuals in crisis, reporting concerns and reaching out — not with punitive measures but with resources and long-term intervention. Everyone should be trained to recognize the signs of a crisis.”
Additionally, what about these dangerous chat rooms on the dark web? Social media reportedly plays a large, disturbing role in programming and encouraging these young men who are loners and seething with anger, even outright hatred, toward other groups of people.
It’s tragic to think that innocent victims could continue to lose their lives while attending houses of worship, outdoor festivals, concerts, shopping malls – anywhere.
Chet Garner, star of “The Daytripper” TV show, posted on a recent blog in reponse to the El Paso massacre that evil is a story as old as humanity. “Humans act evil because humans are broken. We’re all covered in brokenness. That is why we kill each other...”
We agree with him that this problem won’t require a governmental solution, but by changing hearts on an individual-by-individual basis.
Parents need to teach their kids about life in Jesus Christ, so they will have hope. “This solution is the Light that cannot be overcome by any darkness,” Garner said. “It is our only hope against evil...”
Pastor and author Tony Evans sounded a similar theme in his video lesson titled “Kingdom Man” at a men’s Bible study at the Methodist church which began Sunday evening.
The former chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys challenged those attending to step up and be the men God made them to be in our families, our jobs, our churches and our communities.
It’s obvious that many young people in today’s America are lacking positive role models, including fathers who are present in the home and set good examples (kind, loving, patient).
They also are desperately in need of a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father.
Please pray for America, for the families of the shooting victims in El Paso and Dayton, and that it’s not too late for our people to repent and for God to heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).