|Photo by Quentin Kemmel on Unsplash|
The keys to solving mass shootings are the same keys to solving domestic violence, both in the need for gun control, and in the need for greater background checks and the work of mental wellness.
But we're not solving domestic violence murders with background checks, because too often the domestic violence is unreported, or, like in Chris's case, the victim pulls a protective order or doesn't follow through on prosecution. We know this is the case, again and again, in domestic violence. So banning gun ownership of people who are convicted of domestic violence, while a good step, is not going to catch most of these people. It's only after the deaths that we hear the stories of repeated abuse. Chris's friends and family (and clergy) had some idea what she endured, and wanted to help her to get out, and she did separate from her abuser, but it wasn't enough to stop him from killing her. The same is true for focusing on mental illness -- too many people are undiagnosed, and most people who are diagnosed will never commit a violent crime -- so it won't do the job of stopping these killers.
But if we stop domestic violence entirely -- look at and understand the roots of domestic violence, treat people at the root causes -- we might address a lot of these mass shooting incidents as well. This includes looking at how masculinity is constructed in our culture, and recognizing the ways that this construct of gender can turn toxic and violent. It includes a better understanding of mental illness and mental wellness. It includes working with children, so that we can break the cycle of abuse over generations. It includes teaching things like self-control, understanding triggers, empathy, and resilience. In short, we need to teach love, and not the fantasy love that leads to domestic violence, but a real agape love and an ethic of care. And none of that may ever be enough. Violence happens in liberal religious communities, it happens in rich families and educated families and liberal families. And it will evade our attempts to address it over and over again. It lives and grows in secrecy and shadows. So this is not meant to be a substitute for gun reform. The ability to purchase weapons designed to kill and do so quickly increases the deaths in these situations. Our society should be able to stop access to these weapons like the AR-15, which are unnecessary for either sport or personal protection. And we need to make it so that a man like Chris Keith's killer won't be able to get those guns back, when we know as much as we know about him, and so that the recent killer, who was a clearly known threat, won't be able to walk into a store and legally purchase a gun, either. And when we do so, the body count in our mass killings will go down.