This is the question that nearly everyone in the United States is asking in the wake of the shootings at Charleston. But it’s not just Charleston. It’s the Newtown Massacre. Its’ other shootings like those at Virginia Tech, Aurora or Columbine. It seems that these shootings are increasing in frequency and brutality. In fact, in the last 30 years, we’ve experienced over 61 mass shootings.
School shootings seem to be more common than church shootings, even though Carl Chinn reports 176 deadly force incidents in 2014 on church property. Among the myths is that school shootings are on the rise, but depending on who you read or listen to, this is either a myth or fact. This problem has been studied by the Secret Service and the FBI. The latter study reminds us that this problem is multi-faceted and complex:
School shootings and other forms of school violence are not just a school’s problem or a law enforcement problem. They involve schools, families, and the communities. An adolescent comes to school with a collective life experience, both positive and negative, shaped by the environments of family, school, peers, community, and culture. Out of that collective experience come values, prejudices, biases, emotions, and the student’s responses to training, stress, and authority. His or her behavior at school is affected by the entire range of experiences and influences. No one factor is decisive. By the same token, however, no one factor is completely without effect, which means that when a student has shown signs of potential violent behavior, schools and other community institutions do have the capacity — and the responsibility — to keep that potential from turning real.
The Center for Disease Control reminds us that less than 1% of all homicides among school age children ages 5-18 happen on school grounds. Other major findings include:
- Violent deaths at schools accounted for less than one percent of the homicides and suicides among children ages 5-18.
- During the past seven years, 116 students were killed in 109 separate incidents-an average of 16.5 student homicides each year.
- Rates of school-associated student homicides decreased between 1992 and 2006. However, they have remained relatively stable in recent years. Rates were significantly higher for males, students in secondary schools, and students in central cities.
- From 1999 to 2006, most school-associated homicides included gunshot wounds (65 percent), stabbing or cutting (27 percent), and beatings (12 percent).
- Among the students who committed a school-associated homicide, 20 percent were known to have been victims of bullying and 12 percent were known to have expressed suicidal thoughts or to have engaged in suicidal behavior.
- Most school-associated violent deaths occur during transition times-immediately before and after the school day and during lunch.
- Violent deaths are more likely to occur at the start of each semester.
- Nearly 50 percent of homicide perpetrators gave some type of warning signal, such as making a threat or leaving a note, prior to the event.
Our society is far too violent. We play video games that show graphic violence every few seconds. We watch movies that multiple killings. Numerous web sites – both pornographic and otherwise – show women and children being violated. We tolerate a sex trafficking industry with a shrug of our shoulders. We kill the unborn at a rate of over 1,000,000/year. Every form of deviant behavior is available in the United States if you search hard enough and are willing to pay the price.
In the 1950’s the most difficult problems we had in school were students talking out of turn and chewing gum. Today, we’re looking at putting armed guards into our schools and perhaps, our churches, in an effort to maintain a minimum level of safety. Uffdah.
I’ve heard several times that evil has visited Charleston. And surely this is a correct assessment. But the admission that evil exists presupposes that good exists and that there is a standard between them. That giver of the standard is God – the same God whom we have thrown out of our schools, evicted from our public squares and routinely, we curse. We don’t want Him to tell us what to do and we ignore Him. In our humor, we make fun of Him, we sometimes shake our fists at Him and sometimes treat our dogs better than Him. Yet, when tragedy strikes, we turn to Him and ask for His comfort. We ask Him to help us make sense of the senseless, not realizing that His love for us is greater than our sin or disdain for Him.
I don’t know why this happened. But I can say that if we turn to God, he will comfort us and to give us strength to keep going. As you contemplate this tragedy, I ask that you turn your heart to God. God can (and I believe will) take this tragedy and turn it into something good. He is One who restores, who takes misery and turns it into Joy, who fills us with a peace that really does pass all comprehension. In this world, we will have trouble. But Christ has overcome the world.
I invite you to know the only One who can really solve our problems. The only person who can really fix all this is Jesus Christ. Neither party, alone or together, can fix man’s heart. You can take away all the guns and pass all the preventative laws you wish and people will still commit senseless murder. Only Christ can change my heart and your heart. Turn your heart to God and while you and I may not have all our questions answered, we’ll know the One who can answer them.