August 9, 2019


Time to address ‘epidemic’ of mass shootings

Twice within hours, our nation was shaken to its core by senseless acts of violence over the weekend.

Shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, were gunned down by a 24-year-old man late Saturday morning on Aug. 3. The result was 22 innocent people dead and more than two dozen injured. The alleged shooter was apprehended by law enforcement officials. Authorities say between 1,000 to 3,000 people were in the store at the time. We believe it is only by the grace of God that more people were not killed or injured.

Roughly 12 hours later, a man in body armor shot up a popular area of downtown Dayton, Ohio, where large crowds were enjoying a night out with friends and family. As a result of a 21-year-old man’s shooting rampage, nine people were killed and 27 others injured. Because of quick action by local police, the shooter was killed before he could cause more deaths or injuries.

Twice—in less than a day—our hearts ached and tears flowed as we tried to comprehend why two individuals took it upon themselves to carry out these heinous acts.

As is the case whenever these unspeakable crimes occur, theories as to the motives behind these acts are already being shaped. News reports will update us by the minute on new developments, medical professionals will share their insight on mental health and why a person—or people in this case—feels the necessity to follow through on such atrocious acts, and political pundits will weigh in on gun control and other issues they believe are relevant in addressing these situations.

But for many of us—probably most of us—despite all the information gathered and shared, these actions are now and will always be incomprehensible.

Had things gotten so bad for both these men in their 20s that they saw no other way to address life’s frustrations or disappointments? Were there warning signs seen by family and friends? Will social media continue to be a venue for people to sow seeds of anger and hate—and a lack of respect and understanding—for those who are different?

There are so many questions beyond these that need to be addressed. In the end, the answers that are revealed might be unsettling and make us extremely uncomfortable. But God willing, they also will help us as we move forward in a Christlike way to make sure we do all we can to prevent these senseless acts of violence from occurring again and again.

Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian—the list is longer than we can include in this space—our faith teaches us that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no “yes, but …” or “no ... .” Jesus said it simply and powerfully in Mark’s Gospel: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31).

Some in our society—and in the world for that matter—seem to lack a conscience when choosing to attack “defenseless people,” as Pope Francis said about the recent shootings during the Angelus at the Vatican on Aug. 4.

We must ask this question as well: What has happened to valuing the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death?

There are some in today’s world, sadly, who have no second thoughts about attacking the most vulnerable. In the recent shootings in Texas and Ohio, law enforcement officials have referred to the places where the shootings occurred as “soft targets,” people or places that are relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to military or terrorist attacks.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in a statement issued jointly on Aug. 4 with Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered a forthright assessment of the Texas and Ohio tragedies.

“The lives lost this weekend confront us with a terrible truth. We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception. They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face,” they said.

It is an epidemic that should concern all of us. It is a societal issue that must move President Donald J. Trump and leaders of both parties in Congress to finally come together and address this issue in earnest.

But it should not be a political issue. It is a life-and-death issue.

If not addressed soon, there will be more Columbines, Sandy Hooks, Parklands, Las Vegases, El Pasos and Daytons to deal with.

Let us pray:

Please God, give our leaders the strength and courage to work together to address this crisis.
And may your wisdom guide them in their discussions and actions. Amen.

—Mike Krokos

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