I was a campus pastor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney for 13 years. It was a privilege to serve the students, faculty and staff. It was a great adventure in faith, community and diversity. During that time some terrible things took place in our world and in our local community. From 9/11, two wars, Columbine, catastrophic storms, the death of students and the kidnapping of another, we as an academic community and the faith community at Campus Lutheran walked through them together.
One of the most painful of tasks that I was called on to do was to tell students of the deaths of loved ones. I remember each time I had to do so. It truly broke my heart to see the pain and grief of a young person in the midst of such unexpected loss.
So when the news about the shootings in Las Vegas came, it threw me back into the memories of having to tell a student, that their brother or sister, mother or father has been killed. These are memories I do not wish to dwell on, yet apparently this world will not let me or any of us forget.
Death is a part of this sinful and broken world. It is a part of living in a country where there are more guns than people. We live in a world where road rage, gang violence and domestic confrontation are augmented by the use of guns. Guns show no discrimination. Once fired they can kill a person or persons of any race, creed or culture, young or old, male or female. Whether they are 1st graders, college students, high school students, or movie goers, folks at a night club or a concert. The bullet shows no partiality at it penetrates flesh and bone. No part of the body is exempt. No organ is out of bounds.
We have had laws since the beginning of civilization, even before firearms that declared murder is wrong. “You shall not kill” is the 5th commandment that was given to us by God nearly 3,000 years ago. It has not stopped killing.
When the founding Fathers wrote the 2nd Amendment to the constitution, the gun that was most common was a muzzle loading gun. You were lucky to get off 3 shots in one minute, not the 400-600 hundred rounds per minute that modern automatic weapons are able to do. Your only limitation is how many rounds fit in the magazine. In other words there is a higher kill rate with automatic weapons. Add armor piercing rounds and you get an even more deadly effect.
Yes, a semi-automatic deer hunting rifle can do a lot of damage to both animals and humans. But I know of no hunter who can kill 59 people and wound 500 more in ten minutes with a sports gun used for hunting. I have hunted, my family hunts, none of us have ever or should ever need an automatic armor piercing weapon to hunt with.
There is no one solution to this crisis of violence that we are experiencing in the United States. But for those who have been shot at and or wounded by a gun or those who have loss someone to indiscriminate gun violence, the perspective might be totally different.
I was only the messenger when I told folks of the death of a family member. Since campus ministry, I have been called upon to tell parents of the death of their child or stand with them at the bedside as their child passes away. It is a part of my calling. But no one should have to hear of the loss of their child because someone with a gun choose to vent their rage, hate or delusion with an inventory of automatic weapons.
My heart goes out to all who lost a loved one in Las Vegas and those other cities across the nation where gun violence kills children every day. I have compassion for those who have helped the dying and wounded. I have empathy for those who must tell the families that their son or daughter died while listening to music.
God care for all of them.