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Last Friday Night's Sermon: Fixing the Gun Violence

In athletics, people are always trying to do better. Athletes are known for breaking records, training harder, looking for ways to improve performance. They set a goal, set their mind to accomplishing it, and it’s done. Many years ago, runners were always trying to run faster.

There was the mile run. For years they worked as hard to run that mile in less than four minutes. They trained, and they trained, and they trained. They got close, but couldn’t do it. Scientists, in fact, said they couldn’t do it, which is why no one had broken that record. They said the human body just wasn’t structure the right way to be able to break the four-minute mile barrier.

Someone then did it. They ran the mile in under four minutes. Then someone else did it. Then someone else did it. The four-minute mile barrier became a thing of the past. That first person showed everyone that not only was it possible, but it was reality.

Years ago we would hear stories of disgruntled ex-employees who had been fired returning to their former place of work and killing people for revenge. A few times, these were fired postal workers. The phrase “going postal” became a slang phrase for a time.

One day a few years ago, someone used it to kill people. The murderer had a grudge against someone and not only killed them, but also relatives and friends. They used this military assault weapon to do maximum damage in little time.

While multiple killings occurred, it wasn’t until April, 1999 when two teenagers walked into their high school in Colorado and killed 13 people and wounded 21 others. Even though it was said that they were motivated by revenge for being bullied, they killed anyone they saw; it didn’t matter. Afterwards, they took their own lives. There were a few other incidents that year in which a lone gunman walked into a place of business or church and killed people.

People were, of course, horrified. Not only were they aghast at the sheer carnage of innocent lives lost, but also that these were kids. The shock in society may have taken a few years for people to come to terms with it people mourned and questioned how such a horrible thing could happen. But things seem to quiet down for a while without any major incidents.

A few years later, a man walked into his place of business and shot and killed seven people. He then turned his gun on himself. A couple of years later, there were multiple incidents of people killing church-goers and students at a college.

The incidents after that seem to increase. There were more incidents with more casualties. But these involved semi-automatic handguns and rifles. It wasn’t until more recently that these murderers started using these automatic weapons capable of killing more people in a shorter period of time.

As with the athletics, it’s as if as more and more incidents occurred, as more and more people engaged in mass killings, it became more of a possibility, a reality. It became a societal occurrence. Serial killings became the new normal, a part of our society.

Can we draw a Biblical reference? In Noah’s time, did people start stealing a little bit, then more, then they starting robbing? Did they start off just taking from the neighbor’s home, then from their neighbor himself? In Abraham’s time, did the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah start off just mistrusting foreigners and then ultimately attacking them?

Back then, it was easy. HaShem just destroyed their societies and no more problem. It’s not so easy these days. These potential murderers walk among us. They look just like you and me. Oftentimes they act just like you and me. How we know who to destroy?

Some people say the problem is guns. Restrict guns and it makes it harder to get them or get the guns that can do the most damage. In a recent mass shooting, the gunman was able to modify a gun to make it more deadly, so we would also have to restrict that type enhancement.

Some people say the problem is the actual person. The issue, they say, is mental health. People need access to human services, they need to be able to go somewhere to discuss their issues and learn more proper and appropriate coping skills. But would they use them? You can lead a horse to therapy, but you can’t make him relate.

Or are we the problem? A forest is made up of individual trees. Maybe the key is how we treat each other. People demean others because of skin color, gender, heritage and religion. People judge each other by their socio-economic status. Bullying has taken on almost epidemic proportions. With the advent of social media, bullying has become more accessible and we now have kids taking their own lives because of the emotional pain.

Resources to fix this problem may be a start, but ultimately we have to change our culture. We have to change the way we interact and treat each other. The “dog eat dog” culture has to change. We may not like each other, but we have to respect each other. Each person has a life, hopes, dreams, relationships. Everyone wants to succeed and love and be loved. We have to re-create our society to where that becomes the norm.

Not just because we want to try and prevent mass killings, but because it’s the right thing to do.

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