We woke up to the news of another mass shooting on Sunday, Nov. 20, this time in a gay club in Colorado Springs. I cannot stop thinking about it, although these events happen so often that we are becoming inured to them.
No other country comes close to the U.S. in the frequency of such shootings. This year alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive, we have had more than 600 shootings in which four or more people were killed or injured. We have so many mass shootings that we can actually put them in categories: massacres at workplaces, at schools, in social clubs, and in places of worship.
How is this possible? Investigators look at three elements of what is called the crime prevention triangle: desire, ability, and opportunity. Crime prevention experts believe that if just one of these three elements can be eliminated, the potential for a shooting could be dramatically reduced.
Where do we start? Stricter gun control seems an obvious step. But the almost sacred status given to the right to bear arms has made implementing tougher laws regulating the purchase of guns a real challenge. Nevertheless, the push for reform must continue.
After the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the call to arm classroom teachers was renewed. As a former elementary school teacher and principal, I am vehemently opposed to having armed teachers in the classroom. Having guns so close to young and curious children is a prescription for unintended tragedies.
Shortly after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, we heard about places of worship employing armed security guards. I find the thought of bringing guns into church very disturbing.
We need to look at the question of desire and ask what leads people to commit these acts. For 400 years we have been taught a toxic lesson: that those who seem different pose a threat to good people. In this mindset, the “good people” are most often white, Christian, and heterosexual.
During World War II, when the U.S. was at war with Germany, Italy, and Japan, Americans of Japanese heritage, including families that had been in this country for generations, were locked up in internment camps. It’s clear why that wasn’t done to Italian Americans or German Americans. Now many believe that the U.S. will be overrun by “inferior” people if immigration is not curtailed.
The causes of the violence we are witnessing are complex. And while we can restrict access to guns and have tighter security, the biggest obstacle remains the hateful values and habits we have internalized.
Hatred and the desire to do harm are the results of learning that begins early in life, taught in families, schools, and places of worship, and through the media. Education about the history of slavery and bigotry is the key that can free us from this tragedy.
Responsibility for teaching humane lessons cannot be left just to schools. We are all called to this mission. If we want to heal this disease in our society, we need to find a way to unlearn the hate and instead seek to be people of grace and acceptance. We must become — and help our children become — critical thinkers who are equipped to live in a diverse and shrinking world.
My hope in this holiday season for our schools, our community, our country, and the world to seek well-being not only for family and friends, but also for those who seem different from us — that we may evolve as citizens of the world who intentionally work for peace and unity.
Edgar Miranda lives in Eastham and is the pastor of the Provincetown United Methodist Church.