Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Holistic Look at Guns

A lot has been said about guns in the past three week, but what I have found is that all the arguments are very narrow in focus. Memes focus on how mass shootings are reduced with someone "good" with a gun, while others emphasize how there are exponentially more gun casualties than military men and women lost in the war on terror.

What happens when we put all of this information together? What happens when we acknowledge the validity in both sides of the argument (yes, both sides have something important to offer!)? What is the overall impact of guns when not just looked at in one sphere? What happens when we ask honest questions about it all rather than just attempting sound bite arguments that don't capture the real world?

Let's look at those numbers and assume the memes are correct (I haven't verified their claims). So if everyone was armed, mass shootings could be reduced to an average of 2-3 victims, probably saving hundreds of lives a year. Let's not understate this fact. This is powerful and significant. Saving the lives of the innocent is tremendous. And the sense of safety that can give us is important.

The pithy comics emphasizing how gun control wouldn't stop terrorists completely miss a big picture, but the point is well taken.

But let's also look at the other side. The cost of having the opportunity to have guns is that tens of thousands die annually. Let's not mention the injuries.

So let's do the math: hundreds of lives saved versus tens of thousands of lives lost. All are tragedies, but is my life worth more than someone else's? It's a similar argument I made just before the San Bernardino shooting asking whether the cost of security and self-preservation is worth it.

While I would follow good gun safety of course, as every gun owner would say, it's the irresponsible folk who die or whose families have problems. What is our responsibility to create a safe society, not just a safe household? What is my responsibility to help protect the kids of a family who may not provide the best supervision or follow all gun safety rules? Is my sense of safety worth another family losing their child to a gun accident? And I guess I need to be particularly vigilant about screening my kids' friends' families' gun safety practices, too...

And then there's the memes about guns not being dangerous, but rather it being the shooters. The best one I saw was of Anakin Skywalker and the Padawans he slaughtered. I understand this perspective quite well as I have used it myself. However, the difference between modern guns and even lightsabers is that no other weapon allows someone to kill and maim so many people so quickly and so far away. A lightsaber is only so dangerous in the hands of someone uber trained. Two terrorists would not have been able to kill 14 people in 3 minutes with knives. Evil still happens, but the consequences of it could be contained. Remember that guns at the time of the second amendment only shot once before taking a minute to reload, and the accuracy and distance of the bullet wasn't that impressive.

Then I consider the culture that is created by wanting to carry guns. What is the psychological state I have to be in to need to carry a gun constantly? What state does carrying a gun reinforce? I can only imagine the anxiety I would regularly feel carrying a weapon like that. I wouldn't be able to grab my son and throw him up in the air freely. I'd always been on some level of higher alert. Do I want to live like that?

Further, what are the consequences of having many people carrying guns in this state, especially when we're a bit more hypervigilant? The people who own guns now are probably more likely to really follow proper gun safety techniques than someone who went through the bare minimum processes to get one out of fear. That means the casualty numbers would jump even higher, and at probably at a higher rate, if more people armed themselves just because of accidents.

So when we start arguing that arming ourselves will help reduce violent attacks, let's also remember that the cost of their guns for the chance at saving lives is tens of thousands of lives of collateral damage and a culture of fear.

Are guns worth it?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Light in the Darkness

Today marks a celebration of St. John of the Cross, author of The Dark Night of the Soul.

The last week and a half has been filled with darkness. In fact, it's fair to say the December 2 San Bernardino shooting has consumed my life since it happened.

Many of you know that my office is a half mile from the site of the shooting. Both the Inland Regional Center and Public Health are close partners. I know many Public Health employees and have referred many families to the IRC. Our building was on lockdown, and there were thoughts during the lockdown that county facilities and behavioral health sites were being targeted. The shooters' home is a few blocks from our church. Several people I work closely with lost family and friends. My department is on the front lines of crisis response, and I'm currently managing a large team working with survivors.

While the news overall has been dying down, our work has not slowed. Recovery and healing for our community will continue for weeks, months, years. And in the midst of it, the remaining press has engaged in some disgusting behavior, lying to intrude into people's personal pain and coping.

And yet the light shines.

While there have been responses of fear turned to hate, there have been far more responses of fear turned to love.

People of all walks of life have banded together to build each other up.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of county staff have volunteered to step up and do extra work to help, including 24/7 support, like those amazing people on my team.

Supportive texts, calls, Facebook posts, etc. keep us moving forward and feeling supported.

And don't forget the prayers.

Then there's parts of regular, daily life that shows me God is present and caring for me.

Our healthcare provider gave us a beautiful specialty blanket with our newborn's name embroidered on it. What healthcare provider does that?!

Our primary car (the only one that will fit the carseats) had a leak, so I took it into our shop. It was a problem that we fixed two years ago, but was now out of warranty and was going to cost around $3500 (can't afford this and was close to the cost of the car). A half hour later, the manager called me and said he pulled some strings and got it covered under warranty. No cost. And because I dropped the car off and rode my bike to work, but it was now dark and raining, the manager sent one of his employees to pick me up. I never even considered not riding to the shop. He thought of it and offered.

My toddler is obsessed with trains. We got to have some "normal" time and built a train together at a Lowe's kids clinic. He hasn't stopped talking about how we hammered together and made "our train." He's carrying it everywhere. And then last night, he said, "You're a great friend. You're a great dad."

Yes, God is present here. There is light in the darkness, and it's even more meaningful because of the darkness and will eventually overpower the darkness completely.


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).