Scoot: Church shooting – why?

November 06, 2017 - 10:54 am

As I sat in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday watching the Saints dominate the Tampa Bay Bucs and thinking about opening the show Monday afternoon talking about another Saints win, I received a WWL text alert with the news that there had been a mass shooting at a small church in Texas.  That instantly shifted my focus for Monday’s show.  I still enjoyed watching the Saints beat up on the Bucs, but I knew that the mass shooting would be the important topic of discussion Monday afternoon.

The statistics of the frequency of mass shootings are racking up faster than ideas for solutions. 

On a typical Sunday in the small Texas community of Sutherland Springs, TX, the congregation was doing what they do every Sunday morning – they were worshiping at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.  The service was interrupted when a gunman fired shots into the church from the outside and then entered the church and opened fire on the congregation as they worshipped.  Twenty-six worshippers were killed ranging in age from 5 to 72; and the victims included the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, who was not present at the time of the shooting.

The impact of the mass church shooting yesterday is amplified by the fact that 26 in a community of only 600 were killed.  Just over 4% of the population of Sutherland Springs, TX were killed yesterday.  The fact that they were killed while worshipping in church creates an ironic contextual appreciation of what happened.

While in Japan on his Asian trip, President Trump was asked what caused the tragic shooting and the President replied, “Mental health is your problem here” and went on to call the shooter a “very deranged individual.”

Consistent with his comments after last month’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, President Trump said that this is not the time to talk about gun control, which led to instant criticism that Trump immediately talked about changing immigration laws in the wake of the recent terrorist attack in New York City.  It is fair to ask why it was appropriate to talk about changing immigration laws after the killings in New York City while purposely avoiding talk of gun control laws after the church shooting in Texas. 

My opinion was that it was wrong to immediately bring up the hot political issue of immigration after last week’s terrorist attack, just as it is wrong to bring up the issue of gun control after yesterday’s church shooting.  The inconsistency of our political leaders on both sides is a threat to our civility.

The shooter, Devin Kelley, was discharged from the Air Force after a domestic violence incident involving the gunman’s wife and child.  He spent 1 year in jail, and questions are being asked about how the gunman was able to obtain a gun.  There are reports that he was denied a concealed carry permit, but hewas not blocked from buying a gun. 

Some mass shootings unveil inconsistencies in existing laws and also expose the lack of communication between various agencies.  Before we engage in the heated political debate about new gun control laws – maybe we should work to connect the dots of existing laws.

Yesterday’s church shooting has also resurrected the issue of greater security at churches, which reached mainstream conversation after the 2015 church shooting by young white supremacist Dylann Roof. 

A neighbor of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX used his rifle to shoot at the gunman; and Johnnie Langendorff, who was at the intersection at the time of the shooting, pursued the gunman as he sped away at speeds estimated to be over 90 mph. 

The gunman lost control of his SUV and crashed.  Police found him dead inside the vehicle.  There are reports that the gunman may have turned a gun on himself, but other reports suggest that he may have died as a result of wounds he suffered in the exchange of gunfire with the citizen neighbor of the church.  The neighbor of the church and the passing motorist, Johnnie Langendorff, are heroes for taking quick action. 

The church shooting has also sparked the debate over security in churches.  It is illegal to carry concealed in churches in Louisiana; however, Governor Bobby Jindal signed a law that allows concealed carry in churches if there is permission from the church and the individual has gone through a background check and training.

The state of Arkansas passed the Church Protection Act, which ended the prohibition on concealed handgun carrying license holders from carrying a concealed firearm for personal protection in any church or place of worship.  Is this an answer to a problem?  Or is the idea of carrying guns in church the agenda of gun rights activists?

A gunman dressed in all-black tactical gear walks into a church during a worship service and kills 26 people.  The gunman drove about 45 minutes to the church the parents of his ex-wife attended, but they were not at yesterday’s service.  The gunman spent time in jail for domestic violence against his wife and child.  As of the writing of this op-ed blog, no motive has been determined.

Was the gunman on a mission of revenge?  Did he randomly select the church 45 minutes away as the setting to avenge his rage and anger?  These are among the questions we hope will be answered.  The answers will not bring anyone back or lessen the magnitude on this community and America, but we strive to understand motive as the first step toward addressing the cause.

We now live with mass shootings, even in the sanctuary of a Sunday church service, as the new normal.  There appears to be a growing, mentality in American society that insists we are entitled to the satisfaction, whether it’s a grievance at work, an injustice in the streets, a problem with a neighbor or an anger that has built up of over things not going our way.

As I recently wrote about and talked about on the show, satisfying rage is all too common and takes on many different forms – from rage on our roads, to aggressive bullying on social media, to killing a large number of people in what is almost always a suicide mission.

The solution lies in how we act and what we tolerate as individuals in our society and less in the temptation to think that banning weapons of choice is the answer.

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