Every time there’s a mass shooting, I hear two voices. One screams, “Gun control!” The other screams, “Criminals don’t follow laws!” They go back and forth, debating endlessly and uselessly, and I have begun to doubt that either side is looking in the right direction.
I haven’t always thought this way. I used to toe the Second Amendment line, and I still believe that more gun laws won’t solve the problem, either of mass shootings or of the more general problem of gun crime in the United States. I used to think that more guns means less crime, but I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore. Anyway, guns don’t seem to me to be the primary contributing factor.
I’m going to try something a little different. I’m going to reference the Scriptures – Genesis 4, to be exact. Cain and Able, less than a full generation removed from the pure holiness and joy of Eden, bickered over some petty rivalry, and Cain murdered his brother with a rock. The first recorded sin after the rejection of God was homicide.
There are arguments that people present as to why we, as a nation, are experiencing such horrific events as active shooters. Some people, as we know, think that access to firearms could stop the violence. This is a bit like prescribing ibuprofen for a brain tumor, treating the symptoms without a prayer of treating the cause. The more popular line I’ve heard lately is that mental illness is to blame. This doesn’t ring true either. After all…well, let me tell you about killing.
I am one of the few police officers that has shot another human in the line of duty. I am also a military veteran, who served during time of war in a combat unit. I can speak to an experience that many (thankfully) have not been through. Killing is a bizarre experience. It is simultaneously horrifying and exhilarating. One never feels as alive as one does when they have narrowly escaped death, and one never feels as powerful as when they have bested a challenger. But so also, it is clear in that moment how fragile we are, and how terrible it is that it ever came to this. There is nothing like combat. As Hemingway said, “There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” Or as a machine-gunner and good friend of mine said, “Shooting bad dudes is the most fun you can have with your pants on.”
Young men sent to battle in the Great War and subsequent wars have written journals and books on the topic. And while everyone has a different reaction to combat, I can speak from my own experience and say that there is something tantalizing about it. I know that my experience is not unique. I can look through history and see that every generation has produced men and women alike who relished the ultimate contest between each other. Cormac McCarthy wrote, “It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.”
There’s something else at play here, too. We in America are now in the fourth generation of the popularization of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Prior to that was the concept of manifest destiny. Manifest destiny never left our minds, you know. It just shifted to a new end. Led by the philosophical implications of biological macroevolution, our society has adopted the idea that we, as a species, are getting better. We are also in the fourth generation of America being one of the most prosperous nations on the face of the earth. Even more significant, we live in a time of unprecedented worldwide prosperity.
What’s the connection? I think that we’ve tricked ourselves with pretty lights. We are comfortable, and happy, and fatted, and we think that we’re better then Cain. But we aren’t. We still kill. We exact violence, because from the moment we left Eden that was our nature. If it isn’t tribal chieftains leading their horde into our villages, it’s kids seeking their own glory and vengeance by killing their classmates. The solutions that have been presented – more mental health screening, more gun control – must fail, because they do not recognize our nature.
It isn’t a mental health problem. Mentally sound individuals still enjoy the thrill of fighting and winning. It isn’t a technology problem, either. If you can drive a car and clean your kitchen then you have the required component to kill a bunch of schoolchildren without ever touching a firearm. It’s a sin problem. We’re just too removed from our nature to realize that beneath the slick veneer and iPhone apps, we haven’t progressed that much as a species. We still seek the glory of combat, and the shooters – those without a political or religious motive, mind you – commit these terrible acts because they want to appease their animal instinct to be, if only for a moment, the Alpha. Our technology is more sophisticated, but we haven’t evolved out of our need for a Savior, and until He returns, this is the reality we must live with.
And mind you, you needn’t agree with my theological convictions to see this as evident. We can look back into 10,000 years of recorded history and see Assyrian armies decimating entire cities, and see the same behavior among Syrian forces in the exact same region of the world. It is obvious to even the casual observer that our species has not progressed, and the story of Eden and the hope of a Savior is not necessary to recognize that.
So how do we stop the problem of mass shootings? It’s pretty simple, really. We stop holding candlelight vigils. We stop laying teddy bears at the bullet-riddled doors, and we stop pretending we’re something we’re not. Instead, we prepare ourselves. We look ourselves in the eye and say, “We are dangerous. We are brutish. We are primitives in gilded cities.” And then we act accordingly. We do what our forefathers did. Knowing our nature, and the nature of others, we wake up in the morning, pray for peace, strap on our swords and go out ready to do what is necessary to defend our little perimeter against evil.
The violence of our species won’t go away. It’s in our DNA, and we won’t ever evolve out of it. The only solution is to face it, and our survival – as a society, as communities, and as individuals – depends on our willingness to accept and harness our own violent nature.
 “A closer look at police officers who have fired their weapon on duty,” by Rich Morin and Andrew Mercer, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/08/a-closer-look-at-police-officers-who-have-fired-their-weapon-on-duty/ accessed 2/15/2018.
 “Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West,” by Cormac McCarthy.
 “The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it,” by Max Roser, https://ourworldindata.org/a-history-of-global-living-conditions-in-5-charts?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=facebook_page&utm_medium=Learn+Liberty&utm_content=The+short+history+of+global+living+conditions+and+why+it+matters+that+we+know+it accessed 2/15/2018.