After Orlando

I’ve been experiencing a sort of numbness this past week—a weariness, lurking around the edges of despair. When I heard about the shootings in Orlando last Sunday, and then the number of people killed, I felt outrage and horror. Before too long, though, the numbness and the weariness set in.

Locally and nationally, the typical sorts of things popped up in response to what happened in Orlando, another in a long parade of similar horrors—vigils, moments of silence, petitions, words of action, words of defiance. We will not give in to fear, and all of that. Instead of joining in some way, to act or to speak or simply to stand in public in solidarity, I just feel numb, weary, drained.

Despite the rising up of those sentiments of defiance, I feel sure that not a damn thing of substance will happen in the wake of this latest mass shooting. I don’t wish to show any disrespect to the families who have now joined those who live in the midst of such unutterable grief in the violent loss of family and friends, but I feel complete assurance that their lives mean little to nothing to those who could make meaningful change.

I feel sure of that. Ever since Sandy Hook.

The lives of those who were killed in Orlando mean something. They are important. But, when all those very young children were shot and killed in that elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and not a damn thing of substance happened in response, I became certain that nothing will stop the flood of guns, that nothing will stop the violence, that nothing will put an end to the brazen acceptance that massive expressions of violence are tolerable consequences of modern life.

I’ve attended no vigils, nor have I observed much in the way of silence. For me, right now, they seem pointless. While I can understand those who wish to do something, to feel a sense of action, taking a defiant stand against such horrific violence and the circumstances that allow such wanton killing to take place, I just can’t.

I am not, completely, anti-gun. I live in a place where I know hunters. I know that people have certain rights, and privileges.

But, I also know that people should not be able to own semi-automatic rifles, the sort weapons that the gun industry has labeled “modern sporting rifles,” as if they are all about fun and games. These are the weapons of choice, though, that have been used in recent mass shootings. These “modern sporting rifles” are killing machines, initially intended as military weapons for modern warfare. They are meant to kill quickly and efficiently, with a remarkable number of rounds shot in a remarkably short period of time.

So we add another forty-nine to the ever-growing list of those who have been hunted and killed—people, young and not so young, who loved and were loved, friends, family, lives cut short because of our national lust for access to powerful weaponry, and our twisted understanding of the rights and privileges (though not so much on responsibilities) of individuals.

The NRA likes to say that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” In the long catalog of mass shootings, it’s clear that guns do kill people. It is way too easy to get one’s hands on very powerful weapons, and much, much too easy to assemble an arsenal of one’s own for one’s own purposes.

From the lengthy cast of shooters, it seems clear enough that we cannot control the shooters. It’s time that we did more to control their chosen method of killing—the killing machines, the “modern sporting rifles” that are not at all sporting.

But, we won’t. There will be much talk and show, but nothing will come of it.

It’s a certainty that I would prefer to live without.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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