Several years ago and completely on a lark, I joined several other members of my church at a gun range in Dallas and we all went through Concealed Handgun License (CHL) training. We dubbed ourselves the Episcoposse and occasionally got together at the range (Tuesday is Ladies night!). I particularly enjoyed shredding Zombie and Osama bin Laden targets. I am not sure Jesus would approve but I enjoy shooting, am a good shot, and it was fun socially. Learning how to properly handle, break down and clean a gun took some of the fear and mystery out of them as well. As an American, I’ve grown up expecting to own a gun if I choose, because the Constitution says I may. But the news of yet another, clearly unstable person murdering innocents has my heart heavy, and my head, too, again wondering if, as a species, we should be trusted with guns.
During the years I lived alone, having some way of protecting myself from a break-in or worse gave me a sense of security, although truth be told, I also worried about it being stolen or turned on me. I never actually carried, except back and forth to the range. The CHL expired and I’ve moved states; I don’t know that I will get a new CHL – it’s a lot to think about.
Yesterday brought a new level of horror to the national consciousness as Vester L. Flanagan II, AKA, Bryce Williams, a disgruntled former employee of ABC affiliate WDBJ in Virginia, showed up at a remote report and on live TV shot dead his former colleagues: reporter Alison Parker, 24, and her photojournalist, 27-year old Adam Ward. Justifying his actions through a multi-page suicide note faxed to ABC, Mr. Flanagan listed a variety of alleged injustices and racist victimization, before finally shooting himself when pursued by police. Most appallingly, Mr. Flanagan tweeted about the killings in real time and posted video of the killings to his Facebook page – and I thought using social media on a high school campus was bad. You can read about his troubled employment at WDBJ here.
Importantly, his supervisor at WDBJ at one point demanded he seek counsel through the employee assistance program in order to handle his volatile temper and inability to work effectively as a team member. Sadly, his exit from WDBJ was only his most recent sacking in a job history apparently full of anger, interpersonal, and professional behavior issues.
- During an interview with CNN, Brandon Foster, a young man involved in a road-rage incident with Mr. Flanagan said of the altercation “…he was not in his right mind…” and he feared for his safety.
- When terminated, coworkers locked themselves in a conference room in fear as he was walked out by police.
- Ms. Parker’s father on CNN, “We’ve got to do something to keep crazy people from getting guns!”
Yet, Mr. Flanagan just wasn’t crazy enough to prevent him purchasing and using a gun to assuage his rage, whatever it’s origin. I am many years away from a psychiatric degree, but siting the Charleston church shooting as his tipping point, his impetus for shedding yet more innocent blood sounds pretty crazy
Here is a thing deeply troubling to me: while I am American enough to reflexively say, from my cold dead hands, at the suggestion of anyone’s taking my gun, what is to prevent the next self-described “… powder keg, waiting to go BOOM!” from also legally obtaining a gun and then using it when the match (real or imaginary) is put to that powder keg of anger? Especially if, like Mr. Flanagan, they fly under the usual radar screens? He had not been convicted of any crime, and as far as we know right now, obtained his weapon legally.
Sometimes I think, as a species, we’re just not evolved enough to handle having guns.
I don’t know what the answer is. I can only pray for the grieving, for the enraged and the mentally ill, and that somehow, we as a nation find a way to manage our deadly obsessions and weaponry.
From the Book of Common Prayer:
hear the cries of our grief,
for you know the anguish of our hearts.
It is beyond our understanding
and more than we can bear.
Accept our prayer
that as Alison and Adam have been released from this world’s cruelty
so may they may be received
into your safe hands and secure love.
We pray that justice may be done
and that we may treasure the memory of their lives
more than the manner of their deaths.
For Christ’s sake.