Willis: Sin, Shootings, Solutions

My fellow author and brother in Christ, Ricky Beckett, has already written on the subject of the Florida shooting. And I suggest if you want a piece that is extremely well written, professional, and thought out, that you read his article found here: https://thelutherancolumn.com/2018/02/19/parkland-florida-a-theology-of-the-cross/

My piece here will address some of the subjects Mr. Beckett addressed. But unlike his piece, I am going to be writing more in the stream of consciousness, as if I were having a conversation with you the reader in… person… or whatever. But I am going to try and maintain a bit of order… The key word is try…

And while I consider this piece an opinion piece, I also feel that it is a correct opinion based on verses of Scripture and modern definitions of words, terms, and legality.

First, let us address the fact that there is not a single person on this Earth who has not committed murder. Surprised? Well, Jesus Himself said so.  See Matthew 5:21–22:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

So, in this way no one is innocent in this regard. Therefore, we must first take the log out of our own eye and realize we are guilty of the sin of murder. Am I saying we are all as guilty as sinners as the mass shooters in Vegas and Parkland? Yes. We are just as guilty and just as damned. Every time we curse out someone within our car for cutting us off, wishing harm on anyone for any reason, we are all guilty of murder. Just take a minute and think about how many people you have killed. We are disgusting, trash people. Me. You. Everyone.

In this same way we must realize all people are utterly lost in sin, not just because we have murdered, but because we have sinned in every way. We have turned utterly from God. Example:

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one'” (Romans 3:9—12).

By this we know that all men (that means everyone, females and males, the entire world, everyone, even infants) are sinners.

We should also know that everyone has broken all commandments because they have all at least broken one. See this text:

“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10).

In this way, we can understand that not only is no one innocent of committing murder, but of committing all sins.

So, should we be surprised when someone commits mass murder? No. We should not be surprised. It is in our nature to murder. Outside of regeneration, outside of new birth in Christ, our nature belongs to the the devil. We find this in John 8:

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me” (John 8:44-45).

So, when horrific acts are committed against other humans, why are we surprised? It is because the Law is written on our hearts (e.g. Romans 2:15 & Hebrews 10:16). This Law tells us murder is wrong despite our nature—that is, the old Adam, the Cain within us, being in support of murder. Deep down we know murder goes against God’s plan, even those who deny Him and His authority are still forced by His writing to see that murder is wrong.

For you see, if man was formed by natural selection, slowly crawling from the mud and the muck, from pool of protein to walking homosapien (also known as homo sapien idaltu, unless my memory is failing…), then man would not have any reason to see murder as wrong. Now, I can see where this could be debated. But in the animal kingdom, an animal does not feel for the slaughter of another animal they kill. (Exceptions may be present. I am not a zoologist, so feel free to correct me as necessary.) Evolution would demand that the individual’s ultimate goal is to produce endless offspring of self, so the killing of everyone other than one’s mates is really the ultimate goal in a world of natural selection. One may correctly remark that society assists one’s individual goals, but society, community, etc. are merely a means to an end, that end being the superior creature/gene pool.

Back to my direct point, murder is only wrong because God has instilled value and human importance into all humans via His Law. Therefore we are rightly horrified when one’s life is lost, let alone 17.

So, the big question is: how do we stop these types of tragedies? Is it gun control? Well… no.

Let us take a moment to discuss gun control then, as to justify my answer.

First, we need to define terms. A fully automatic weapon refers to a weapon wherein the trigger may be held down and the weapon continues to fire until the trigger is released or the magazine or clip empties. Burst fire refers to a weapon where upon the pulling of the trigger, several bullets are fired at once on average of two to three. A semi-automatic weapon is a weapon that when the trigger is pulled, the weapon fires via gas propulsion (aka gunpowder being ignited and producing fire and gas) and the trigger must be pulled every time to fire a round. A dual action is a weapon that when the hammer is pulled back the trigger may then be pulled to fire the weapon, or when the trigger is pulled, the weapon becomes cocked. A bolt action refers to a firearm that once the trigger is pulled the bolt of the weapon must be pulled back to release the empty casing and load a fireable bullet into the chamber. A pump action refers to a firearm that once the trigger is pulled a pump device must be pumped to eject an empty round/cartridge and load a fresh one into the chamber.

Moving forward, an assault weapon is not truly a thing which exists. It is a definition created unofficially. It primarily refers to weapons that mimic in appearance weapons carried by military personnel. While definitions for this term exist, one merely need google them to discover those definitions and understand that those definitions were created arbitrarily.

AK-47

I will provide an example: The AK-47  is merely a rifle. Much in the same way the Remington Model 799. Both are rifles (both on the right). Both fire a 7.62×39mm. Both can be equipped with various sights, including scopes. Both can be modified and equipped with bayonets or similar external blades.

The major difference is that the AK-47 can hold a magazine on average of 30 rounds/cartridges. The 799 can hold 5. The fire rate of an AK-47 also varies extremely, being capable of being fully automatic, but in our example we are going to only be talking about semi-automatic since that is the average firearm type available to the civilian public. This type of AK-47 averages 138 rounds per minute with indirect aiming but including reloading with fully loaded magazines. In the case of the 799, it is bolt action. This averages a mere 40 rounds per minute with indirect aiming but including reloading.

Remington Model 799

The argument made by many is that firearms such as the AK-47 (or in the most contemporary example, which I should have used, the AR-15) should be banned because they are capable of holding 10 plus rounds in a magazine. This allows higher rounds per minute, which therefore results in more deaths, therefore it should be banned. And yes, there may be something to this argument. Maybe a ban should be made on magazine sizes. But we must consider how difficult it would be to strip current owners of magazines over 10 plus rounds, not just because so many would resist, but also because it would take an extensive amount of time to confirm and secure all of them. Banning future purchases would be one thing, but already existing… that is another…

But despite the fire rate difference, the bolt action can still be fired rapidly. See the following videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4Cerq1Q_vE & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tuBJtqbm9Ahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_a7pXWi6xo & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbRGGtqGXN8https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz5BTu1uBak

(You will notice some of the videos do show jams.)

Also in either case, one still needs to aim to fire any firearm in order to cause harm or death. So, while rate of fire may demonstrate capability, it does not necessarily equal effectiveness, though I realize in this context is a perhaps morbid form of writing.

Both the AK-47 and the 799 can and are used for hunting, just as the AR-15 is used for hunting. Examples: https://www.realtree.com/brow-tines-and-backstrap/why-you-should-use-an-ar-15-as-a-deer-riflehttp://time.com/4390506/gun-control-ar-15-semiautomatic-rifles/http://www.liveoutdoors.com/hunting/225667-consider-hunting-with-ak-47/

The links above dispel the fact that AKs and ARs are just “assault” weapons. Addressing again the term, assault weapon, this is a term that by in large refers to the weapon’s cosmetics, meaning how the weapon looks. The AK and the AR look like they are military weapons. It can also refer to weapons that are capable of switching modes of fire. That is going from semi auto to burst and/or auto—a function not found in the vast majority of commercial firearms. It can even refer to the magazine.

The 799 and the Winchester Model 70 or Remington 700 (bolt actions which fire the same round as the AR-15) do not look like military firearms. The style, I would argue, is very important in people’s opinion concerning these firearms. I present this video for example. (Disclaimer: **I am a bit hesitant because Steven Crowder can be offensively rude and crude and does not behave in accordance to a Christian standard in many of his videos.**)

Those who are for gun control reform should educate themselves to all of this before declaring the solution to the problem being the banning of a certain weapon.

“But Brad, what does this have to do with anything?” It has a lot to do with it. Let us say that the AK and the AR in their semi-auto forms were banned. Or that magazines of certain sizes were banned. Would this prevent shootings? My argument is no, it would not change anything. Rather, it would merely cause mass murderers to switch their methods. Explosives (improvised bombs, molotov cocktails, etc.), handguns of any type, shotguns, and so forth would become the tools of mass murderers. Keep in mind, our former Vice President, Joe Biden, advocated for stronger gun control laws, while maintaining that shotguns should be purchased for defense. I find this odd, as a shotgun can be fired just as rapidly as a semi automatic weapon, and with a similar fire rate requires less skill to use in a confined space against multiple potential targets. Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_QO457Jkew & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3GNMH7hdU4

Former Vice President Biden even acknowledges the AR requires more skill and is far more complicated than a shotgun. And this is accurate. The reason the AR is so popular is the lack of recoil compared to a shotgun, hence it is considered a “newbie” gun and that anyone can pick it up and be accurate. But this is misleading. While the recoil is much less significant than a shotgun, it still requires more skill to accurately fire.

Now, this is not to say you can simply point and shoot a shotgun and not worry about aiming. Shotguns do indeed need to be aimed. But they can be used to a greater degree of less skill due to spread shot, which can in theory allow a shooter to aim and shoot at a group of targets and hit the whole group.

I would argue that if you are advocate the banning of AKs and ARs, then you need to promote the banning of bolt action weapons and pump action weapons.

In the end, all guns can be dangerous. And in theory, because one firearm may in fact fire more rounds per minute, that does not mean the firearm is more or less dangerous than another. A skilled and trained marksmen with a shotgun or a bolt action rifle can indeed be more deadly than an untrained or mildly trained marksmen with an AK or an AR.

So, does banning certain guns solve the problem? Again, no.

If we are to argue that AKs and ARs are more deadly, let us consider that approximately 38,000 plus people were killed by firearms in 2016. That includes all firearm deaths, not simply mass murderers. The reason I use that year is because in the same year there were 40,000 plus car related fatalities (I am having trouble finding a reliable number for 2017 for both). Now, since according to many the AK and the AR types are the most deadly, hence they should be banned, perhaps we should also look into banning the most deadly car type? Is this a slippery slope or a red herring? Maybe. But I do feel they are related. A car can be used to commit acts of mass murder. We saw this in Charlottesville, Barcelona, and New York in 2017. In the majority of these attacks, vans or trucks were used, so should we place a ban on those vehicles? No.

Perhaps we should place restrictions on the age of when one can purchase a firearm. Well, those laws already exist. One needs to be 18 to purchase a long gun firearm and 21 to purchase a handgun. So, should we raise the long gun age to 21? Perhaps. But then should we also raise the driving age to 21? Imagine the deaths that could be avoided if we did both. But should it be done? No.

Why? Because adding more and more restrictions not only fails to allow law abiding citizens their freedom to transport themselves (by car example) and to defend themselves and/or collect via firearms, but it also disarms citizens of their ability to flee disasters (cars) and/or defend themselves (cars and firearms). And I know it has been said over and over again, but criminals will find a way to commit their crimes with or without laws. It may be crass to mention that schools are already gun free zones, murder is already illegal, the discharge of a firearm in public is already illegal, yet none of these laws prevented any of the horrific mass murders. Instead, these laws enabled criminals to murder unimpeded. A criminal lunatic feels safe in an area like a school. They know they have time until emergency response arrives, so they have time to kill and retreat, or even time to kill, set traps/bombs, and wait.

Much has been said of arming teachers or having armed staff on campuses. That sounds great. But merely arming them is one thing, it is another to train them to respond to a crisis situation and be able to maintain a level head and return fire accurately. So, if staff is to be armed or staff is to be hired as security they must be trained to handle a situation properly. People made fun of Trump for suggesting this, but it was multiple civilians in the Town Hall who suggested it also. And in theory this would be a viable option, but it would absolutely be needed to be handled with precise care. It would maybe even provide a means of employment for veterans. But again, it would require precise implementation. Armed security in all schools, even one trained guard, is a realistic solution, if only people would see that.

Note that in many cases a murderer will slay themselves when emergency response arrives. Why? The reasons can only be speculated. But I would argue it is a mix of the Law on their hearts crying out, the blood of their victims crying out to them, cutting deep into them, but it is also the fear of dealing with trained personnel. They know they will lose the gun battle with trained police. So, they take their own life.

Another thing that should be clear is that all firearm purchases in America are done after a background check has been cleared. This is universal. Long gun or hand gun, bolt or semi-auto, all must pass a background check. In the majority of cases all firearms used in mass shootings were obtained legally after background checks were passed. In many cases, firearms were stolen from legal owners. So, either way, background checks only go so far and do not touch upon undiagnosed mental illness. Nor would a background check cover crimes that have not been yet committed, though in my opinion they should cover and include police visits to the individuals’ home.

Would a waiting period help? No. It would merely delay the massacre.

So again, will a gun ban stop crimes? No. It will only force criminals to choose different means of death. “But Brad, what about Australia? Japan? The UK? Their gun laws have stopped a vast majority of mass shootings.” And I would respond with a simple yes. It is true.  Those laws have indeed worked concerning mass shootings. The number has gone down for sure. But it did not stop the Melbourne car attack. It did not stop the Sydney Siege. It did not stop the Childers, Churchill, or Quakers Hill arson attacks. Nor did it stop the Hectorville siege, the murder of Michael Bassal, or others. No gun laws stopped the Osaka Theater fire, or the Sagamihara stabbings, or the Myojo fire. None of this stopped the London Bombings, the Cumbira massacre, the Westminster attack, the Manchester Bombings, or the London Bridge attacks.

And yes, I agree, the massacres and murders in these countries happen less frequently than massacres in our country, and that is why people argue that gun control would at least deter many of these attacks, and while I would even be willing to agree, it is merely a bandaid to the real issue (the reason I “wasted” so much time writing about firearms above is simply to educate as many in our country who are ignorant of the facts).

Imagine massacres to be a tumor due to skin cancer. We can cut away cancerous flesh from the surface, slowing its growth, but if we do not dig deep enough, it can never be cured. We must find the source.

It must be asked again: will gun control similar to Australia and the UK deter or slow the frequency of massacres in America? Perhaps. But it is not a sure thing. “But Brad, why not try, what would it hurt?” Well, for two reasons. The first is that our culture is not as similar as you may think as that of Australia and the UK. Our focuses are different, our media is different, our attitudes are different. The core of the family, the community, and the individual are very different from those countries despite our shared values and roots. So, an increase in laws that work there does not promise it will work here. And because of this, in my opinion, criminals here have easier access to illegal firearms than they do elsewhere. Proof? Not really, just my opinion. Criminals here are much more determined to commit crimes here because of the focus on the self and individualism. Driven by self and emotion is the American culture. Thus, a criminal will more actively seek any and all means to commit their disgusting acts of violence with or without laws.

So, what will stop these horrible crimes? Nothing in our power. It is human nature to murder. As long as there are sinners in the world, murders and massacres will continue. And it is human nature to be horrified by murder. We live in a state of contradiction. We cannot stop killing, even though we know it is wrong. And while yes, absolutely mental illness is indeed a huge factor in many of these crimes, it is merely a symptom of the true cancer. (For the record, I am a huge advocate for increasing and extending health care benefits for people suffering from mental illness, and I plan on writing a similar piece in the future concerning this issue.) The true source of the cancer is sin.

What is the solution for all of this sin? It is Christ Jesus. The Son of God. The God-Man. The only Perfect Man. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Our Lord and Savior who lived a perfect life, suffered horrific pain, and died on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, and rose from the dead to defeat the power of death and the devil. In Him we find the true forgiveness. We find new life. We find new birth as the waters of Holy Baptism are applied to us, joining us to Him, bringing us into Him, applying His works to us, clothing us in Him.

“But Brad, Christians murder all the time.” Yes. It is a tragic thing that while before we are redeemed we live in contradiction, both loving murder and hating it by nature. It is all the more tragic to be born again of Water and the Word, of the Holy Spirit, joined to Christ Jesus in Baptism, and still continue to murder with our mouths and our hands. That is why we as Christians must daily cling to Him, seek Him out, and fall prostrate at the foot of the Cross begging for forgiveness, which He not only obtained for us out of Love, but also grants to us freely and by His Grace out of His Love for us, despite that we do not deserve it and deserve nothing but the fires of hell for our sins.

And yes, I could say that if just everyone would behave as a Christian, believe as a Christian, act as a Christian, that the world would be perfect, but that is not the Christian reality. As long as we are in our sinful flesh, contained within this life and this world, all will fall, all will sin, all will work works of the flesh that are the equivalent of old used tampax. What sets the Christian apart, however, is their total dependence upon Christ for forgiveness, knowing their utter and total depravity, and knowing that it is only in Christ that we can be saved from our sinful and rotten flesh. What sets the Christian apart is the natural good works that flow from faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. What sets the Christian apart is progressive sanctification, wherein the Christian becomes more and more capable of being curbed and guided by the Law.

Only in Christ can we truly forgive those who commit terrible and deplorable acts upon their fellow human beings. And it is only in God, through faith, rebirth, and sanctification that one finds themselves able to resist sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is only in God that one is free from the bondage of sin and enslaved instead to Him.

So, what can be done to prevent these massacres? Truly nothing but the preaching of Christ and Him crucified. For it is only God who can bring the dead sinner to life. It is only God who can turn a hardened heart from stone to living flesh. And it is only God who enables forgiveness, comfort, and salvation to both the victims and the perpetrators of sin.

Post-Script #1

6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:1—6)

Post-Script #2

I cannot help but point out the contradiction in the world that cannot stand to see massacres, yet cries out for the right to abort infants. The murder of children in schools is detestable but the murder of a child in the womb is a choice a woman must be allowed to make. The cry of schools should be a “safe and secure place” is almost laughable when we have declared wombs to be a place of potential murder. And yes, I may have stepped on what you may call the path of a red herring, but it is not. The two things are very related. We pretend to value life, yet we devalue it starting at the womb. And if you want to claim an infant has no right to live before it takes its first breath out of the womb, fine, but just understand you are supporting active and open murder, the slaughtering of millions since Roe v Wade. Sit down and think about why you think it is so horrible for school shootings to take place, and yet you believe in a woman’s right to choose murder.

Post-Script #3

It is true that God has the power to stop massacres from happening. So, why does He not stop them? If it is a free will issue, then could He not just wipe the minds of those He saved, or even reset the day? Could He not just create man without sin again? Could He not cause the gun to jam, thus making it appear that the cause of the stoppage was merely mechanical? Could He not just smite the murderers down before they murder? Yes. Yes to all of it. But I will point out the log in my own eye. If I call on God to do these things, He would have to smite me. I am a murderer, just as you are a murderer. So, He would have to smite all of us.

And free will? It doesn’t exist. We are either bound by the will to sin, or the will of Christ. We are never free. And though He did not recreate man free of sin after Adam, He did come down from Heaven and sacrificed Himself to allow us to be free of sin in our resurrected bodies. And He does not interfere in our bondage to sin because He has given us over to it prior to our rebirth in Baptism. And even if these explanations were not available we must remember that God’s Will is His Will; His plans and ways are so vastly beyond ours. He uses evil for good (e.g. the evil of Joseph’s brothers led to a greater good for God’s glory).

Post-Script #4

The Second Amendment promises the people—those people being the militia and those people being every single one of us—the right to bear arms in order to preserve our freedoms and rights as granted to us by the Constitution and by God. That is the intent. That the peoples’ rights to bear arms—to preserve their freedoms and rights from threats—be that threat from their neighbor or a tyrannical government. The intention is to enable the people to use modern arms of that era to defend themselves. That is the intention and the purpose of the Amendment. The government cannot create laws nor restrict the people of this right. And it is the people’s right to regulate this. The government does not grant these rights. The people grant these rights; the government merely enforces these rights against those who would deny the people their right. I hope that makes sense.

It works like this:

The people have rights with or without a government. Those are called the Bill of Rights. Those rights cannot be modified, appended, or changed. These rights are granted by simply being human. No government or group can take away these rights from the individual.

The people have the right to elect leaders that will protect their individual rights as people. The government being a gathering of free people to protect free people.

The government does not have the right to modifiy or change the Bill of Rights.

If the people were to demand that the Bill of Rights be modified, the government has duty to refuse this demand because the Bill of Rights exists apart from the people and the government. They are granted to the people by nature, that nature being rooted in God.

If the Bill of Rights is removed from the Constitution in part or whole, then the people have nothing and are then left to natural selection, as both the individual and the government, being a collection of individuals, have no basic rights.

It is indeed the Second Amendment which allows the other Nine Rights to exist. The Second Amendment ensures that all individuals can arm themselves to protect their freedom and the freedom of their neighbor.

This is why the Second Amendment cannot be removed or modified. For to do so is to cause a cascade effect and strip the ability to defend the other Nine.

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