Yesterday, a tragedy happened in San Bernardino, CA, where several gunmen walked into a center for people with disabilities and opened fire, killing 14 people and injuring many others. It was the sixth deadliest mass shooting in the United States since 1982, according to a Mother Jones database, and the 2nd deadliest attack since December 14, 2012–when 20 children and 6 adults were killed in cold blood in a shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.
Both incidents being several years (and hundreds of miles) apart, a tragedy like this still hits close to home. It always will.
In 2015 alone, the United States has experienced 355 mass shootings.
That number includes yesterday’s attacks, according to the Washington Post, and a mass shooting tracker maintained by a Guns Are Cool subreddit, which defines a mass shooting as “when four or more people (including the shooter) are shot in an event, or related series of events, likely without a cooling off period.”
Whether or not people realize it, there are mass shootings happening almost every single day. And hundreds more we haven’t even heard about. The New York Times reports a total of 462 lives lost this year in mass shootings, and 1,314 wounded in such vicious attacks, including Wednesday’s.
(Side: CLICK HERE for a comprehensive report of the deadliest mass shootings in the US, from 1984 – today)
Why should we care? Because it could be any one of us. I live 36 miles away from San Bernardino, and I have several friends who were impacted, including a social worker for San Bernardino County who was on lock-down yesterday. When I contacted him to make sure he was safe, he told me, “It hits home since I work here, and I have friends whose families are forever affected…I just can’t believe this happened. These are dark times.” On Wednesday, 14 people lost their lives in the blink of an eye, hundreds of families were affected, and millions of hearts all over the world were broken, praying for peace. These people–these are the faces of you and me. This is why it matters. Because it could be any one of us.
From the shooters’ perspective
According to several news reports, the suspects of Wednesday’s attack in San Bernardino were a young Muslim married couple. The husband was reportedly a county employee, who with the help of his wife opened fire on his co-workers at a holiday party in the county health department. Though the motive of the attack is not yet known (as of post date), law enforcement officials found 12 pipe bombs and thousands of ammunition rounds in their home, shortly after both suspects were killed in a shootout with police.
What irks me is that this shootout, when law officials encountered the masked suspects in their SUV, happened more than four hours after the initial rampage.
What were the shooters, the couple, and anyone else possibly involved in the attack, doing in those four hours after they ran from the scene? From the chaos they caused?
I can’t help but think–did they call people? Did they go to a 7-Eleven to grab an energy drink, put gas in their car, act as if nothing had happened?
Yes, we need to think about these victims, their families, and the thousands of people all over the world who are affected every day from shooting attacks, war, and terrorism. Yes, we need to hear their stories and keep them in our minds and prayers.
But in a nation experiencing some of the worst violence within its own borders, I think we also need to realize who the attackers are–this radicalized husband who supposedly “had a dispute at a holiday party at work” and came back with a gun. This was somebody’s co-worker, somebody’s son, somebody’s friend. And in realizing that, we need to remember the faces of our own co-workers, our neighbors, the people we encounter on the street or on the train or at the movie theater or shopping mall.
Beyond the wars, terrorist attacks, bombings, and injustices happening worldwide every single day, the biggest battle everyone is fighting is within themselves.
You know it. I know it. And that’s why it matters–why the conversations need to be had, the world needs to know, and the ceaseless violence needs to stop. And we need to keep asking the biggest question of all: Why?
The world is full of broken people. We walk among them, work among them; at times we are them. We have all been broken and at our lowest. In fact, we were all made to be broken, imperfect, and sweetly surrendered. Because we are human. These people who carry out merciless attacks on the innocent; they are human. I don’t have the answers as to why they would do such horrific things, and I would never try to justify such acts. But the root of all sin and evil lies somewhere in our human brokenness. We are human, but that doesn’t mean we are alone.
In this ongoing battle, we have been given the biggest weapons of all–faith, hope, and love. We need to have faith that God isn’t trying to punish us with un-ending violence, and He knows what evil we’re up against. We need to have hope, which will encourage us in suffering and is the anchor for the soul. And greatest of all, we need to love. Love our neighbors, love our enemies, and do good unto others no matter where we’re at or what we believe, or how much money we make, or our own happiness versus others–we need to give and show love to those who are broken, even if we don’t know it. We need to be made aware of the brokenness, in love. And THAT is how we battle evil, how we end wars, how we stop mass shootings… and most importantly, how we fight the demons within our own selves.
This is an issue that affects all of us. Let’s be present to others, open our hearts and share our smiles. Let us fight by being kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.