OPINION: Taking care of each other despite gun violence’s toll

Eight more people were killed in another mass shooting earlier this month.

When I was a freshman in college in 1999, my roommate once had to order me to go for a walk because I couldn’t stop reading about the Columbine school shooting. At the time, such a thing was unheard of to an 18-year-old — shocking, puzzling and horrifying. Now, my kids have drills to prepare for school shooters as often as they have drills to prepare for earthquakes. Nationwide, far more people die in mass shootings each year than from earthquakes, randomly killed by other human beings and not by the action of a restless planet.

We think of and pray for the people who die in earthquakes because, despite our best efforts to enact building codes and improve technology, we couldn’t do enough to help them. Can we honestly look in the mirror, or at the faces of the families of those killed at Sandy Hook, Parkland, Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Allen and so many more that I might pass ADN’s word count limit if I named than all, and say that we did all we could to enact legislation to protect them and wisely pursued technology to limit the event’s deadly impact? The answer is no.

We have offered thoughts and prayers and “stood with” these communities after their residents, their children, have been randomly slaughtered while going about their daily lives. A good friend of mine used to be a chaplain at a children’s hospital in Alabama, and he once told me how he had been on the floor with parents after their child had died. People who have had their children and other loved ones torn apart by bullets at movie theaters, concerts, churches, synagogues, schools and shopping malls are not “standing” anywhere: They are on the floor, weeping.

Our first job is to get on the floor and weep with them, and then it is to stand for them. Reasonable regulation of firearms is not a violation of the Second Amendment. Under basic constitutional law, the regulation of a constitutional right is not forbidden, but must be narrowly tailored and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest. This includes the protection of public heath and safety. The attorneys can argue about the legal definitions of “necessary” and “narrowly tailored,” but we first need to draft some restrictions that give them something concrete over which to argue.

It’s beyond dispute at this point that we have a public health and safety problem. The congressman for the district where the recent shooting victims were killed asserted that those who want action in addition to prayers are “people who don’t believe in an almighty God.” Prayer and action, however, are often connected. We can pray to a God who told us to love one another for wisdom and for strength, to help us use the brains he gave us to care for each other.

It feels lately like we don’t all want to protect each other, like we think “they” can fend for themselves or that we don’t really care what happens to them.


Before our eldest daughter was born, my husband went to a crash course for fatherhood at Providence Hospital. A new dad volunteered to speak to the bewildered dads-to-be who didn’t know how to take care of a baby. He encouraged them to try to take care of their babies anyway. He told them that they wouldn’t care for their children because they loved them; they would love them, he said, because they cared for them.

If we can’t summon the love needed to protect each other right now, maybe we can try, on faith, to care for each other anyway. Maybe the love will follow.

Kara Sorbel works and lives in Anchorage with her family.

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