When I first heard about the murders at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, my inclination was to immediately write a column and send it to my editor, Rebekah.
I would tell her this was outside the rhythm of my normal Monday installments, but the subject matter was important enough for a “special edition.”
In the column I was planning to write, I would once again lament the lack of any action being taken to curb gun violence. I would paraphrase President Biden, rhetorically asking if something cannot be done -- for the love of God.
But I decided to let my thoughts percolate a bit. I have read a variety of opinion pieces, from those who believe immediate gun legislation is needed; those who believe gun legislation will not do anything to keep lawbreakers from doing what lawbreakers do; and points in between.
I am glad I took some time to gain perspective. I am no less heartbroken, but I think I am in a better position to approach this in a calm, reasoned manner.
I am in the reasonable gun legislation camp. I know updated gun laws cannot prevent every act of gun violence. However, I do believe laws can be enacted that do not infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners while also being a start toward reducing the number of these horrendous events.
I found the most recent column I wrote on the topic, posted scarcely a year ago after an armed man opened fire in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, leaving 10 dead.
In that piece I made some observations about both sides of the gun control argument, commenting that “like so many other topics, it becomes political, and nothing much happens other than the argument continuing with no minds changed.”
I closed that piece wondering if the two sides might come together and listen to each other, “resulting in some potential solutions.”
We know how that turned out.
I have lost count of the times I have heard news of a mass shooting. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Pulse nightclub, the Arizona shopping center, the grocery store in Buffalo – they all run together. Each time I have been stunned, sad and angry.
This time, as I watched news coverage that evening after the story had broken, and the next morning, I wept. I had a feeling of hopelessness.
Some three weeks later, there appears to be a possibility that this time, some progress could be made toward enacting laws that would, at the very least, make it more difficult for someone with the intentions of a Uvalde shooter to carry out those intentions.
As I write this, legislation has made it through the House of Representatives, the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” that would raise the minimum age for buying certain assault weapons from 18 to 21, among other things.
While there is little hope of it making it through the Senate as written, there is a bipartisan group of senators meeting to discuss the possibility of some common ground. Call my glasses rose-colored, but I am clinging to that.
For the life of me, I do not understand how raising age requirements, enacting red flag laws that would restrict the mentally challenged from purchasing weapons, and enhancing background checks could infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. It is not about taking away guns from law-abiding citizens.
But I want to be respectful of all, so when I call my representatives to tell them I hope they will not rest until some type of legislation is passed to demonstrate to victims’ families that someone cares enough to do something, I will also ask that they listen thoughtfully to their colleagues.
If a bipartisan group of senators is meeting to discuss it, then there is hope. For my sanity and yes, for the love of God, I simply must believe that.
Speaking of God, many have said “thoughts and prayers are not enough,” dismissing what they perceive as platitudes coming from the mouths of some lawmakers. And while I see their point and agree with them to some extent, I believe prayers are still very much in order for victims’ families and the people of Uvalde in general.
In her May 29 column for the New York Times, Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest who lives near Austin and about two hours from Uvalde, describes a powerful prayer meeting she participated in with about 17 other clergypersons in a church fellowship hall the day after the shooting. She suggests prayer gives way to action.
And I suppose that action will look different for everyone. For those clergy in Uvalde, it likely means providing comfort and a listening ear for grieving families, and even serving as a punching bag if needed.
For me, it’s writing this column and calling my congressional representatives. For you it might be talking to a teacher or a student who might be fearful.
I’ve heard it called “putting feet to your prayers.”
For the love of God.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].