Many years ago, I was a young police recruit in Madison, Wisconsin. As you might imagine, a significant amount of training time was spent on weaponry of various kinds. The police shooting range in those days was a ways out in the country, with our shooting done outside. In the midst of the complex was an old building where we had classes and cleaned our guns. There was a sign on a bulletin board just inside the door, that said, “Your gun is your tool, your mind is your weapon.” I’ve never forgotten those words, through twenty years of policing and thirteen years as a priest. I think of them every time there’s a mass shooting. And I think of them especially when there’s a mass shooting in a church.
This time it was a Baptist Church in East Texas. But it could have been a church of any denomination. All clergy know that it’s an occupational hazard. We all know that anyone can walk through our doors. We might lock the church down during the week, but the doors are always open to visitors on this day we call the Sabbath.
I can’t comment on this Sundays shooting, other than to say that the shooter was ready. The gun was his tool, but his mind was the weapon. Somehow he acquired the tool that he needed, and we have yet another tragedy to deal with. Though his mind was the shooter’s weapon, it doesn’t translate to that his mind was sane.
These days, I live with Dementia. My police career ended sixteen years ago. My guns have been sold to people I trust. But even with my diagnosis, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that I could go to any gun store or show and buy any gun I wanted. All that would matter is if I could afford the price.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against folks owning guns. But there are some folks who shouldn’t have them, and I happen to be one of them. Not because I might use one, but because I probably wouldn’t keep track of it. And there’s a lot of folks like me, living in this country.
I pray for this church I’ve never visited. I pray for the victims I’ve never met. I pray for the Pastor, and the families, and especially the children who will be afflicted by with the trauma for years to come. I also pray for the first responders who are dealing with the trauma. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and may they rise in glory.
Y’all know as well as me, it doesn’t have to be this way.