Dinner and Guns

Last night my family sat around the dining room table and talked about guns.

Me: [to kids] I’d like to know your thoughts on this. From your perspective as public-school students and graduates, what is at the root of so many campus shootings? Is it access to guns?

Son #3: I come out of English class every day and the hallway is packed with students. I often think about how many people a person could kill in just a few minutes. What would we do? Where could we go? We’d all be sitting ducks.

Me: [trying hard to stay calm] What could be done to make sure your English hallway was safe? What would you do if you were in charge?

Son #3: I’m not sure, mom. All I know is that the students at my school would not be surprised – at all – if something like that were to happen to us very soon. It’s just too easy.

Me: [failing badly at staying calm] What do you think would compel someone to enter a school and shoot down his teachers and classmates? How would he get access?

Son #3: There are many ways to get into our school, it wouldn’t be hard. And obviously, something wrong has happened to that person to make him so angry at the world.

Sidenote: All four of my kids currently attend, or recently graduated from a public school(s) in Texas. There have been ups and downs with this choice, certainly, but as for the teachers in our community, they are the Real Deal. With only a few exceptions, our public school teachers have proven to be first-class educators and top-notch humans.

I mention this because, increasingly, good teachers are being asked to count the cost in a new way. When might they be called to be a different kind of hero? When will they be asked to sacrifice everything? Is the emotional toll worth it? Is a new profession in order?

Son #1: I agree. It’s not only about access to guns – it’s not that easy or simplistic. I think there are a thousand layers to this problem.

Me: So what layer would you fix first? What would you tackle, right off the bat, so students and teachers wouldn’t encounter harm in this specific way?

Son #1: [long pause] Step One would be honesty. A problem on every campus today is that that there are a handful of troubled kids who clearly don’t want to be there. They feel caged; forced; condemned to an institution they hate, and their antagonism towards authority and their peers is hard to ignore. But it’s not ok to admit out loud that these students might pose a real threat.

I know there are plenty of reasons why a teenager might feel isolated and angry, but that doesn’t change the reality that everyone around him must walk on eggshells so as not to set him off. It doesn’t make sense for everybody on campus to suffer that daily strain.

Me: So what would you do? What would be your solution?

Son #1: I’d give those students who are in a dark place what they think they want. I’d give them their freedom. I’d let them leave school – drop out – until they were ready to engage in their own education. This is only fair to all those who really do want to teach and learn unhindered.

Son #2: Another problem is that many boys leave school to go live in a fantasy world of violent video gaming. All day and night they view people through a scope – as objects to be ambushed, attacked and destroyed for sport. And if a troubled or angry boy loves the way he feels in this world; if he is shaped, thrilled, and rewarded by it, then are we really surprised when he decides to live out his fantasy?

Me: So what would you do? What would be your solution if you were the principal, or the governor, or the president? No more video games?

Son #2: I think the really violent videos are a bigger problem for some young people than anyone really wants to admit. If we determine it’s the right thing to outlaw certain types of guns, then we should also, at the same time, make certain types of videos illegal. That just makes sense to me.

Me: [to daughter] What do you think about all this love?

Daughter: I think we need to pray. We need to pray for help. We need God to help us because we can’t figure this all out on our own.

And so we did.

Our Father, please help us, we pray. Light our path and guard our steps as we seek your will and wisdom in difficult things. Thank you for giving us a brave Good Shepherd who doesn’t shrink back from suffering and evil. Help us to follow him closely.

In you alone, O God, we put our hope and our trust. Into your loving hands, we commit our minds, our bodies, and our souls. Help us, we pray. Amen.

Peace to you and yours,

Kim

9 responses to Dinner and Guns

  1. You are a wise mother to have this conversation and I believe we need to listed to our students since they are on the firing line, literally (and sadly). Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am a public school teacher in a rural community in Washington State. We have been on lock down this week and been drilling for evacuations. I agree with your kids but I would add that what we need is more support for mental health of students. I serve many kids that come from generational poverty, homelessness and have one or both parents in jail. They lack support and often suffer from mental ilness due to early childhood trauma, or their mothers using drugs / alcohol when she was pregnant with them. Abuse is a real monster for many of my students. They live in darkness and a sweet Jesus message and prayer is good (even essential), but they really need real, tangible hope, in the form of basic needs being met and mental wellness/illness support.

  3. As a public school teacher, my heart goes out to all the students that are plagued by adversity, childhood trauma, at-risk situations, and mental illness/depression/anxiety…those are very real in schools today. BUT, as a human with limitations, I am the first to acknowledge that we CANNOT be all things to all people, teachers are NOT counselors, doctors or therapists….and we certainly cannot be expected to take on the role of body guards and sharp shooters too. As a parent of a public school student that just today begged me for permission to stay home (first time ever) because the school schedule had been altered this week and she had been subjected to one particular class for 8 hours straight, 2 days in a row….and she just did not think she could tolerate those same certain students for another 8 hours today…..I see first hand that it is JUST NOT FAIR that students that truly care about their education and truly want to learn are DAILY robbed of their opportunity to learn because of the 10-15% of students that make learning environments downright miserable for ALL. I agree everyone deserves an education, but its downright near impossible for everyone to receive one the way schools are currently structured. We need separate classes — not based on race or ability….just based on behavior.

  4. Given Breath says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. And thank you for bringing God’s kingdom and light to your students who live in so much darkness.

    I have tucked what you have said away in my heart.

    May the God of healing and hope give you renewed mercy, and increased grace for all that he is calling you to do in your community.

    Mental wellness; neglect; abuse seems to be a recurring theme. How would you best address this (and the basic human needs these dear children in your sate lack) if it were up to you?

    God’s peace to you and yours today.
    Kim

  5. Given Breath says:

    Oh man. Thank you for your thoughts, Rebecca. I respect them as you are indeed in the trenches both as teacher and mom. You have given me much to consider.

    This is so tough:/

    May the LORD bless and keep you and your child as you both walk in the way he leads each day.

    Kim

  6. Delia Hunt says:

    Dear Kim

    This is one of the most introspective conversations I have yet read or listened to. I think your children are much more secure and mature children(kids) than most would be in our culture today. Of course this is due to a foundation of love and scripture. God intended the family to represent His plan on earth by way of Father, mother and children. They feel safe..

    I was particularly interested in the comments concerning violent video games. This has been in the background of many conversations since way back when dungeons and dragons invaded my children’s world.

    It was never addressed. In my Monday morning Bible Study one woman prayed that Hollywood , who is very critical of certain political views, own up to their contribution of gun use and gross violence in their cash cow industry.

    There is plenty of blame to go around. Not in the least is that Satan wants to destroy the family and doing pretty well. I hope your “Given Breath” is widely read. Everyone needs to be in on this cancer remedy.

    I am with Cece. First we must pray with all energy for every child in our schools, For all parents present or absent, For all teachers and administrators, For all officials, police, and neighbors For Churches ,counselors ,and politicians. May they put personal bias aside. Pray for street smart logic to prevail

    This can be defeated. God desires it. Thank you for all you do. ❤️ Delia Sent from my iPhone

    >

  7. Don Hunt says:

    Kim…..this conversation should ‘go viral’ on the internet. I feel many of the problems with
    kids can be identified because so many of them are ‘crying’ for help. What about having a
    one hour session in school every day for a group counseling session where the kids
    can vent and discuss their issues. So many of the issues are common to them. A sort of
    group therapy if you will. Almost all of the perpetrators were know to have major problems and some were telegraphing their feelings…..many of the tragedies should have been prevented and our effort should be to prevent as many as possible….be pro-active.

  8. Joe Betsill says:

    Kim, I want to thank you first for this article and all the other thoughtful messages you so beautifully post. There’s always a depth to your words that reveals the heart of God that so clearly permeates your being. I also want to thank you for your defense of courteous comments on the Facebook post of this message. Bien hecho, hermana!

  9. Excellent conversation to have with your kids.

    And spot on about the correlation between Video Games and Violent Behavior. A good source for information on this is Lt. Dave Grossman. His book ‘On Killing’ talks about the effects of dehumanizing people and things that help people to over-come inacting violence upon each other. (Which, depending on who you are, is a good or bad thing. For me, a Marine grunt, it was part of our training to dehumanize the enemy and desensitize us to violence. For kids, it’s a very bad thing.)

    He goes very in depth on the video game/violent TV/Movies portion. The bright light is that by taking AWAY such things from children who act out violently, their behavior will begin to improve.

    Excellent post.

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