School Safety and Gun Violence

When I look at our culture, it seems to me that we love to put a lot of things on “autopilot”. I don’t necessarily mean using a labor-saving device to get a job done, I’m talking about personal involvement and engagement in our community.

And here’s where I think this necessity for personal involvement makes a difference. Consider the tragic shootings in Parkland, FL. We point to all kinds of agencies, other people, organizations, and things that should have been involved (or removed) but is there anything that we as individuals could have and should have done that could have possibly averted the evil?

Virtually every (school) shooting situation has been perpetrated by a lone, disaffected, isolated gunman. Why is that, and what can we do to prevent it from being so in the future?

One of the winningest high school football teams in the nation (the Gilman Greyhounds of Baltimore, MD- ranked 14th in the nation in 2002, 12th in 2005) bases its success on what most would describe as the meekest of all grid-iron philosophies, love. When their coach, Joe Ehrmann, asks his players what’s his job as a coach, his players yell back, “To love us!” And when the coach asks the boys what their job is they respond, “To love each other!” And how is this “love” lived out? No boy is cut from the team based on athletic ability. Coaches always teach by building up instead of tearing down. And the rule for every Gilman football player is to never let another student, football player or not, sit by himself in the school lunchroom.1 Be “your brother’s keeper” and bring him into the fold.

And, encouragingly, other voices have come along and expressed this same philosophy and approach. Consider the words of David Blair, a retired teacher of 24 years:

First of all, put down your stupid phone. Look around you at your classmates. Do you see the kid over in the corner, alone? He could likely be our next shooter. He needs a friend. He needs you. Go and talk to him, befriend him … he wants someone to recognize him as a fellow human being but few people have ever given him the chance.
Next, see that kid eating lunch all alone? …. Invite him to eat lunch with you. Introduce him into your fold of friends. You’ll most likely catch a lot of flack from the friends you eat with because they don’t want him upsetting the balance of their social order…. (which) is critical to your status, is it not? … (But) he has no status because generally, shooters have no friends. Are you serious about wanting to make your school safe? Invite him to your lunch table and challenge your friends to do something meaningful …2

What if we all made it our business “to boldly go” where most of us never tread? What if we doggedly pursued the loners and the outcasts and “got all up in their business” simply because we care. We would either win them or know for certain that prevention/intervention is needed. But it would not be because we did not try.

God did not choose to verbally answer Cain’s defiant question about being his brother’s keeper. Probably because the answer is only too obvious. Indeed, Cain should have been that “keeper” and that need persists to this very day.