A Response to the Shooting in Connecticut, by Kristin Stoneking

"My first impulse was to drive to my children’s school, hold them close and take them home where I know it’s safe..."

Kristin Stoneking is Director and Campus Pastor for the Cal Aggie Christian Association. Here are her thoughts on Friday's tragedy: 

Kindergartners, God. They were kindergartners. Images of smiling small faces, with too-big backpacks and loose teeth filled my mind, my own gap toothed six-year-old among them. Such promise, such innocence. Taken. Violently. Gone. Worlds forever changed. My first impulse was to drive to my children’s school, hold them close and take them home where I know it’s safe.

But if there’s one lesson from tragedies like this (and there are many more than just one), it’s that the more we attempt to make ourselves safe by isolating and blaming and reactively protecting, the less secure we become. Since Columbine and 9/11, we’ve installed hundreds of thousands of metal detectors in schools and airports, profile persons who appear to be of middle eastern ethnicities, and have traumatized our own children with our fear. But we haven’t taken away the guns, we haven’t significantly decreased our militarized U.S. culture, and we haven’t stopped the proliferation of first person shooter video games. In so many ways, we perpetuate an us vs. them mentality that sees no problem with killing, denies our interconnectedness and allows these tragedies to proliferate.

Two nights ago I sat with my family in a restaurant eating dinner while the young man next to us waited for his dinner playing a game where he indiscriminately and realistically shot any human who came onto his screen. My children saw it, we all saw it—it was hard to ignore. Did anyone ask him to turn it off, question the violent images others were being subjected to and the violence he was participating in? No. And I confess I didn’t either. I lamely gave him a disparaging look, hoping he would get the source of my disapproval. A failure of courage and compassion.

Two hours ago I shared a prayer on facebook written by a Rabbi from Berkeley, a colleague of mine who came to the campus ministry last year to lead a comparative text study. It will likely be read at a vigil at the White House in a few hours by another colleague. And while President Obama’s response and leadership in creating policy that responds to the roots of violence matters, I hope we don’t resort to the too easy solution of relying on our elected officials to solve this issue.

We all have a role to play in healing this wound and transforming the way we live with each other. We must not succumb to the fear that leads us to see evil and danger in anything that is unfamiliar, around any potential corner. Last year in mediations between students and the UC Davis administration after the pepper-spraying of student protestors, the issue of removing guns from campus police was raised. Instead of discussing the idea, campus officials responded by raising the specter of Virginia Tech, effectively silencing substantive engagement on the questions of security and force and precluding creative solutions not yet envisioned. Guns remain on campus as does mistrust and unrest.

The principles of nonviolence are these:

  • Us vs. Them thinking is a distortion of reality
  • Violence begets violence
  • Fear is an accelerant to violence
  • We all have a piece of the truth and the untruth
  • The infinite relatedness of all life must be acknowledged, repaired and transformed
  • Nonviolent living is a way of life for courageous people

My hope is that as a community, as a society and as a culture we can move toward nonviolence. And I’d hope it would go without saying that a nonviolent society doesn’t allow random citizens to have multiple semi-automatic weapons.

The answers and the path are not easy. For the next days and weeks, we will grieve the terrible loss of beautiful precious lives and know that in the loss of these 27, a piece of each of us has died. But when the pain and recoil start to fade as they always do in the American consciousness (Katrina, Columbine, even the recent shooting in Oregon) we must act, daily, hourly, to change the way that we live together.

Kristin Stoneking blogs often at CAHouse.org

MrsC December 15, 2012 at 03:22 PM
We must not ignore the needs of the mentally ill and we must take a stand against overmedicating children, young adults and adults. I applaud you for calling out the need to halt the "us vs. them" mentality that has made us sick as a nation.
Carson W December 15, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Our lack of will to honestly deal with the mentally ill is what has Llowed these people to freely walk our streets. Aurora, arizona, va tech, now this one likely as well. People knew they were unstable. But nothing is said. Nothing is done. No one even knows if this guy played violent games. So going there is just knee jerk. The link is almost always people who are majorly mentally ill but are left to wander around in charge of their own medication. And we wonder why they snap.
Jc December 16, 2012 at 01:11 AM
There is no doubt that at some point this tragedy will turn into a platform to increase gun control laws. The gun did not fire itself; a person chose to use it in this manner. A mentally unhealthy person. If people want to discuss what really went wrong they should focus on where the services were to provide help to those with mental illness who cannot help themselves.
Roberto December 16, 2012 at 06:33 AM
Watching and listening to the news concerning this tragedy is heart breaking. After listening to the President's tearful speech, I've lost all respect for him. How dare him turn this into politics and a gun control issue! He even went so far as to have Eric Holder at his side, the man who gave automatic weapons to the Mexican Drug Cartels. You have to wonder what would have happened to the shooter if the principle of the school was armed. The problem may have came to a very quick conclusion.
Robin Erbacher December 20, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Sure the guy was mentally ill. But the fact remains that if he didn't have access to these guns, it would have been much harder for him to kill so many innocents in such little time. Guns make it all too easy. Assault weapons. Imagine if he were wielding a knife instead: at least there would have been more time for reaction and distance. The tools for murder need to be discussed along with the mental problems that led to the will to murder.


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