The horrific shooting in Florida which has left 17 people created in the image of God dead was not a political event, yet one would not know that reading their Twitter feed in the first day or two after the tragedy.
Like virtually everything in public life now, even unfathomable tragedies of violence must be interpreted and then vocalized through a partisan and politicized lens, apparently. These impulses from both the right and left may very well speak to the heavy tribalization we see in our contemporary politics, but I believe it also speaks to something much deeper, and that is a crisis of responsibility that is systemic in our culture.
Prudence and wisdom would generally call for waiting to assume an alignment with one’s political agenda out of a national tragedy. Indeed, human empathy and emotional maturity might even call for a time of mourning and dismay before such an impulse even forms! But regardless of what one does believe about gun control (the right may advocate here for increased armed school security; the left may advocate for a suppression of gun ownership; etc.), the haste with which we jump to a political agenda is frightening here, especially when it is accompanied by rank ignoring of the true cause of the tragedy.
The individual arrested, Nikolas Cruz, was not a child. He is a 19-year old young man.
He has apparently suffered the loss of a parent recently, something I relate to considering his age, having suffered the loss of my mother from our family at age 15, and the untimely death of my 47-year old father when I was age 20. Early reports are that this young man was troubled, reclusive, and perhaps depressed. There had been no diagnosis of psychosis or mental illness, but we shall see in the weeks ahead what additional information comes to light. He had suffered disciplinary problems at the school which served as the location of his evil crime, but there had been no indication that he was mistreated or in conflict there. He seemed to have a reputation for showing off his firearms, and he apparently attempted to brag on YouTube months ago that he was “going to be a professional school shooter” (indicating significant premeditation and malice, not mental psychosis). I will let mental health professionals evaluate all of this more, but the point I wish to make is that the slaughter of 17 innocents is a moral crime against humanity. It is murder, it is sin, it is atrocity, and it is something that cannot be tolerated in a free or virtuous society.
Perhaps some part of us feels better believing that the gun he used (which is legal, and owned by five million Americans who did not commit mass homicide yesterday) is responsible for the crime. Or perhaps it soothes us to direct our angst at political lobbyists at the NRA, or at corporate manufacturers of ammunition or gun product. And for the right, perhaps engaging this debate and ramping up our most base pro-gun instincts serve as a helpful distraction from the pain and agony of what the country and this school and its community are enduring. But the emotional diversion is no excuse for blame-casting that fails to meet basic standards of moral scrutiny. I am an advocate for the Second Amendment, and also an advocate for greater school security, and also an advocate for significantly more intelligent conversation about gun policy and school security in our country. And yet, in no case — the Second Amendment, school policy, the NRA, or any other villain or Messiah promised in these ugly debates — do I believe we have the real diagnosis or solution identified.
Each shooting tragedy in our country has possessed its own unique causations and characteristics — some political (the congressional baseball shooting), some related to mental illness (the Giffords shooting in Arizona), and some disturbed young men with troubled families (Columbine, and now Florida). And in some cases, we appear to have no idea (Vegas).
This disturbed young man known to be obsessed with weapon violence is the responsible actor in the homicidal mania. As more and more facts come to light from his social media platform and so forth, we are witnesses to a moral atrocity. Not a political one. Not a policy one.
And any good and responsible society will be wise to start identifying it as such, before they engage in partisan sport.
David L. Bahnsen, CFP®, CIMA® is the founder, Managing Partner, and Chief Investment Officer of The Bahnsen Group, a bi-coastal private wealth management firm with offices in Newport Beach, California, and New York City, managing over $1.3 billion in client assets. David has been named as one of Barron’s America’s Top 1,200 Advisors, as well as Forbes Top 250 Advisors and Financial Times Top 300 Advisors in America. David serves on the Board of Directors for the National Review Institute and the Lincoln Club of Orange County, and is a founding Trustee for Pacifica Christian High School of Orange County. He is the author of the forthcoming book "Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It" (Post Hill Press). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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