Is it Assault Rifles and Mental Illness – or a Simple Retaliation Issue?

I know – the last thing we need is one more Sunday morning blogger claiming to have the answer for why the US has recently had more mass killings than any country in the developed world.

But there’s one more thing the US does better than everyone else – it’s something that isn’t getting much air time as we scratch our heads and try to figure out WTF’s happening.  While I don’t think the argument I’ll be dumping in your lap this morning is a slam dunk solution to our problem, it at least deserves a seat at the table.

According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the numbers of children dying from abuse/maltreatment have been steadily increasing in the US.  According to UNICEF, we’re second only to Mexico in the number of children who die each year as a direct result of maltreatment at the hands of a parent of guardian.

In a nutshell, we’re really good at child abuse.

And there’s no shortage of research linking child abuse to all manner of mental/social disorders, especially the ones that put a person at risk for buying an assault rifle and doing something bad with it.

I don’t think the problem is with our kids, I think it’s with us.  Why are we so regularly beating, sexually assaulting, neglecting, and screaming at our kids?

“The challenge of ending child abuse is the challenge of breaking the link between adults’ problems and children’s pain.”

from UNICEF’s Global Child Maltreatment Report 2003

Here in the US, we’re angry.  It’s hard to pin down what we’re angry about; might have something to do with being wealthy and spoiled, might be legit – who knows.  Either way, we spend a ton of time ruminating on the myriad injustices regularly perpetrated against us – and we’re angry about it.

When the Florida shooting happened, we got angry with each other.  One side pointed fingers at the other side, the other side screamed “you can’t have our guns!” and we set out to abuse each other on Facebook, like getting really pissed at each other will solve anything.  And whether you like the current administration or not, one of Trump’s biggest legacies will be giving people permission to be an asshole.

I get it though, we’re scared, and when we’re scared we want to feel some sense of control.  Blaming someone else and belittling folk who don’t belong to our “tribe” gives us that sense without us having to do the hard work of dealing with any of this.

The problem with anger is that 99% of the time it’s a symptom of hurt.  I know we hate talking about our feelings, especially us men, but it’s nigh unto impossible to be angry without first being hurt.  So if we’re an angry people, it’s closer to the truth to say that we’re hurting.  And when someone hurts us, our first, primary, knee-jerk reaction is to hurt someone else.

Enter our kids.

They can’t fight back, and we can do it in secret.

So we hurt them, and their first, primary, knee-jerk reaction is to hurt someone else.  If they’re pain is big enough, they’ll want to spread their hurt as far as they can.  If they can get their hands on an assault rifle – even better.

This is merely the opinion of a sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, wanna-be author sitting in his bathrobe trying to make sense of it all – but I think our kids are hurting, and I think we’re hurting them.

And all of our angry, middle-finger-throwing, blaming, belittling, generally awful way of interacting with each other can’t be helping the problem.

This is our country – our responsibility.  We should be teaming up, not tearing down, especially us Christians who seem to love to spread the Gospel of division and anger.  If I flip someone off who’s just pulled out in front of me, or troll someone’s status update, I certainly haven’t caused the next mass shooting, but I have added my small piece to a huge problem that won’t go anywhere until we all decide to stop treating each other like shit.

And up until recently, I’ve been the chiefest of sinners.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible”

Something that hung on our kitchen wall when I was a kid


Stopping our anger won’t solve the problem.  And the anger we’re dancing with doesn’t stop on a dime.  But if we’re blown up and angry, doing things that make people even more blown up and angry only adds to the problem, and can easily land on a kid.

So while we navigate this horrible thing, we should do our best to calm down when we interact with enemy comrades, and probably take assault rifles off the shelves – temporarily at least.



9 thoughts on “Is it Assault Rifles and Mental Illness – or a Simple Retaliation Issue?

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