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Two opposite developments are shaping up a week after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy

Updated on December 22, 2012

A week after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy there are already two developments moving in opposite directions. On the one hand, there seems to be some consensus that some action is needed to prevent recurrence of similar tragedies. Moving in that direction, the President has set up a commission, under Vice President Joe Biden, to review the current situation and propose course of action. That is good and in the right direction.

The NRA, the organization that is the major advocate for firearms, first issued a statement regretting the tragedy (how could anybody not regret what happened?) then during a press conference executive vice president Wayne LaPierre shocked many when he said that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun".

By this he was suggesting two things, at least: let us turn schools into garrisons and let us fight fire with fire. How about the shopping malls and movie theaters and places of worship – every public place! It is interesting that Mr. LaPierre seemed to echo the feelings of some kids interviewed by Chris Cuomo of ABC News. Asked if video games and movies that depict violence affect their behaviour, they responded that the problem is the bad guy.

There are reports that since the tragedy, gun sales have been rising – in Cincinnati, for example, by as much as 30%. The main reason buyers are giving for this rise is anticipated changes regarding the acquisition of weapons. In other words, let us stock up before it becomes more difficult to acquire and possess them.

The imperative for the Biden commission, therefore, is to diagnose and recommend treatment for this penchant for firearms. There is something beyond the Second Amendment, otherwise we would be seeing similar zeal for social justice, for example. As Paul pointed out in Romans, chapter 7, laws are good and necessary for guidance. But laws cannot make us good.

Let us hope that the commission will uncover the cause of our society's obsession with weapons, the roots of mental illnesses in our society and how to care for the sick and how to resolve conflict and frustrations peacefully.

It is not enough to regret what happened. After regret repentance needs to follow. In theological parlance, repentance – which is translated from the Greek metanoia – involves a complete turn around. In this case, we would desire a change of attitude about firearms, violence and how we see and interact with others.

A tragedy can be Life's wake-up call. The pain and sorrow of Sandy Hook Elementary School may very well be such a call. As a society, we have the responsibility to answer it.

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