Las Vegas sign and automatic rifle

Diagnosing the Las Vegas Massacre

Twenty-four years ago, I was diagnosed with a physical malady with which I would live the rest of my life. I couldn’t help but think about that as I read about the shooting earlier this week in Las Vegas and some of the reactions to it.

Diagnosing My Condition

It was in April 1993 that I first experienced an itchy scalp. My barber suggested a change in shampoo and turning down the hot water in my shower a bit. Didn’t help; it got worse.

Later that year I went to my first dermatologist. He gave me a topical cortisone cream for the rash. Relief came only temporarily. The condition returned every time once the cream was gone.

I then turned to a new dermatologist in town who had been an internist. It was his background in internal medicine that I believe helped him diagnose what turned out to be an intestinal disorder for which the rash was simply an external manifestation. A change in diet was what I needed; the condition persists, but it’s manageable if I watch certain foods.

I tell that story because I can’t help but wonder if we’re not misdiagnosing the problem manifested by the Las Vegas shooting. I wonder if our malady lies deeper than what appears on the surface.

Diagnosing the Shooting

On the surface, much of what I read in response to the Las Vegas shooting was about gun control. A country music performer who had always opposed gun control now says it’s needed.

But basing a diagnosis or remedy on public opinion is tricky. A few days earlier, a number of people in Nashville were praising the right to carry because a young man had used the gun he retrieved from his car to hold hostage a man who began shooting people in his church.

It could be that the Las Vegas shooter was simply mentally deranged, and had he not had a cache of guns, had there been more control over the sale of certain types of guns, he’d have found some other means by which to kill innocent people.

Three years ago, a different suicidal man here in Tennessee intentionally drove on the wrong side of the freeway looking to kill himself in a head-on collision. He succeeded, and killed a good friend’s wife and daughter in the process.

Unstable people do unstable things, though the number of people they may be able to harm at any one time may be greater or less.

But the worst and perhaps most telling responses came from two members of the U.S. House of Representatives and a Vice President of CBS. The former callously refused to acknowledge a moment of silence for the victims because of the Republican Party’s views on gun control, and the latter said, by text message, “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc [sic] country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”

Diagnosing the Diagnosis

When I read comments like those, spoken at a time when so many are grieving, I can’t help but believe we’ve misdiagnosed our problem.

I believe our problem is rooted in the fact that our culture, on the whole, has lost a sense of the sacredness of human life, resulting in callousness toward it. And how could we not have such a loss when we have made ourselves the measure of all things and deny that there is a Transcendent Sacred in whose image our lives have been created?

I know the three individuals I have cited do not speak for everyone and perhaps only for a small percentage of us, but is their indifference for life reflected in the timing of their heartless comments any different, in principle, from that of the Las Vegas shooter?

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21, 22 NKJV).

We know the answer to my question about how indifferent the two U.S. Representatives are regarding the value of all human life. On Tuesday they both voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, which would ban abortions from being performed 20 weeks or more after fertilization, except when the pregnancy is a result of reported rape or reported incest against a minor, or is necessary to save the life of the mother.

And if we don’t see a text or comment from the CBS executive urging the U.S. Senate to concur in the House’s vote, then how ironic it will be that she prefaced her text about the Las Vegas victims this way, “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered, I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing.”

Silence from her on H.R. 36 will probably mean, as with the two Representatives, that only the murder of innocent children in our schools, not in the womb, matters to her.

Yes, when we’re indifferent to killing innocent children in the womb or killing innocent people in the streets of Las Vegas, I think we’ve misdiagnosed our problem. It’s more than skin deep.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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