With the full understanding that reports are still coming in, and much of what we think we know tonight may be disproven by the morning, I have four thoughts at the close of this dark day.
First, God bless the martyrs of Roseburg. There are now multiple reports that the gunman singled out Christians, asking them to declare themselves before shooting them dead. We don’t know yet whether this was done out of hatred for Christianity, as an obscene gimmick to garner more attention, or for any other reason, but for the victims it made no difference. If the reports are correct, men and women declared their faith and died for it. That is the classic definition of a martyr, and may their families be comforted by the words of the Savior: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”
Second, we should resist the temptation to describe the gunman as “crazy” absent evidence that he truly could not discern right from wrong. There is evil in this world, and it is wrong to write off the most horrific acts as somehow irrational or unexplainable absent insanity. By understanding evil, we can also begin to combat it, and there does in fact seem to exist in some men a desire for infamy that is so dark and so strong that they’ll kill for the limelight. Speaking of Vester Flanagan, the Roanoke, Virginia, killer who murdered a reporter and cameraman on live television, the Oregon gunman allegedly said this:
On an interesting note, I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone.
Those do not strike me as the words of a madman.
Third, it’s disgraceful for the president to specifically and intentionally politicize the shooting before we even knew the identity of the gunman, his motivations, or how he obtained his weapons. Do we know whether a single one of the president’s gun control proposals would have made the slightest difference in Oregon? We already know that one very specific gun control measure failed utterly — the declaration that the campus is a gun-free zone. We also know that our most draconian criminal prohibition failed as well — the prohibition against the intentional, unjustified taking of a human life. When we know the facts, we’ll doubtless also learn the full extent of the gunman’s lawbreaking, and we’ll discover that he violated a whole host of laws. Would one more criminal prohibition made a difference?
Fourth, we learned once again that bad guys with guns are best stopped by good guys with guns. The great and tragic shame is that the good guys with guns were nowhere near the scene when the shooting started. Reportedly, the school didn’t even have an armed security guard on campus. Read these words from the former president of the school, and weep:
Joe Olson, who retired as president of Umpqua Community College at the end of June, said that within the past several months the college had discussed hiring an armed security guard, but had ultimately decided against it.
“We talked about that over the last year because we were concerned about safety on campus,” he said. “The campus was split 50-50. We thought we were a very safe campus, and having armed security officers on campus might change the culture.”
I don’t want to pile on people who are hurting, but the naïveté is simply heartbreaking. The “culture” was vulnerable, and if changing it meant protecting the students on campus — or, better yet, allowing them to protect themselves — then it needed to be changed. May other campuses heed that warning tonight. Wishful thinking will not save your life.