ALICE is active shooter response training and an acronym that stands for ALERT, LOCKDOWN, INFORM, COUNTER, EVACUATE. ALICE training and drills are now done routinely, not unlike fire drills, at all our public schools nationwide. Last week my kids had one such drill. Our district has had 3 lockdowns since school began this year.
At our dinner table this past week my 17-year-old daughter, a high school senior here in Oakland County, said she is afraid to go to school. She believes someone “shooting up the school” is a solid possibility (her words, not mine). Then my 12-year-old daughter in middle-school said she felt the same way and that she thinks about this possibility every day. As a parent, I’m not sure what to do with this information.
As we enter this month of November, drawing near to the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Oxford High School, we still carry many concerns and questions as we continue to heal. I in no way wish for this to be an “us and them” political article. That kind of “tit-for-tat” acrimony is not helpful and not of God. No one is okay with our children being taught to prepare for an active shooter by hiding themselves under another student who was fatally shot so that they appear to be dead themselves. How did we get here and why is our church so silent on this issue?
Here are some stats that shake me to the core. Firearms recently became the number one cause of death for children ages 1-19 in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle deaths and those caused by malnourishment, illness, and other injuries. 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides. For every 10 percentage-point increase in household gun ownership, the suicide rate among youths ages 14-19 years increased nearly 27%. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation center in the whole world, says that gang violence (which is almost exclusively gun violence) is about a “lethal absence of hope.” He says “nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang. We prevent kids from joining gangs by offering after-school programs, sports, mentoring, and positive engagement with adults. We intervene with gang members by offering alternatives, counseling, and employment to help redirect their lives. We know what works.”
Our church proclaims that human life is sacred, and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society, but we rarely hear about threats to this dignity other than from abortion. Every other day this month I have received a letter, postcard, email, or text about Prop 3. We know exactly where our church stands on this issue. Everybody knows exactly where our church stands on this issue. Why do we not have little white crosses on our front lawns for the victims of gun violence? Or for the 50 million people who live in modern-day slavery because of human trafficking? How about the 30,000 people (90% children) who die every single week from preventable diseases because they don’t have access to clean drinking water? 3.1 million children die of poor nutrition and hunger each year. Globally, that’s nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of 5. Yet not a single yard sign have I spotted. Do we need to consider broadening how we think and act as a prolife community?
As a contributing and dedicated member of the wealthiest Christian denomination in the world, is it wrong to be curious and desire to discuss why our focus, allocation of resources and action are so narrow and lopsided? How in God’s name have we created a nation in which our children are afraid to go to school, and yet we, as church, remain eerily silent?