My wife, Anna, graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1969. At the time, the community was called Alta Loma, Texas, but now is Santa Fe City.

Five years ago, on Thursday, May 19, 2018, a shooter killed 10 people and injured 13 at Santa Fe High School.

Five years later, nothing has changed in Texas, except more children have died in school shootings, including the 19 children and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022.

Our “thoughts and prayers” governor and the legislature have done nothing substantive to curb gun violence, and recent efforts to raise the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic weapons have not been successful.

Across the years of my adult experience as a husband, father, pastor, mental health director and therapist in private practice, there are a couple of things I know about the loss of a child or children through gun violence.

My introduction into married life was a year and a half into marriage, shortly after Christmas, I got a 2 a.m. call from my father-in-law. Early in ministry, I knew that such calls would be my lot but hopefully few and far between. For that reason, I always slept near the phone. It was a way, I guess, of protecting Anna from the traumas which seem to happen in the deep of the night.

What my father-in-law told me was Anna’s two brothers had been found murdered in the woods around New Caney and it became established they were shot with their own gun. Anna’s family, and to some degree our family, was never the same.

The loss of a child is catastrophic. When it is by gun violence or school shooting, the grief is so profound some never recover. Some marriages never recover. Some remaining siblings never heal.

I know this both professionally and personally. There is no other brokenness like the loss of a child. Frankly, there is no good way for a child to die, but gun violence is one of the worst.

That early family experience was reaffirmed again and again even in the prison setting. An offender who received word of the death of a child would often become suicidal.

So, slow forward (very slow) to now.

Looking back over 49 years of marriage, 33 years of being a pastor, nearly six years of running a mental health department in a maximum security Texas prison, and finally a counseling practice that continues to this day, I don’t understand the congressional and legislative intractable positions that keep the cycle of gun violence as an ongoing feature of our society.

Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott is married with two adopted children. I find myself wondering if he would be so pro-gun and paralyzed in the continuing face of gun violence and a mounting death count under his watch. I wonder if he would be so wedded to the gun lobby and their right-wing views if his paralysis were the result of a bullet instead of a falling tree branch. I wonder if he would be so cavalier with the lives of citizens in Texas if one of those murdered was his wife or one or both of his children.

I doubt it. The theoretical, positional and political posture has a way of being shattered by the hard-crushing impact of reality and the unfathomable and inexpressible anguish of loss.

For most of those who continue to chase the money and influence of the National Rifle Association, few if any have been traumatized by gun violence.

A check with Bing AI gave the following information: “A total of ten members of Congress (three senators, six members of the House of Representatives, and one territory delegate to the House) died from gunshot wounds. Fourteen Congress members have been wounded while in office.”

Another search could find no information on the same population, state or federal, who had lost a spouse or child to gun violence. It leads me to believe that there is no available information because it has happened so little.

Perhaps, that is why we have a gaggle of politicians who are impaired when it comes to three human traits essential for the survival of a nation: compassion, kindness and empathy.

It is odd that one should be lifting up these traits when a significant number of politicians say they subscribe to the Christian faith, which is rooted in a savior whose whole ministry was drenched in compassion, kindness and empathy.

When ideology outstrips humanity and decency, we are tragically closer to the end of democracy. When we leave compassion, kindness and empathy discarded like some empty cup thrown out on the side of the road, we end up careening out of control, down a slope of inhumanity and authoritarianism.

When any politician, of any party or no party, cannot or will not display the basic humanity that can recognize soul suffering of the magnitude witnessed weekly in this country because of gun violence against innocents, that politician becomes dangerous because they lack the insight and character to lead in any setting at any time.

Share This