I remember my first reaction to a mass killing. It was the summer of 1984. 

I was a young man in my twenties, sitting in my La-Z-Boy reading the Miami Herald. This was before mass shootings were frequent occurrences, so I was not yet desensitized.

A gunman strolled into a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California and opened fire, killing twenty-one people. Half of the casualties were under 21 years old. Five were under 12. The youngest was eight months old. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the time.

The newspaper published a photo of a kid’s bike leaning against the wall surrounded by yellow tape in front of the restaurant. I imagined a pre-teen riding to McDonalds for a Big Mac and fries who would not return home. I began to sob.

In February, a breaking news alert about a shooting in Kansas City during a Super Bowl parade flashed across my phone. Yawn. 

I didn’t even bother to click the link. That is how callous my heart has become.

The tragedy in Kansas City was the 50th mass shooting this year. By February 15, the day after Kansas City, almost 4,994 people had been killed due to gun violence. Over three thousand had been injured. 

Here is the “good” news— we are at a three-year low for mass shootings. Yay?

When you read these words, that number can easily increase by 50 percent, if not more. So why should the Kansas City shooting be anything special? 

Mass shootings have occurred too close to my home. There was one at the high school where my kids attended. And there was one at the movie theater where my daughter was planning to go but got sick that night. 

There are so many shootings. The odds are that we will one day read in the papers the names of someone in your family or mine being a victim of some future shooting. It may be while they were attending church, walking the dog or enjoying a little league game – in other words, while simply existing. 

As we lose loved ones and friends, the nation yawns.

Gun violence is the U.S. modus operandi. We are the only nation where civilian guns outnumber people (120 to 100). No other country with an advanced economy has experienced more than eight mass shootings over a twenty-two-year period. We have had 50 in just the first six weeks of the year. We are number one. 

As a country, we can boast of having the highest firearm homicide rate among nations with advanced economies, eighteen times the rate of other countries. Additionally, with only four percent of the global population, the U.S. accounts for 44 percent of global suicides by firearms. 

My heart is not the only one that has grown callous. The heart of the entire nation is so callous that the massacre of its children does not lead to tears but conspiracy theories. 

The shooting of 20 first graders (26 total people) at Sandy Hook Elementary School was evil. But so was the assertion by conservative figures like Alex Jones that it was fake news— a false flag. According to a university poll, one in four believed this lie six months after the tragedy. 

How true are the words of the psalmist: “From their callous hearts comes sin; their evil imaginations have no boundary” (73:7). 

Protecting the rights of extreme groups to carry weapons of mass destruction at will seems more critical than the pro-life stance of safeguarding the lives caught in tomorrow’s crossfire. We are a nation lacking a soul. We have deemed privileged people who fear a future race war stocking up on weapons more important than attempting to work toward a civilized society.

One day, we will have common sense gun laws. One day, we may even beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. 

Unfortunately, that day is so far into the future that we cannot even catch a glimpse of it. Why? 

Because not enough children have been killed. 

Our callous hearts will only break when enough of the blood of the innocent flows in our streets, when the stench of their rotting bodies overpowers our complacency and apathy. Maybe it will take five, ten, fifteen, or even twenty mass shootings a day to break our hearts. Perhaps as many Sandy Hooks.

We are f*cked. The vulgarity is not the word I use to describe our predicament, but how we are forced to live. 

The vulgarity is that our only hope of finally passing common sense gun control requires more children to be massacred. The vulgarity is how callous your heart—and mine—has become. 

In the hopelessness of this moment, I am reminded of the words of Jesus. “The heart of these people has become so callous that they hardly hear with their ears and have closed their eyes. If not, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and turn from their ways, and I can then heal them” (Matt 13:15). 

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