“That could have been my son.”
That’s the thought that’s been playing in my head off and on all day, and frankly, has me back out of bed tonight. It’s been playing on repeat since I heard the story of seven-year-old Brendon Mackey, who should be celebrating his summer between second and third grade, but who instead lies dead of a gunshot wound.
See, Mackey was on his way to see the Fourth of July fireworks in my quiet, little neighborhood, when a bullet fell from the sky and struck him in the head and killed him. A bullet fired from a gun somewhere in a five-mile radius that someone shot off while they “celebrated” Independence Day.
We can debate all day what the Second Amendment to the Constitution means, but it says, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It says we’ll have a well-regulated militia (which we may or may not have) and a free state (which we may or may not have) and a right to bear arms (which we currently do have).
But it doesn’t say that a seven-year-old boy should be dead today because of a stray bullet. It doesn’t say that you have a right to discharge your firearm with careless abandon. It doesn’t say that parents should fear for the lives of their children at a public display of patriotism and celebration.
We’ve seen public displays of sadness and frustration with events like Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon, and we understand that while we can never make sense of them, we see the evil, the brokenness, of a world where we cannot keep our children safe from every danger. But we recognize that there is intentional malice in those moments.
And then the Fourth of July 2013 strikes and we recognize stupidity and ignorance as causes of our tragedy, and we are forced to pray that for the love of God, for the love of neighbor, for the love of our children, people will finally recognize that guns are not toys, or cool, or things to be objectified. But that their purpose is for death and destruction, and to aim it at anything is to point it to kill.
I pray tonight that someone will recognize that while we believe “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” that someone stood next to the person who murdered Brendon Mackey within that five-mile radius, and thought it was funny or cool to shoot off their firearm, when it wasn’t. And that someone who reads this story will use their weapons only when called to arms or hunting, rather than showing off their bravado, or that someone will stop the next person who thinks firing off a round might be “fun.”
And that what might be the next “Brendon Mackey situation” won’t actually ever happen.
Because if not, it could be you or me planning a funeral the next Fourth of July.
I pray to God it isn’t so.