Back to school means back to worrying

Christians must do more than pray about the threat of school violence.

By Kristopher Aaron

That groan you hear comes from millions of students and their teachers as summer comes to a close and a new school year begins. As final preparations for the new school year are made, students make sure that they have all they need and worry about making new friends.

Teachers stock up on school supplies as well and worry if their rooms are properly decorated. Unfortunately, there is something else that worries teachers and students alike: school violence.

In just the past few weeks there have been two such incidents. The first occurred at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga. At McNair, Michael Brandon Hill walked in with an AK-47-type assault rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition.

Thankfully, no one was hurt and that is in large part to the heroic efforts of Antoinette Tuff. While Tuff has been rightfully lauded for her efforts, other details of the story have been largely ignored.

Michael Hill’s brother, Timothy Hill, told news reporters that his brother suffers from both bipolar disorder and ADD. A sheriff’s official in Henry County, Ga., also stated that Hill was charged with making terroristic threats back in March, a felony in Georgia. Hill pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation and counseling.

How did a convicted felon with known mental illness acquire a weapon and that much ammunition?

The second incident occurred just days later in Memphis, Tenn., where a kindergarten student accidentally fired a handgun in his elementary school cafeteria. The student is 5 years old.

According to school officials, the boy brought the gun to school in his backpack and it accidentally discharged once while inside it. Students were waiting for the opening bell in the cafeteria when it occurred.

How did a 5-year-old get a gun?

Citing the Children’s Defense Fund, Centers for Disease Control and Department of Defense, NBC News reported that nearly three times more kids (15,576) were injured by firearms in 2010 than the number of U.S. soldiers (5,247) wounded in action that year in the war in Afghanistan.

In a 2011 nationally representative sample of high school students, the CDC reported that 5.4 percent of students reported carrying a weapon (gun, knife or club) on school property on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey, and 5.9 percent of students did not go to school on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school.

We have a problem. Our obsession with guns and violence has affected our societal soul. In a country that many purport to be Christian, we have ignored Jesus’ words on peacemaking and forgotten that the early church was known for its commitment to pacifism.

People may debate the merits of pacifism, just-war theory and just peacemaking, but no one can deny that we in the United States prefer our “peace” to come through violent means. We have a problem, and we as Christians must do something about it.

We must hold our elected officials accountable for sensible laws that address both gun control and mental illness.

We must resist the temptation to make our schools into fortresses and instead do the hard work to make such action unneeded.

We must remember that it is as much a part of our Christian duty to tell people about Jesus as it is to make the world more like the kind of place Jesus would want to come back to.

Millions of parents, fearful of the threat of school violence, pray every day that their children will return home safe from school. Fearful of the threat of school violence, I pray every day that my wife, a teacher, returns home safe from school. I pray for the safety of our church’s youth and college students.

God covets our prayers, but we must do more than pray. It is time for action. The school year has just started. May there not be more dead children and teachers before we do something.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.