A Gun, an Abuser, and Clear Signs Ignored

Why did we not see Sutherland Springs Baptist Church massacre coming?

Because nobody spread the word that a man with a history of violence against women and who had once fractured his infant stepson’s skull should not own a weapon capable of facilitating mass murder. (And in fact—because of a military conviction and dishonorable discharge for domestic violence—he should not have been able to legally buy such a weapon. By its own admission, the Air Force never entered his conviction into a federal database, so he passed background checks.)

And nobody paid enough attention to statistics that show how often domestic violence spills over, via easy availability of guns and ammunition, into such mass murder.

Colleague and renowned domestic violence researcher Jacquelyn Campbell has been watching this trend “from Orlando to Boston to San Bernardino to New York, to most likely Las Vegas” with increasing frustration. She is once again speaking out (with Esta Soler of Futures Without Violence):

Once again, we see a link that should no longer surprise us. … America needs to wake up, once and for all, to who it is we have to be afraid of: us.

The majority of mass shootings in the United States—54 percent—are related to domestic violence. And yet, Campbell and Soler argue, little is done to separate abuser from victim and, importantly, abuser from weaponry.

We ignore what needs to be done about gun control, instead changing the debate and even, in a twisted way, romanticizing the act by brand-naming the weapon, its caliber, range, and bullets-per-second capacity. What was the scene like inside the church? Who were the (“thank goodness”) armed citizens who drove the shooter away (while of course spraying bullets themselves)?

Meanwhile, who are the victims to be prayed for now and to be forgotten the next time a domestic abuser opens fire?


At least 26 people are dead—children, older folks, four generations of one family—because a man with a grudge and easy access to an assault weapon took matters to their increasingly frequent, deadly conclusion.

Jackie Campbell and Esta Soler have it right: We need to wake up.

People kill. With handguns, they kill more. With assault weapons, they are potential monsters.

And when they signal their intentions through domestic violence, we must be willing to act, spread the word, and stop the madness and the empty regret.

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