Common Sense?

04-29-2018Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asked for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  Luke 11:11

The Waffle House and mass murder are not things I would have ever linked. I remember in my younger days going to dance clubs and then after the clubs closed heading to a local diner to continue the fun. Then sneaking home hoping not to wake up my parents. Amazingly they never woke up. But suspiciously my mother would wake me up at 6am… During those 3am diner dates the worst that ever happened was a fight, usually over a girl. But I would have never conceived that you could be murdered for no reason at all while eating breakfast with friends. That’s all changed now and we seem to have an abundance of sick and twisted individuals that bring our civilization to new lows on a regular basis.

The frustrating thing about this latest shooting is that the system pretty much worked. The young killer was identified by the Secret Service and FBI as being unstable. They searched the ATF database and discovered he purchased firearms. They reported him to his home state who removed the firearms based on his unstable mental condition and then gave the arms to this man’s father, who was legally able to possess them. And they instructed the father to make sure his son did not have access to the guns.

The father gave the guns back to his son…. The father gave the guns back to his son.... The father gave the guns back to his son? What was he thinking? The father should be held accountable as an accomplice to the shooting.

Laws only act as a guide to our behavior and the authorities can only do so much. The rest is up to us to be responsible and vigilant. This is especially the case if you possess a firearm. You must in all ways be responsible for the custody and use of it. Which means it must be kept secure, so that anyone who should not be in possession of a firearm does not have access to it. Few things are worse than someone using your firearm in the commission of a crime because you were sloppy about its custody. (Think of the officer whose firearm was stolen from his car and eventually was used in the killing of Kate Steinle in SF.) Additionally, you must also know how to properly operate it: how to check the chamber for a bullet, how to unload and load it safely, how to fire it, how to aim it accurately. Most of all whatever you aim the firearm at you must be prepared to destroy. This means you must very, very carefully decide if you are going to use the weapon in self-defense. Remember the only acceptable legal reason to fire a weapon at another human is that you fear for your life or the life of another person with you. If you are willing to take the life of another person in legitimate self-defense you have to also ask yourself if you will be able to live with that choice afterwards. It is a heavy burden no matter how justified. Just ask any police officer who has had to do that.

After a shooting like the one at the Waffle House in Tennessee we hear talk about “common sense gun control”. But laws were already on the books that should have prevented this shooting if they had been properly followed and enforced. What was lacking was not laws but common sense, the common sense of the father of the shooter. No law can replace common sense. No law can replace responsible ownership, use and care of a firearm.

If there is any good news in this scenario is was that one of the patrons in the Waffle House had the common sense to take action and disarm the shooter. Thank God for him. May all those who were killed rest in peace and may their families find healing, peace and strength.


Fr. John B.