This essay was originally written on October 1, 2015 in response to the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. It remains as relevant and timely now as it was two years ago. In fact, Google results for keywords on the subject make it hard to distinguish the search results between the current Las Vegas massacre and the long list of others that have occurred over the past few years. In many cases, the headlines are identical and only the date has changed.

I am grieving again today.

Once more I am mourning the senseless execution of beautiful souls torn to shreds in the prime of their lives and in the middle of their innocent ordinary. I am again grieving more premature funerals and canceled weddings and discarded futures—and I want to be alone right now.

Gun lover, please don’t tell me you’re grieving along with me today too. You’re welcome to mourn, but I don’t think I want your company right now.

If you’re still against greater gun control measures – I don’t want you to grieve alongside me today.

If you’re part of the zealous, gun-glorifying community – I don’t want you to grieve alongside me today.

If you’re a militant, unrepentant NRA apologist – I don’t want you to grieve alongside me today.

If your right to bear arms ultimately matters more to you than the human wreckage strewn about movie theaters and shopping malls and elementary schools and nightclubs and hospitals and festival grounds – I don’t want you to grieve alongside me today.

Not again. Not now.

I just can’t accept your condolences and prayers and claims of solidarity – not now.

If I do, if I allow you to bow your head with me and speak a quick prayer before moving on to the exact same posture and practice and politics, then it feels like I am just consenting to more murder. It becomes an empty gesture. As a lover of life and person of faith I simply can’t do that in good conscience, and so I ask you to allow me to mourn in peace right now.

Words of sadness and offers of prayers alone are not significant enough now.

Any expression of grief that doesn’t come with an admission that guns, their easy availability, and perhaps most importantly a politically fueled Wild West culture that nurtures their worship are a central part of the problem here—rings hollow to me.

Any claim of mourning that doesn’t also demand some substantial change in how we promote, regulate, access, and talk about firearms is just crocodile tears and a slap in the face to families of the dead.

It all feels ultimately like empty words.

I’ve had enough of empty words.

I’m really tired.

I’m tired of a centuries-old amendment being propped up as being relevant in any way to this time and place in history and to the purpose it was ratified in the first place.

I’m tired of a John Wayne, cold dead hand, OK Corral romanticism that makes guns, not some necessary evil but a sexy status symbol of true Americans.

I’m tired of partisan media sky-is-falling, fear-mongering that makes people believe their immanent danger requires an arsenal always at the ready; in their kitchens and in their cars and at their ankles.

I’m tired of a culture that sees repeated mass shootings as the acceptable collateral damage of some supposed personal freedom.

Most of all I’m tired of premature funerals, lives taken before their time, and of people who never seem to give enough of a damn to stop it from happening again.

I fully realize if you’ve fully bought into the lie that says guns are absolutely necessary, entirely neutral, and constitutionally guaranteed—you really don’t care about any of this.

You already likely know the numbers and the statistics and the reality too, but you dismiss it all or rationalize why none of it is relevant. You’ve washed your hands of culpability in the continuing slaughter and exonerated guns and you don’t care to entertain conversation—which is your right.

I’m not going to demand that you conform to my convictions.

I’m not going to try and convince you of what seems so very obvious to me, but I’m also not going to allow you the courtesy of saying you mourn as I do and suffer alongside me, because that simply isn’t true.

You grieve gun violence while loving and celebrating and worshiping your guns.

I grieve gun violence while abhorring guns and wanting us to make them more difficult for sick, angry, unhinged, malevolent people to have.

I guess we have a different idea of grief, you and me.

I respect your position and reserve your right to mark this tremendous loss on your own if you want, but I’d like some distance right now because your presence is simply salt in these terrible, ever-multiplying wounds.

So today, after yet another gun tragedy – please let me mourn in peace.

John Pavlovitz

Originally published on as Why I Don’t Want Gun Lovers Grieving Another Massacre Alongside Me

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.