SAN FRANCISCO (RNS) “Not one more” was the catchphrase of the community in Isla Vista, the California town near Santa Barbara where Elliot Rodger shot and killed six people last month. Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, was among the victims and it was his father, Richard Martinez, who has passionately enjoined citizens and politicians to enact gun reform.

But it seems inevitable that, when we talk about gun reform, it will always be too little, too late.

One person died and three others were injured Thursday (June 5) when a man with a shotgun opened fire inside a building on the campus of a Seattle Pacific University, a Christian university in Seattle, police said. Photo courtesy of Seattle Pacific University

One person died and three others were injured Thursday (June 5) when a man with a shotgun opened fire inside a building on the campus of Seattle Pacific University, a Christian university in Seattle, police said. Photo courtesy of Seattle Pacific University


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On Thursday (June 5), a gunman opened fire at Seattle Pacific University, a Christian liberal arts college, killing one person and injuring three others. A student named Jon Meis was working as a building monitor nearby and, as the shooter stopped to reload his gun, doused him with pepper spray. Other students and faculty members tackled the shooter and pinned him down until police arrived.

The shooter, identified by police as 26-year-old Aaron Yberra, was armed with a shotgun, a knife, and extra ammunition. He is now in custody.

I’m a student at Seattle Pacific, although I have never set foot on campus. As a candidate for my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, I attend two residencies per year — one in Santa Fe, N.M., and one on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle. I will graduate in August without ever having stepped on campus, which is both strange and normal for a low-residency program. That is part of why I chose SPU in the first place. I could pursue an academically rigorous degree in a faith-based setting without having to move.

Because I’m not on campus, I can’t definitively say what this event has done to the school’s psyche. I can share with you the fear and devastation and hope I’ve seen on social media, or tell you about the frantic text messages I sent yesterday to an on-campus friend. I can tell you that the reasons people chose a school like Seattle Pacific — its tightknit community, its commitment to the Christian faith, its legacy of service — have been on display for onlookers to see.

As I sit safely at home, surrounded by essays to revise for my thesis, I find that all I want is to be with my peers in Seattle. The urge toward solidarity in times of mourning is a strong pull, and I want not only to pray but also to be physically present to those on campus. I can’t be, so I will watch from afar and keep checking in with friends.

Universities are supposed to be safe places. I saw one interview with a student who said she regularly walked home from SPU’s campus late at night, by herself, without ever second-guessing her safety. I doubt she’ll be able to do that again anytime soon.

It’s not just a sense of safety that’s lost after something like this, though. This shooting affects the history of Seattle Pacific. Like when people say “Virginia Tech” or “Sandy Hook,” the school will now be synonymous with an on-campus shooting, at least for the next few years. That’s a heavy burden to bear.

Memorial of candles, flowers, stuffed animals, and cards for the children and 6 adults who died at the Sandy Hook Elementary School

Memorial of candles, flowers, stuffed animals, and cards for the children and six adults who died at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on December 14, 2012. RNS photo by Arthur McClanahan, Iowa United Methodist Conference

It’s finals week at Seattle Pacific, and students will soon be going home for the summer. Most of them didn’t witness the shooting; some weren’t even on campus on Thursday afternoon. Some, like myself, live hundreds of miles away. But we all feel the sadness not only at the tragic loss of one student’s life, but at the now-confirmed knowledge that we are not immune from this kind of danger.

Seattle Pacific’s provost, Jeff Van Duzer, sent an email last night to the whole Seattle Pacific community. He laid out some practical plans for the day to come, including the cancellation of classes and the regular schedule of the library and food services. After he had shared all the necessary logistics, he wrote this:

“As I reread this email, I am struck by how mechanical it sounds. Please forgive me. I’m not sure I know how to put into words tonight the odd mixture of sadness, grief, comfort, community, despair, and hope that I’m feeling. I trust that in the days ahead God will lead us as a community together as we heal and move on from here. In the meantime, I draw comfort from the conviction, if not the experience in the moment, that God is always with us.”

That is what we do after horrific events like Thursday’s shooting. We express that we are at a loss for words, for what words can capture the preciousness of human life? We trust in a good God who we still do not understand, against whom we rail and to whom we pray. We wait. And we hope, often impossibly, that not one more will be lost.

(Laura Turner is a writer, editor, and student living in San Francisco. Find her on Twitter @lkoturner.)

KRE/AMB END TURNER

14 Comments

  1. For SHAME on RNS and the author of this amazing error ridden article!

    ““Not one more” was the catchphrase of the community in Isla Vista, the California town near Santa Barbara where Elliot Rodger shot and killed six people last month. ”

    Eliot Roger killed as many people with a KNIFE. He killed three with a knife and three with a gun

    This shows how the issue is not about guns but about letting people with mental health problems roam freely; yet by falsifying the facts RNS makes this about just guns?

    • “This shows how the issue is not about guns but about letting people with mental health problems roam freely;”

      And yet you probably opposed giving wider healthcare coverage to the public at large. That the government owes no duty to alleviate the situation with inadequate mental health care options.

      Of course the irony is that if we prevented people with documented mental health issues from obtaining firearms, the current president of the NRA would be SOL

      The US is the only country in the world where people say with a straight face that the best way to control gun violence is by having more people with guns around. Never mind the lax attitudes gun lobbyists have towards safety measures and how they promote dangerously stupid behavior.

      • @Larry,

        You are right again, of course.

        The Religious Christian Republicans – as fascist and subversive as ever – are funding the ‘right’ politicians (Rand Paul, et al) to ensure everyone gets behind the NRA’s 100% of the time!

        It is notable that there is no Christian movement against the NRA! No Christian Lobby has set itself against the NRA’s positions!

        Religion is truly at work against humanity on every level of this matter of guns in America.

        The VERY LONELY
        Rev. Rob Schenck, president
        of the Capitol Hill-based
        National Clergy Council this week said,

        “The Christian NRA link IS A TRULY UNHOLY ALLIANCE”

        What the poor Reverend doesn’t understand is that Christianity is doing
        what it was made to do – side with the fascists.

        http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/7925/an_evangelical_leader_s_lonely_fight_to_end_an__unholy_alliance__with_the_nra_/

  2. Chaplain Norman Martin

    Laura Turner, what a wonderful straight from the heart article. I realize that many angry and even some sick people will respond to your article. Those responses will simply show their need for help themselves. The sickness of an all encompassing anger of the gun culture threatens all of us.

    Fascination with fire arms has for so many become a obsession. Thinking for some seems to be “I’ve got all this fire power, why not use it against the unarmed.” Sure, fire arms must be kept out of the hands of the mentally ill and the criminal. But what about the “gun nut” who can’t wait to declare “war” against the innocence?

    Not only do we pray for the wounded and the grieving but give them loving care. Next this former NRA member and marksman will confront those who seek to continue to wipe out any gun regulation. Christians need to step up and confront that which it evil and the gun cult is evil.

  3. I agree, this is a beautiful, sad, empathetic, yet hope-against-hopeful article by Laura Turner.

    There isn’t much else to say, except prayers for divine aid and deep healings, and sincere condolences for all that are at SPU, and their families, during this tragic time.

    There are NO safe universities, however. No safe shopping malls. No safe public schools. No safe private schools. No safe sports arenas or stadiums. No safe parking lots. No safe churches, mosques, or temples. No safe factories. No safe amusement parks. No safe buses, trains, or planess. And no safe sidewalks, no safe streets either. This is the reality of America today..

    • I’d have to add that it is NOT SAFE ANYWHERE on this planet, not just the US!! Who knows how many ‘die-hard terrorists’ there are in a world-wide basis? They seem to be rapidly expanding!! Two police officers (who have families) were shot to death by a man and a woman yesterday morning here in Vegas just for eating lunch at a Cici’s Pizza; and then those 2 persons fled to a nearby Walmart where they killed a third person and then themselves. We live in such a crazy world, which is why God’s kingdom or heavenly government will soon intervene and put an end to all the wicked ones who do not repent and turn their lives around (Psalm 37:10,11). There will also be no need for any weapons of any type since people will need to beat their swords into plowshares, turn their spears into pruning shears, they will not lift up sword, nation against nation, nor will they learn war any more (Micah 4:3); and the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). And those whom we have lost due to violence, such as in these terrible incidents, accidents, illness or any other circumstances, have the hope of being resurrected back to life on a ‘cleansed’ earth, to be reunited with their family and friends (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15). It will probably get “worst” on this planet before it gets “best”; however, we at least have some wondrous things to look forward to!! This is not all there is to life… :-D

      • @Fran,

        Wrong. There are many safer places.

        Atheist countries have almost no murder or crime.

        14,827 people were murdered last year in the United States – a flagrantly ‘Christian’ nation.

        But in Atheist Japan there were only 11 murders!

        America is number one in gun murders.
        The Gun Lobby – The NRA – is fully funded by Christians who reject effective regulations.

        Religion is the sick philosophy which actually CAUSES crime
        by forgiving immoral behavior, endorsing unhinged thinking and supporting the fascist organizations which explicitly feed society’s imbalances.

        “I tortured and shot up my son for your personal benefit” – Yahweh.

        Yes. This is horrifying to me.

  4. First my condolences go out to the families affected by these horrendous event. I can’t even begin to imagine the suffering and anguish these families are now having to endure. I am a gun owner and a vet. My father was at Normandy and saw what violence man can perpetrate upon man. Yes these events must be stopped. But to punish or restrict the constitutional rights of over 800,000 law abiding gun owners is just wrong. I wonder if any of these events can be stopped. As Teddy Roosevelt stated, if you want total safety and security you will need to go live in a prison.

  5. Laura,

    My heart goes out to you and the greater community of SPU.
    As the Chaplain said, many will write angry comments – because anger works. When enough people get angry things change for the better.

    My anger is squarely on the those who refuse to fund better and more aggressive mental health programs in America (right wing republicans) and on those who repeatedly reject the notion of regulating dangerous weapons (right wing republicans) despite what is becoming a routine slaughter of innocent people.

    The NRA is a treasonous organization (right wing republicans) which has a shallow, hollow view of American possibility (right wing republicans).

    Religion plays a role in this because people (right wing republicans) continue to use religion as a reflexive excuse to own guns. Jesus prepared for battles (“if you have money buy a sword”)

    The Christian Evangelical support is what give the NRA its power.
    The exploding love affair with guns in America coincides directly with the “Born Again Christian” movement of the 70′s and 80′s when Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan worked hard to break down the separation of Church and State.

    G.W. Bush elevated religion even further into politics.
    We now live in the dust and depravity of these Christian successes against our Constitution.

    Christianity, like Islam and the Judaism they plagiarized, is essentially
    a fascist philosophy. Christianity gravitates toward power and money to push itself onto the broader populations.

    Christians can’t keep to themselves.
    They NEED to fund the fascist elements of society:

    The Tea Party,
    The hard right,
    The NRA,
    the Climate Deniers,
    The Corporate Oligarchs
    Military Oligarchs
    The NSA
    Patriot Act

    All of it is disgraceful, Christian pollution – and that is the problem.
    The sooner we abandon God the sooner we can get back to work with a secular, rational approach to our problems!

    Know your enemy. It is religion.

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/god-guns-and-the-nra-88848/

    • @Frank,

      “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and execute them in front of me.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

      How does it ‘punish’ a gun owner to improve funding for mental health?
      How does it ‘punish’ them to improve regulation against sales of firearms?

      You advocate the very thing you say you hate.
      Religion argues for insanity.

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