Mass Shootings

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Reactive, The Series

Mass Shootings
Police Shootings
Sensationalistic News

How we initially react to things reflects what we believe and what kind of faith we have in God. Our knee-jerk reactions usually come from our hearts, not our minds. To have godly reactions, we have to build godly hearts.

At about 7:00 pm, Friday night, a man walked into the Macy's makeup section at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, WA, and opened fire. About an hour and a half later, when I heard the news, I was on Facebook, checking on my aunts and uncles — the three who live in nearby Mt. Vernon and the one who was visiting.

I wasn't super concerned, even though it took until the next morning before everyone checked in. They range in age between 48 and 70 (Grandma was fertile), and I figured it unlikely any of them were hanging out at the mall. Although it turns out one uncle had been there the day before.

Initial reports were to look out for a Hispanic man. Reasonable to think Hispanic in that area. Instead, it was a 20-year old Turk who had moved to the US as a young child. He was caught in Oak Harbor, a small town next to the Naval Air Station on the northern tip of Whidbey Island. To get there, he would have had to skirt the southern end of Fidalgo Island, where my Grandma lived. Despite having had a friend near the bomb at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and having lived in Colorado Springs during Columbine, this was the closest I've come to such a violent event.

My aunts and uncles are all ultra-conservative and somewhat Pentecostal. My 70-year-old aunt is the sweetest thing in the world and a member of her church's women's Bible study and gun club. One of my uncles was in the Navy. The other tried to join the Marines, but was injured during basic training. As far as I can tell from their Facebook posts, they don't believe in immigration (including refugees), or gun control, and will vote for Trump. Although they all strive to be kind, forgiving, and godly, it's doubtful they'd agree with the mild tone of this post.

Arcan Cetin is twenty. He was born in Adana, Turkey, but moved here with his family at a young age (an immigrant, not a refugee), and is a legal resident. In high school, he was in Junior ROTC, but reportedly was abusive toward his female classmates. His stepfather mentioned that he has mental problems that the family was addressing. Arcan had been arrested once for a DUI and three times for assault against his stepfather, and was not allowed to own a gun. On Friday night, he scoped out the Macy's makeup counter first, then returned with what is thought to be his stepfather's .22 rifle, which he stole. His motive is unknown as of this writing. It may have been a continuation of the disrespect he had toward women in high school, or it could be he was radicalized. Or revenge against the workplace of a former girlfriend.

Given everything we know — and don't know — I'm trying to process this biblically. Number one for me is gratefulness that my aunts and uncles weren't involved. Mt. Vernon's city center is four miles from Burlington's; really, only the Skagit River separates them. Second is sympathy for the families of the victims. From 2002 to 2014, Burlington's seen one murder. No one goes to Burlington's mall and expects to get shot.

Third is sympathy for Cetin's family. I don't know the situation there — why Arcan's stepfather had to call the police on him three times. I don't know what led Arcan to assault girls in high school and harass his female neighbor. But I can't imagine his family left Turkey and settled on Whidbey Island, WA, with the intent that their son grow up to be a mass-murderer (Romans 2:1).

After all that, maybe I'll wonder about his motive. About why he chose to be like this. If there was a tipping-point event before the shooting. Maybe even ponder why first-generation Muslim immigrants seem to want to integrate into American society while their kids too often become radicalized — when it's exactly opposite for so many other ethnicities/nationalities/religions.

I'm not going to blame any political party, although I'd like to know what candidates think about mental health care and how to keep foreign-born and first-generation kids from becoming radicalized. I'm not going to blame the NRA, although I'm all for gun safes. And although I may speculate as to Arcan Cetin's motives and influences, I'll do so lightly and without blame (1 Corinthians 2:11). I'm not in possession of enough facts to point fingers.

The most important is the hardest — pray for Arcan (Matthew 5:43-46). It's unclear what issues he's dealing with, but it is clear that through the power of Christ he can be freed of them. It's hard to keep in mind that no matter what he did, Arcan is not our enemy (Ephesians 6:12).

Five people were shot and killed in a mall that my uncle had visited the day before, only a few miles from the homes of two of my uncles and one aunt. Fifteen miles from where I spent many Fourth of Julys and Thanksgivings. I hope I can remember that the next time I hear about an attack at a nightclub or a church or an alley. Blame can wait for the evidence. Politics can wait until someone actually has something intelligent to say (Proverbs 18:21). First: the funerals.

Image Credit: Joe A. Kunzler; "Looking @ Northwest Skagitonia..."; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | Hardships  | Personal-Life  | Sin-Evil

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Published 9-27-16