A dead dad, a jailed son, and unasked questions about Charleston

There are two things about the horrible crime in Charleston that I can’t shake just yet.

The first is a witness’s report that the killer spent nearly an hour among his future victims as they held a Bible study and prayer meeting before he began to open fire. We don’t know exactly what they said, but if it was anything like my experiences, it was an hour of lamentation and exhortation, of asking forgiveness and offering praise, of the pain but also the hope we have in this life.

To sit through as much, and still to pull out the weapon and aim it at another human being and pull the trigger, and to aim again and pull the trigger again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again — it brings to mind the Bible’s description of one whose heart has become calloused, who hardly hears with his ears and has closed his eyes.

The second is a realization that this Father’s Day will be dramatically different for two girls who lost their daddy Wednesday night, and for the man whose son did the killing.

Clementa Pinckney

Clementa Pinckney

Nine people died in the ambush at Emanuel AME Church, each one precious to friends and family and we who mourn with them. But what hits me hardest is the thought of those two girls waking up Sunday morning and, instead of making a Father’s Day breakfast in bed for their dad, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, facing a void that stretches from their home to the church where he served and died, and beyond, for the rest of their lives.

It’s the thought of his dying at the hands of another man’s son, who in relatively short order regressed from high-school dropout to small-time criminal to dabbler in white supremacy to accused mass murderer. And it’s the thoughts his parents must be having today about what they did wrong, as in Lionel Shriver’s chilling novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

This will be my seventh Father’s Day on the receiving end of a Hallmark card, and my sons aren’t yet old enough to have heard about what happened in Charleston.

So they aren’t yet asking why something like this happens, and whether we’ll be safe Sunday morning in our own church, and what makes a kid in America start wearing the flags of apartheid regimes in Africa that ended before he was born.

And I don’t yet have to tell them about the evil in our world, a broken place with a broken human race: an evil that we can’t keep behind bars or end with a lethal injection, an evil we can’t legislate away by banning this kind of weapon or that kind of speech, an evil that infects and disrespects all races, colors and creeds.

I don’t yet have to tell them, with a gulp, that we’ll be just fine Sunday morning, and next Sunday too.

I don’t yet have to tell them that the way we respond to evil far away from us is with more kindness and love toward those near us, that we will know hurt in this world but believe in a God who will deliver us to another place where we’ll know only joy.

Instead, I think I’ll just hug them, and think of Charleston, and squeeze them a little tighter.

Reader Comments 0

44 comments
lvg
lvg

Simple solution is to require registration of all guns and mandatory insurance if used outside the home for defense..Does not infringe on the new due process right created by Scalia and  conservatives in Heller decision. Follows the recent decision by Eleventh circuit Court of Appealsin Atlanta  allowing a ban on guns at Lake Altoona by Army Corps. Anyone violating the registrattion laws would be subject to federal prosecution. Criminals fear Federal proecution. Sellers to get minimum ten year sentence. Any registration fees go to mental health services  aresearch related to gun violence. Gun huggers can scream infringement all they want  but it does not curtai constitutionally protected area of use to defend one's home.

GMFA
GMFA

Good article Kyle!

MHSmith
MHSmith

Turns out our psychopath school dropout  that just happens to carry a lot of ethnocentric hate baggage was "BORED WITH HIS ADVANCED CLASSES" his step-mother said:  "he was smart, too smart." The drug use/abuse was probably related to this boredom as well.


That should put an end to those who were using this sickening mass murder event for a "milk cow" to obtain more money for education. It also erodes the likelihood he is a sociopath or that drugs drove him to kill. 


Oh and for those gun control freaks milking this for more gun control laws: Turns out Dylann Roof is a felon there are  laws already on the books that if they had been used/ enforced would have kept or taken away Roof's gun his daddy gave him before the shooting event. 


Not to drag this out too far, mental illness in this country gets plenty of attention: Our jails are full of mentally ill patients. 


Unfortunately, like cancers and heart diseases, mental illnesses gets too little funding to offer treatment for those in most need of healthcare and without adequate healthcare insurance to catch these things early enough to change the outcomes.        

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

It is a nice column Kyle, it would be even better if along with all that sentiment you were willing to support some action to address the plague of violence that unfettered gun access spawns.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TheRealJDW I have yet to see any gun-control measure so far proposed that would have prevented this attack. It wasn't an "assault weapon." It wasn't a "high-capacity magazine." I've seen nothing to suggest he would have failed any kind of enhanced background check. OTOH he broke a number of existing firearms laws.

Short of the earlier suggestion of "banning all guns," I'm not sure what could have stopped Roof from acting on his hatred.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TheRealJDW I don't think you're taking my points seriously. Of course, when you say something as baseless as "guns are overwhelmingly used for a single (purpose)...to kill people," I guess I shouldn't expect any more.

It is estimated that there are more than 300 million guns in this country. According to your stats, there were 42,419 homicides over the course of five years, meaning the the five-year rate of homicides per gun is 1 in 7,072. The one-year rate would be more like 1 in 35,000. What use, besides "kill(ing) people," could those other 34,999 guns be used for?

I note as well that you haven't named a single policy that would have prevented this crime. If it's so obvious, shouldn't that be easy?

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

That is a copout. Gun laws abroad do a fine job of preventing just such attacks. What you really mean is you are not willing to do what it takes to pass such laws here. in spite the growing and overwhelming evidence that guns are overwhelmingly used for a single purpuse...to kill people.

To wit:

A new study by the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group, shows that, when guns kill people, they are overwhelmingly used for murder rather than self-defense. In 2008-2012, the report says, guns were used in 42,419 criminal homicides and only 1,108 justifiable homicides -- defined as the killing of a felon during the commission of a felony by a private citizen).

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

There are tons of them starting with applying in person at your local police station and completing a class a la CT and ending with a concerted buy back and ban on importation a la Australia (which BTW cut gun deaths in half).

Your strategy of ignoring facts all around you in the pursuit of gun defense is both transparent and tiresome. Don't stand in the corner with your arms crossed ignoring the overwhelming evidence by saying prove it time and again then simply ignoring said proof. It is all around you if you open your eyes.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Great column, Kyle.

Take this to heart and share it with your boys:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.---John 14:27 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"I don’t yet have to tell them that the way we respond to evil far away from us is with more kindness and love toward those near us, that we will know hurt in this world but believe in a God who will deliver us to another place where we’ll know only joy."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


This column is one of the best you have ever written, Kyle.  It reaches deep and touches deeply, too. Thank you for this beautiful column in reminding us all of the value and power of practicing love to others, daily. We will fail because we are human, but we must always pick ourselves up and practice love, the only answer, once again. Have a wonderful Father's Day on Sunday with your family.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@dbm1 


Please reflect upon these words from St. Paul in I Corinthians 13: 


"Love never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

dbm1
dbm1

@MaryElizabethSings @dbm1 

"Love never fails."  Do you really think that's true?


In any area in which we do not use reason, we won't know what to do, and failure is likely to follow. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Well said Kyle, Happy Fathers Day!


You just can't predict or explain insanity or drug induced psychosis.  We just need to find some way to obtain help for these people.  Mental illness is just as much a priority as any other illness, but it doesn't get the attention that cancer or heart disease do.  We have to change that.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister It wasnt mental illness


It was White Supremacy.


The Boston Marathon bombers weren't mentally ill. They were Radical Islamists.


No difference here. 

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

Awesome column, Kyle. 


One day, long in the future, those two little girls will see their daddy again, and every day will be Father's Day. 

lvg
lvg

Kudos and praise to Kyle. Unlike his liberal colleague and the AJC and all the other news media,   he does not mention the killer's name and doesn't show his picture. Chinese ban such publicity of terrorists for good reason- they kill for the notoriety. It is just one step removed to  try to figure out how so many Germans could do what they did in World War II.

Fine piece of Jourallism! 

MHSmith
MHSmith

@lvg Seriously doubt not calling this guy out by name is the kind of publicity or notoriety the Chinese are trying to hide and kill for. The Germans could do what they did in World War II because their evil acts went under- publicized and given little or no notoriety.

williar
williar

There were so many signs that something was bothering this you fellow. The uncle, the roomate/friend and the parents who provided the weapon. When are people going to start taking responsibility and care enough about the well being of their family or friends and society when dealing with mental health? That kid couldn't have gone in a sporting goods store on gunshop and filled out the necessary paperwork to purchase a weapon. If his dad didn't give it to him, who's to day he wouldn't have driven his car into the church. The media doesn't like to talk about the good samartian who save a lady's life in Cobb Co when she was car jacked at the car wash. Or the Domino's delivery driver that was robbed in Decatur and shot the robbers. Or yesterday's story of the Clayton Co home ower who suffered multiple breakins and shot the burglar who broke into his shed and was stealing his property. I can go on and on. But let the media tell it, all the guns are for criminal behavior and never used for protection. I can go on and on, but whats the use. Keep trying to take away the law abiding gun owners rights and the criminals will be the only ones with guns.

Ddragon43
Ddragon43

@williar  the problem is for every time some good person with a gun does something good there are 20 story's about a bad person with a gun doing something bad. Also many of the guns the bad people have come from the good people. To many good people either give their gun to a bad relative or friend, or their gun is stolen, or they're irresponsible.


thanks for the article Kyle.

slydawg
slydawg

@williar Why can't Dylan Roff be described like every other mass killer: EVIL!!! There is absolutely no sign of a mental health issue or some drug induced psychotic killer who should not have a gun. Dylan Roof, believe it or not, was a normal person who formed his own opinions and made up his own mind concerning his actions. 


We will never know what good is unless evil exists, otherwise you could never tell the difference. Dylan Roof is EVIL, not sick.

Caius
Caius

Nice piece of writing Kyle.


In the culture we have developed in the US, human life is valued as something pretty cheap.

And we brought that culture to these shores from our European homes. (Read your history books.)

That does not explain Charleston, Aurora or the many other cases of murder record daily in our society.

I grew up in that same society.


Like the rest of you I have no answers.


MHSmith
MHSmith

@Caius


I have doubts there are any answers to what we can do to stop the evil acts of psychopaths like this Roof guy we have in the world, we're going to have them from now ever on. 


For the rest of us there is the hope of better understandings of one another and as the Bible says love thy neighbor as thy self, respect the value of human life and do unto others as you would like to be treated.    

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

If you haven't watched the clip of the victims' family members at Roof's bond hearing telling him they forgive him, I highly recommend doing so. It is a stunning display of grace (skip ahead to the 28-minute mark): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_j6KL4Ic50

straker
straker

Kyle - you write a very moving essay about the tragedy but when I suggest the one thing that, more than anything else, would cure much of this evil, your response is I'm not being constructive.


I wonder why that is?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@straker "I wonder why that is?"

Because, as even other gun-control proponents on this thread have pointed out, your recommendation of "banning all guns" is unrealistic to the point of being a distraction.

If you want to continue this discussion, reply here or to the thread below. I've grown weary, and I'm sure others have too, of your habit of forcing your redundant statements to the top of the thread by posting them there instead of replying to those who responded to you.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

A segment of our population undoubtedly feels threatened and hurt emotionally by this tragedy and they need reassurance we are all there with them. Everyone sane person feels the pain of a tragedy of this nature in some way. Sane people do not slaughter innocent human beings, insane people or people consumed with evil commit these acts. Sane White people do not hate Blacks for being Black, or vice versa. No peaceful person of any color should ever feel threatened knocking on my door, or walking down my street. We all walk the same earth and breath the same air and drink the same water. This young man committed a crime against humanity, he will face a united call to justice in the form of the State, and others like him attracted into evil need to understand they aren't singling out people or groups of people with their hate, they are confronting all of us.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

http://www.salon.com/2015/06/18/its_not_about_mental_illness_the_big_lie_that_always_follows_mass_shootings_by_white_males/


Its not about being a psychopath or anything like that.


This was white supremacy run amok


Nothing more. 


We love to talk about individuals’ mental illness so we can avoid talking about the biggest, scariest problem of all–societal illness. That the danger isn’t any one person’s madness, but that the world we live in is mad.

After all, there’s no pill for that.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar As I said yesterday, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. There are more white supremacists than there are mass murderers. Just like there are more gun owners, video game players, etc. It takes something beyond that to push someone to do what he did, especially the way he did it. Acknowledging that doesn't in any way cloud the fact he was a racist.

MarkVV
MarkVV

The stunning nature of the massacre in Charleston masks some of the reality of the gun violence. Although nobody would disagree, I believe, with Kyle’s sentient expressed in the words,

“Nine people died in the ambush at Emanuel AME Church, each one precious to friends and family and we who mourn with them,”
we should also realize that equally precious to friends and family are victims of any other nine murders, nine out of the daily average of handgun homicides in this country. It is the racial aspect that differentiates the victims in Charleston from some of the others, but the pain in all those other cases is no different.

MHSmith
MHSmith

Only one other point to make because of your mentioning: "We Need to Talk About Kevin."


Wikipedia calls Kevin a sociopath, whereas our guy better fits the description of a psychopath.

Your account of his prolonged calmness turned violate in almost a flash is one of the tip offs...



 "When committing crimes, psychopaths carefully plan out every detail in advance and often have contingency plans in place. Unlike their sociopathic counterparts, psychopathic criminals are cool, calm, and meticulous. Their crimes, whether violent or non-violent, will be highly organized and generally offer few clues for authorities to pursue. Intelligent psychopaths make excellent white-collar criminals and "con artists" due to their calm and charismatic natures. 


https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath


Oh and Kyle, it's good that you can't shake it or relate to it: It tells me you are normal and of sane healthy mind. 



LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Good article, Kyle. 


I'm wondering if there were others in his circle of friends/acquaintances that led/helped him down his path to killer racist.  Was there some other act in his life that he felt another race is so beneath him that contributed to this? 


So many of these killers kill themselves before they answer these types of questions that I hope some clarity comes with his survival.

Or, it may be that he stupidly went overboard and can't explain himself at all.  


Sometimes those thoughts of "why" keep out thoughts of the victims.  Your article touches on them and brings reminders that real people are affected, not just the direct victims. 

straker
straker

"an evil we can't ban away by banning this kind of weapon"


Banning all guns, except for the Military and Police, would be a great start.


Don't you agree?

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@straker  All that does is ensure only the Military, Police, and criminals have guns. Criminals will always find ways. As for the Military and Police only having weapons, well, we have a Nation and Constitution for some easily studied and understood reasons. Suggest you get started.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@straker Not even the Brady campaign talks about "banning all guns." If you want to add something constructive to the debate, that isn't it.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar From the information currently available -- I'll refrain from calling them "facts" until they're actually confirmed -- it appears he shouldn't have been able to buy that gun legally.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar I was speaking in general terms but you are probably right.


My larger point was that many guns used in crimes were bought legally. That is a fact. We don't have a crystal ball however so we have to let anyone have them who isn't a felon. 


http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/guns/procon/guns.html


Again Frontline ( an excellent program BTW ) did a special on this.


Ask a cop on the beat how criminals get guns and you're likely to hear this hard boiled response: "They steal them." But this street wisdom is wrong, according to one frustrated Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agent who is tired of battling this popular misconception. An expert on crime gun patterns, ATF agent Jay Wachtel says that most guns used in crimes are not stolen out of private gun owners' homes and cars. "Stolen guns account for only about 10% to 15% of guns used in crimes," 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@straker That isn't really a practical solution in America.


But there are common sense things that can be done. Such as fingerprint ID's in order to fire a gun.


My IPhone allows me to simply place my thumb on a dot to logon to it. Guns can be made to only allow their owners to fire the weapon in a similar way. If a gun were stolen by a "bad guy" it would be inoperable. Im not sure that would have helped in this case but it many it would


The NRA and the gun lobby oppose any and all advances such as this. Even though they clearly would help.


There is a balance between allowing people to have guns and also making it harder for people to use them in a malicious way. We arent even coming close to doing that. 





Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@notagain That was the initial report, but it is now being reported that his family gave him some money for his birthday, and he spent it on a gun.

Which is part of what I meant by that distinction between information and facts in what remains a fluid story.