Blog Post by 
Dr. Rance Thomas, Ruling Elder
Member of John Knox Presbyterian Church
Public Witness and DRAWP

Once again, we are witnessing an outbreak of gun violence in our region – both mass and individual shootings. We have seen too much of this in recent months, and it is only increasing.

In the past, shootings typically took place in large cities. However, shootings have now spread to suburbs, small towns, and even rural areas.

The types of shootings have changed as well. We now see many individual or “lone shootings” taking place between people on streets and into cars and homes. In addition to individual shootings, mass shootings are on the rise as well – and taking place in unusual places like shopping malls, grocery stores, highways, bars, and housing complexes. We must do something now to get this situation under control.

During the last five years leading up to February 28, 2021, 122 individuals have been killed and 325 have been injured in mass shootings. Recently, seven mass shootings took place within a single week. Although mass shootings receive the most attention and concern in the media, it is reported that in 2020 alone, approximately 20,000 violent shootings have targeted individuals.

It seems that individuals are shot because they have somehow offended the shooter, often in a minor way. For example, security professionals or store employees may be shot for telling a potential customer that they must wear a mask to enter. Others are shot while driving for having offended another driver with road rage. Again, the causes are usually honest, simple mistakes – cutting in front of another car or driving too slowly. Shootings often occur for irrational reasons as well, and sometimes it seems as though people shoot into cars merely for the thrill.

All this is incredibly problematic, not merely because it makes many people feel fearful going shopping or driving – everyday activities that no one should ever feel afraid to do. The senseless, irrational shooting that’s taking place in our region is also making us wary of speaking to strangers or even looking at someone the wrong way. This is no way to live, and it’s eroding the trust within our community.

Something needs to be done about this escalating, dangerous public safety issue. The question is what? It’s impossible to lock ourselves in our homes. We have needs to take care of. We have families to feed. There have been attempts – without much success – to regulate gun sale laws to include required background checks and the banning of semi-automatic rifles, machine guns, and other assault weapons. However, these attempts have been fruitless, and we continue to see a steady increase in gun violence.

Even if these attempts were effective, illegal gun sales would still be a problem, as would sales at gun shows and gun owners with mental health issues. Particularly those with mental issues, criminal records, and addictions would continue to access guns illegally and are unfortunately the very individuals who are more likely to use them.

One thing that we can do is make a more serious and committed effort to express this issue to both the Democratic and Republican parties and urge them to work together toward a solution. This needs to be done at both local and federal levels. When gunmen shoot individuals, they are not concerned about political affiliation. Violence is not partisan.

Dr. Rance Thomas
Member of John Knox Presbyterian
DRAWP & Public Witness
Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Criminal Justice
President of North County Churches Uniting for Racial Harmony and Justice

(Originally published in The St. Louis American, April 18, 2021)


  • Posted September 7, 2021 6:49 pm
    Susan Andrews

    Thank you for this important and alarming message. Our denomination has wonderful resources to help congregations learn about gun violence and work to stop it. Just Google Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and find their workbook for congregations wanting to stop gun violence.

  • Posted September 9, 2021 9:06 am
    Liz Rolf Kanerva

    Thank you, Rance, for your thoughtful reflection.

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