I know this may come as a shock to anyone less astute than myself (a bit of mild sarcasm, there), but America is a very divided country right now. It would be far easier for us to list the few areas of relative agreement our society holds than to even begin to list all of the areas in which we are at odds. That goes a long way to explaining why nothing seems to be able to be done to prevent mass shootings like the recent ones in Texas and Ohio. And what is truly sad is that I actually fear that by the time this column goes to press, since I send it in several days early each week, those may not even be the most recent ones.
I am firmly on the pro-Second amendment side. Probably half of the people reading this column are diametrically opposed to my position. We do not agree on this; we will not agree on this. But I refuse to believe that there is no creative common ground that both sides can come to, some principle around which we can unify, some solution that both left and right can rally behind that will at least make things better.
If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can do this.
I was driving and thinking yesterday, I do a lot of that combo activity, and an idea came to me.
Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
"Slow punishment is no punishment" would be a good way to paraphrase this verse. But when a punishment is actually feared and fast (both must be the case, not one or the other), it works. Which brings me to my thought. What punishment would be most feared by modern mass shooters? Not death; if that were the big fear, they would not take the risk to begin with for fear of being shot themselves. Yes, they need to be put to death, and I will get to that. But in order to find their greatest fear, we need to identify their fondest hope in what they are doing. And in the days of social media and 24/7 cable coverage, that one is a no-brainer:
They want to become infamous. They want everyone talking about them nonstop for weeks and then remembering their names even decades later. And this, ladies and gentleman, brings me to my proposition.
In George Orwell's book "1984," the government could make people become "unpersons." An unperson was not only eliminated, all traces that they had ever existed were utterly erased. And while I am certainly not hoping for such a dystopian society, that one particular part of it could be used very effectively as a deterrent to mass shooters.
What I propose is "The Unperson Act." When a person commits a mass murder, whether they are killed or arrested, they immediately need to "be erased." It must be illegal to show so much as a single picture of them. They must be referred to as "Alleged Shooter Number whatever," and if they are guilty, they must forever be referred to as "Unperson Number whatever."
Their birth certificates should all be destroyed, as well as their death certificates. If they are alive and arrested, they should be placed on death row and executed on an undisclosed day no more than one year from the time of the shooting. During that year, they should be placed in complete solitary confinement, no outside visitors whatsoever and no contact with or information from the outside world at all. During that last year, all of the prison staff should refer to them only by their Unperson Number.
Facial recognition technology, and whatever other algorithms or actual people are needed, should constantly scrub the internet of any traces of their existence. When they are buried, it should be in an undisclosed location in an unmarked grave.
Would this possibly be hard on the family? Of course. But that very fact as well should serve as a deterrent. And the lives of potential victims must be placed above the hurt of the murderer's family, as hard as that is. As a side note, I would recommend a constitutional amendment that this can never be used against anyone but mass murderers, thus allaying fears that it could eventually be used against Christians, political foes, etc.
Many of these people do what they do solely for the "glory" they will gain from it. Take that from them before it ever happens; let everyone know that if they do this, they will disappear like dust in the wind, never to even be remembered.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.