It's safe to say a gunman was the last thing the folks at a church in Ashtabula, Ohio were expecting on Easter Sunday. The church shooting has rocked the nation in no small part because a dad was shot by his son in a place of worship on a sacred day. But even as police try to determine why things went down the way they did on Sunday afternoon at the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ, it's the how that reveals the temperature of a nation.
Cops say the 150-some parishioners were leaving the church when Reshad Riddle appeared, screaming about God and Allah, with a gun in his hand. The men, women, and children had little time to prepare. So they did the only thing they could.
They dove for cover.
An associate pastor grabbed people and shoved them into the bathroom. He dove beneath the baptismal font. Others ducked under the pews.
What was initially reported as a mass shooting ended with just one fatality -- Riddle's 52-year-old father, Richard Riddle.
This is what happens in America. When a gun is brandished, people in America react with fear. We have become, if not accustomed to shootings, at least highly aware of gun violence. We act first, think later.
In part, it is human nature.
The people in the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ didn't wait to find out if Reshad Riddle was a threat. Their fight or flight response kicked in, and they fled as best they could, taking immediate cover.
Natural? Of course. But it's also a sign of where we are as a nation. As much as the right tries to insist that guns do not kill people, that guns are safe and useful, we know better. We SEE what guns do every time we turn on the news.
Guns killed 20 kids in an elementary school. Guns turned a night out at the movies into a nightmare.
And a gun turned the sanctity of a house of worship on a sacred day into mass chaos.
We don't respond to guns with smiles and applause in America. We respond to guns by grabbing as many people as possible and shoving them into a bathroom to keep them safe. We respond to guns by diving for cover.
What is your first instinct when you see a gun?
Image via lifecreations/Flickr