Mass shootings aren’t a tragedy

Pastor Matthew Best
5 min readJan 26

It’s difficult to keep track of the mass shootings in this nation. As I write, I have to keep searching to find out how many mass shootings there are. One article tells me 33. Nope. Wrong. The next tells me there have been 36 so far this year. Nope. Wrong again. It’s 39 as of January 23. I’m just going to stop there because frankly that’s appalling.

I’m sick of calling these a tragedy.

Tragedy is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

2 a: a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror

b: the literary genre of tragic dramas

c: a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man

3: tragic quality or element

That’s the full definition with links for your reference. A mass shooting certainly fits the first definition coupled with calamity, which the dictionary defines as “a disastrous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering.” I don’t think there’s any debate about that. Every single one of these mass shootings causes great loss and lasting distress and suffering. Every. single. one.

And yet, I don’t think calling them a tragedy is appropriate any longer. Because of the second definition. in literature a tragedy is a drama written about a hero figure who faces a superior force or destiny and falls to that force eliciting pity from the audience/reader. It’s too much for the hero to overcome.

This is why I have a problem with our continued use of the term tragedy when it comes to mass shootings. Gun violence is not a superior force or destiny. It never has been and it never will be. We have willingly handed over our agency to act to a small handful of people to are imposing their will over the entire nation. We have willingly bought into a fabled mythical story about the Second Amendment as if it is Biblical truth and we dare not question it. We have made guns into something larger than life, given them a super power they don’t deserve. We have willingly, as a nation, decided that hardware of violence has more value than human lives. Oh yes, that is exactly what we have done. Yes, polls say the populace overwhelmingly wants there to be action, but a handful of politicians refuse to act, yet why is it that such a small handful of politicians can thwart the…

Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.