A Different Take on America’s Mass Violence Problem

What is it that triggers evil in the heart of man?

J. Andrew Shelley


A couple days after the mass shooting at Uvalde I took a step away from the gun debate. I couldn’t read about it. I couldn’t think about it. I couldn’t write about it. It was just too much.

The photos of the kids dying and the politicians posturing had made me ill. I retreated into a no-gun-talk bubble and was much happier.

Three weeks later, an article jabbed below my defenses, and I took the bait. Inside was a link to a YouTube video of parents wailing while being physically restrained by police. At that moment, their children were either soon to be shot, were bleeding out, or were already mangled beyond recognition.

This was Uvalde.

Texas police, deputies of the Lone Star state, were stopping parents from trying to save their children.

My heart was pounding (and it still does every time I re-read this section). We all have our personal triggers, and this is one of mine. My brother was shot in the neck by a fifteen-year-old with a 40-caliber pistol.

For two years after that day, I practiced. In every drill in my martial arts school I saw my brother next to me with the gunman in front of us both.

A grab to the wrist paired with a thrust to the nose. Two hands on the wrist, a twist, and a blow to the elbow. A capture of the arm, and a hip throw to the ground.

However I could, I was taking that gun and dropping that attacker.

My sparring style shifted, too. Rather than patiently stalking, looking for the proper opening, I became wanton, reckless. Unless I could take down my opponent in two seconds, my brother or my children would be shot dead.

More than once, my master shook his head and cautioned me to be more patient. Though I took some blows harder than I had in years, I consoled myself by saying that more often than not I had gotten to my opponent before they got to my family.

While police stopped the parents, fellow officers left the children — some bleeding out, some soon to be shot — locked in a room with a shooter for 30 minutes.



J. Andrew Shelley

Battler for better. Top author in culture. More listening, more understanding, less outrage. Book: American Butterfly