There are 300 million guns in America.
I know plenty of people who own them.
They have not committed mass murder. They have not used them in a crime. They use them for the sport of marksmanship. They use them for hunting. And they use them for protection.
Not one has ever voiced reservations about gun control laws for automatic or semi-automatic weapons. More than a few are members of the National Rifle Association.
It is false - and wishful thinking - to believe simply tightening gun control laws will somehow stop mass murders. What happened at Sandy Hook School can’t be placed squarely on America’s gun culture. Nor is it simply how we’ve desensitized violence by making it into a form of entertainment that makes the Romans look like rank amateurs.
The Sandy Hook School shooting is especially horrific because 20 of the 26 victims were children 7 years and younger. But if we think stronger gun control laws or more aggressive mental health efforts will avoid such heinous acts we need look no further than America’s heartland.
Remember Oklahoma City? Timothy McVeigh didn’t need a gun. He used a Ryder rental truck loaded with fertilizer to kill 168 people - including 19 children under the age of 6. That was on April 19, 1995.
McVeigh wasn’t mental ill but he certainly was an extremist and a zealot. Funny, but that’s how you can categorize almost all of those behind major killing sprees. Including the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists.
The list of evil is endless. It includes James Huberty who systematically and leisurely shot 40 people - killing 21 of them over a 77-minute period at the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre in San Diego on July 18, 1984. Charles Whitman is on the list. He’s the University of Texas tower sniper, who killed 13 and wounded 32 others on Aug., 1, 1966.
Evil - and mass murder - is nothing new. It has unfortunately existed since the dawn of civilization. The senseless slaughter of people is mass murder, whether it is for ethnic cleansing, to take control of a region, or the domestic version of war-time atrocities such as Columbine.
Yes, we should have tighter gun control laws. But that won’t stop the onslaught.
Call it the bad seed theory or whatever you want; there are people who are going to kill. We’d like to think that mental health intervention will reduce those ranks somewhat. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.
The real problem is that civilized man has more than 3,000 years of violent history.
Evil walks among us. Disarming those that aren’t evil has been advanced as one solution. Too bad none of the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany can’t offer a bit of insight on that one since the first thing Hitler did was take guns away from civilians.
You can tighten gun controls. You can do background checks until you’re blue in the face. You can increase the ranks of law enforcement a hundredfold.
Evil will still survive and thrive.
It is much like weeds. Ignore weeds and let them grow and they will choke your garden.
Weeding after weeds have taken hold isn’t effective either. The best way is through consistent and persistent vigilance and you will end up with a garden that is even more robust and healthier than you can imagine.
Reach out. Mentor a struggling child. Make sure kids are fed and clothed. Help instill a sense of community in them. Show them that someone cares. Give them hope.
And don’t live in fear by walling yourself off from the community. The one commonality of all mass murders is the fact they had succeeded in walling themselves off from the rest of the world.
All the pontificating in the world won’t stop a future tragedy such as at Sandy Hook.
Evil will not disappear from the face of the earth. But it can be marginalized and beaten back.
If all of us tried to connect a bit more with those who are hurting - especially when they are younger - it will go a long way to reducing the fertile breeding ground for evil we have created in today’s world.
We have developed the ability to connect instantly with anyone we want around the world but we often fail to connect with the person sitting next to us.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.