What Despair?

I read in a New York Times story today, that 4 firefighters were shot, 2 fatally, in an apparent ambush. They had been called to a car fire in Webster, NY. When they got there, they found both a car, and a nearby house on fire. The shooter, William Spengler, 62, was a man with a lengthy criminal record, who lived in the burning house. He had apparently set the fires in an attempt to draw out first responders, then lie in wait for them to arrive. As the firefighters began to work on the fires, Spengler started shooting from a hidden position behind a nearby berm, hitting 4 before the rest were able to take cover. Spengler was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. You can read the whole story here.

Walking home from the store this evening, I was attacked by someone's Pitt Bull that had gotten loose. I had my trusty Uncle Henry pocket knife in my pocket, but knew there was no way I'd get to it and open it before the dog got to me. The only thing I could do was stand my ground, and hope bravado would suffice. So I yelled and waved my arms. The dog body slammed me, but, thankfully, didn't bite. By that time it's owners had gotten there and had taken control of the dog.  After a few choice words about responsible pet ownership, I went on my way. As I walked, I reflected that my response must have looked like the threat display of an average gorilla. So much for evolution.

My point here is that there is no such thing as a risk-free existence. The very act of living carries with it some inherent risk. Certainly, risk can be managed to a point, like getting rid of assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines. But after that, there are some heavy trade-offs with regard to liberty vs. security. Weapons are only useful if you're planning to go into a dangerous situation (like, say, a war). But if you're caught by surprise, or if someone wants you dead bad enough, and is patient enough, odds are that you'll die.

Most people, like those firefighters, know this, yet still have the courage to go on about their daily lives.

I think even conservatives agree that the NRA's call for armed guards at every school is a stupid, unworkable, unsafe idea. Guns aren't a perishable item, and, taken care of correctly, can outlive their owners. But it's the NRA's job to make sure people keep buying guns. If that means sowing fear and discontent, so be it. Consequently, much of what they say regarding public safety, I find to be less than credible.

It's a complex problem, and I don't have all the answers. But I know that putting more guns into the equation is literally like adding gasoline to a fire.

I don't know what despair or insanity could compel someone to take the lives of innocent strangers, but we need to make sure that it's easier for them to get access to a mental health professional, than access to a gun.

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