With the recent shootings in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York, a person asked me the other day to write a column asking for the gunmen to stop the madness. Unfortunately, this was an adult speaking to me and I could only feign a smile while wondering how to handle such naiveté.
People who are set on gunning down a number of other people aren't going to heed the words of a columnist, especially one with as sparse a readership as myself. We often fall into the trap of believing we can reason with unstable people. Maybe it is to feel like we have control over a situation that we clearly don't, or maybe it is because we do not want to grasp that there are tragic events that simply cannot be avoided.
If a person wants to kill his fellow man -- or woman -- it will happen. Because most of these situations involve using illegal weapons, banning guns isn't going to prevent it. Better security might delay the killing, but if somebody is truly set on carrying out terror, they can find ways around that as well.
For the most part, the world is a safe place, but on the rare occasions it isn't, people demand accountability even if it is a collective negligence that has led to the problems. Often in violent attacks the person attacking has a lengthy history of instability. If the person has domestic abuse issues, people scream, "Why is he on the street?" which is the same response given if a person has a rap sheet a few pages long. He is on the street because we, as a group put him there. We like lengthy jail sentences until the cells are full or there is a high profile case of a person being unjustly incarcerated. Then, we lobby to give people second, third or more shots at living a "normal" life.
We like having those with domestic arguments put away, but often the spouse won't press charges, leaving the justice system handcuffed. It is very rare that the normal guy next door suddenly snaps and starts a blood letting. And if that is the case, it is usually set off by a traumatic event like a divorce, job loss or family death. We are not dealing with reasonable people. They may never understand why they do horrific acts, so how are we to comprehend them?
I'm sorry to say this, but comprehension is not our strong suit. There are still people out there who believe that it wasn't a natural disaster that caused people to die from Hurricane Katrina, but that it was due to a delayed response by rescue teams. There are still people who believe better parenting should have prevented Columbine.
We see warning signs that are pointed out to us after three days of around the clock news coverage in the aftermath of a tragedy and wonder why we didn't see the signs all along. The shooter at Virginia Tech two years ago was a quiet, reserved kid though unusually antisocial.
But what can you do about it, lock up every odd person fitting this description? I have a feeling the ACLU would pitch a fit. We react because being proactive would cause too much trampling on people's rights and profiling has become a four letter word.
We don't have to comprehend these acts. We just have to hope we aren't part of them. Not that's reassuring, is it?