Sadly, news of a yet another gunman running rampant in some public space, typically a college campus, indiscriminately shooting to kill anyone in his way, and more often than not somewhere in the USA, is nothing new. There has in recent years been, it would seem, an escalation of such incidents, leaving one to ask the question why. Already and understandably this latest occurrence is being well reported, e.g. see here and here.
So yet again we discover it has happened again. The BBC report on the story starts: “Nine people have been killed and seven injured in a shooting at a college in the US state of Oregon, say police. The gunman, 26, opened fire at Umpqua Community College on Thursday morning and was killed in a police shootout. There were conflicting reports on casualties but Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said 10 dead, including the gunman, was “the best” figure. Police have not identified the attacker but un-named officers have told US media his name is Chris Harper Mercer”. Details, especially regarding the attacker and his motive, are still coming in, and no doubt a lot more will be revealed in due course. One report is that he asked his potential victims to identify themselves if they were Christian and then shot at them.
When one learns of stories such as this, it is difficult to know how to respond as one feels powerless to do anything other than to mourn and (assuming we believe in such things) pray for those caught up in the tragedy. One of the questions asked when these things happen is how to prevent a recurrence. Sadly, although there has been much debate when similar incidents have occurred in the past, little seems to have changed, even though it is likely that people have become more security minded, and further shootings still happen regularly.
Often the discussion is focused on better gun control. While there needs to be objective analysis on the matter, it is felt that one of the reasons we see less of this type of incident in the UK is that there is tight gun control such that it is a criminal offence for almost anyone to possess a firearm. The right to bear arms is a US constitutional right still and there is a strong lobby that would argue for this and against the notion that if there were similar laws to the UK it would not stop such incidents and at the same time take away people’s right to defend themselves. I am pretty sure that the overwhelming sentiment in the UK and increasingly in the USA is that there needs to be much tighter gun control, even to the extent of what has happened in the UK. While I would want to concur there is an element of skepticism too.
Meanwhile, I will pray for those affected by this latest tragedy and work toward the sort of society where such things do not happen. Sad to say, we live in a violent world where such things do happen.